Tuesday, October 4, 2022

#169 Two Page Spreads


 #169 Blog Post - Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Posted by Denny Hatch


Your Private Collection of 190 Car...
Oops! Sorry! All Are Virtually Unreadable.

Announcing The World's Strangest New Magazine—
Entirely Made up of Two-page Car "Advertisements"


Okay, the Ford Bronco spread above is not an advertisement. But it sure as hell looks to me like an ad. Actually, this is the editorial content of a strange new magazine. What's more, it is indeed virtually unreadable. The copy at left is white type surprinted over a busy field of long grass and weeds.  Here's the text:



Last week I stumbled across the fascinating story of  the launch of this magazine by Samir Husni, Ph.D. (a.k.a. "Mr. Magazine). For decades Dr. Husni has chronicled the magazine industry, especially delighting in every new magazine that appears.


I have long felt a bit of a kinship with Dr. Husni having spent 30 years publishing the newsletter, WHO'S MAILING WHAT! and constantly learning everything I could about direct mail—design, copy, readability and ultimately results.


Here is Dr. Husni's lede for the story:


The Two Page Spread: A New Auto Magazine Where Content Is A Beautiful Experience… A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story

September 26, 2022 

“In keeping with my love of print, each new feature will also include a link to a downloadable file of the Spread in a high-resolution, printable format, suitable for printing 36″ x 24″ posters. Because ‘Print Rules’.” Keith Keplinger, Publisher and Art Director

“I think that working with Keith, I have an art director who sees my editorial vision of what a print magazine can be in this age of people “reading” enthusiast content on their phones.” Richard Truesdell, Editor and Chief Contributor

"Keith Keplinger and Richard Truesdell are two well-known names in the circles of automotive media. You mention Keith or Rich and folks will stop and listen to see what those two are up to. Some folks at their age either retire or leave the entire industry behind, but their creative juices refuse to let them stop, and as Michael Clinton would say, they are roaring into their second act. And roar it is. Between the two of them, the ideas don’t only come, but are executed in a well curated, edited, and designed way.

"What follows is the story of the launch of their latest magazine The Two Page Spread (T2PS). Founded by Keith in 2020 and later teamed with Rich the magazine is a beauty to look at and a welcomed addition to the world of print.

"In a typical Mr. Magazine™ format, I asked Keith and Rich my seven questions about the launch of The Two Page Spread and the plans for the future.

"Without any further ado, here is The Mr. Magazine™ Interview with Keith Keplinger, publisher and art director, and Richard Truesdell, editor and chief contributor . . . "


Below Are 4 Additional Twp-page Thumbnails
From This Year's Oddest-designed New Magazine

1. Curious Design: I inserted the vertical white lines separating each these four 2-page spreads to represent the magazine's gutter. As a result, every automobile is cut in half. Hardly world-class design.


2. All copy is virtually unreadable. The designer pummels every accepted rule of type fonts, backgrounds and readability.


Rules For Making Print Copy Readable.
• “Never set your copy in white type on a black background and never set it over a gray or colored tint. [Or a busy, mottled background.] The old school of art directors believed that these devices forced people to read the copy; we now know that they make reading physically impossible.”
—David Ogilvy


• "Avoid gray walls of type." —David Ogilvy


• "Nothing is less inviting than a solid page of text with nothing to break it up or catch the eye."
—Ed Elliott


An ingenious sequence of boldly displayed crossheads (mini-headlines) can deliver the substance of your entire pitch to glancers who are too lazy to wade through the text.”
—David Ogilvy


“After two or three inches of copy, insert your first mini-headline [crosshead], and thereafter pepper them throughout. They keep the reader marching forward.”
—David Ogilvy


   • "Type smaller than 9-point is difficult for most
       people to read."
—David Ogilvy


• Experts urge the use serif type (e.g., Times, Garamond) for copy in printed material and sans serif (e.g., Verdana, Helvetica) in digital communications.

• "Design is important, but copy is king."
—Malcolm Decker

You Invited to Contrast These Two-page Spreads
With Ogilvy's Two-page Masterpiece for Rolls Royce


Click Above to see this Ogilvy ad jumbo size.


Click Below to Make Your Product Unique and Sexy



Takeaways to Consider

Here's your private access to 190 spreads from the magazine.

Click on: 

Scroll Down and click on any of the 190 thumbnails and it immediately becomes a giant two-page spread.

Under normal circumstances, the type on these pages would be easily readable. The problem is a designer who believes it is more important to make all copy to look "pretty" and "arty" rather than readable... and who spells "Art Director" with a capital F.

If you disagree with me on this, I'd love to hear your thinking.

Thank you.




Word Count: 845





The Most Fun You Can Have
In the English Language
At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.



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215-644-9526 (rings on my desk). 

You Are Invited to Join the Discussion.


  1. Denny,
    You have scratched one of my personal pet peeves, unreadable copy. You would have thought that after all of the research on the way humans process information, especially written/typed communication, we would have long ceased making these obvious blunders. Does anyone actually read finished copy?
    I believe that these rule violation are more common than before, especially in digital form. Light yellow type against light gray background, arrrggghhhhhh. Just saw it yesterday. Too much bother to continue to read. Another reader lost.Thanks for keeping us grounded.

    1. Richard,
      This is a first! The first time in my life I have ever been accused of scratching somebody peeve. ;—)
      Yeah, this stuff is rampant. IMHO, it goes back to the exponential expansion of the Internet. The digital world—desperate for new workers—hired men and women happy to be working and had never worked in a existing company where newbies were mentored. These folks were promoted and (1) hired tyro staffs and (2) had no experience mentoring.
      I was blest in my earliest year to have been mentored and I damn well remembered their teachings which were eventually etched in my DNA.
      The greatest mentoring operation in the Federal Government: the U.S. Army. In the civilian/corporate world: Procter and Gamble.
      Here's a blog post out of the past: "The 11 mentors that changed my life." http://dennyhatch.blogspot.com/2019/06/58-11-mentors-who-changed-my-life.html
      Do keep in touch.

  2. My guess, Denny, is that this is just amateur design work; not anyone trying to make it pretty at the expense of readability (because it certainly is NOT pretty.)

    I know lots of entrepreneurs/small business owners who simply have no eye for design and don't want to spend the money to hire a professional art director.

  3. True, there were -- the early "Wired Magazine" was an example -- extremely difficult-to-read magazines and ads designed by trendy Left Coast art directors who felt that copy was an annoyance. In fact, my most difficult dealings with art directors were in San Francisco and London, another place with a design sensibility that was avant garde at the expense of commerce.

    1. Hey, Peter,
      Always grand to hear from you.
      As you can imagine, I found writing this blog post extremely upsetting. One of my early mentors—children's book publisher Frank Watts—said, "When in doubt, do the obvious." What's the point of making it tough on your reader/customer. If these designers were writing ads or promotions, the prospects would have such a tough time fighting there way through the copy that they would lose the message. Ergo, no sale. Damn shame.

  4. This was worth the reading of it just to hear 'When in doubt, do the obvious.' Thanks as always.


    1. Dear Chris,
      Thanks for writing.
      Always happy to oblige.

  5. David Amkraut gave me the okay to run this fascinating comment:

    You are absolutely right, and if you don’t believe me, channel the spirits of Claude Hopkins, Caples, Sackheim, Ogilvy or any other person who knew basic graphics. I am even more amazed when I see ads in daily newspapers with blocks of tiny printing and reversed. The bleed of newspaper ink into cheap paper makes things even more (literally) unreadable. This is often done with legally required disclosures: microscopic print possibly designed to be unreadable, with the icing on the cake being reversed type. In my opinion, such “disclosures” should be treated as not disclosing anything.
    However, the problem did not start recently with the Internet. I remember ads like this from when I first got interested in advertising, which was over 50 years ago. Then, around 1970, I remember my brother telling me about a professor at his school, San Jose (California) State University. This character, who I believe taught a class required for students in certain majors, emphasized that no one reads the text of ads, and the only purpose of blocks of copy was to balance an ad graphically. Therefore, that professor would have said, readability doesn’t matter.
    I constantly see ads with unreadable reverse text, and other problems such as type too small, lines too wide, leading too big, poorly chosen typefaces, lack of subheads, long clotted paragraphs, and so on. The principles of readability have been known at least since the early 19th Century. E.g., see publications written by Benjamin Sherbow around 1915. There is no excuse for whoever is responsible for these messes not learning the ABC’s.

  6. I told one of my art directors once, "Never, never, never, never be "subtle." Always be obvious! The ad industry is dominated by young people who want to do "art," who want to be "creative," who want to be "cute" and "clever."

    Remember the Norwegian Cruise Lines ads Goodby did? There wasn't a single frame in those spots that couldn't be enlarged, framed, and hung on the wall. Trouble was, nobody bought cruise tickets!

    I think the motto should be, "Always do the obvious." Not just when in doubt, but always.

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr

    1. "Every time we get creative we lose money." Ed McCabe, President, RCA Record Club in conversation with Denny Hatch.

  7. Roger Craver gave me the okay to run this gem:

    At first glance I thought you’d gone full Borowitz with a magnificent spoof.
    No! Certainly not.
    Instead you, coupled with the comments of your readers, have offered up a wonderful masterclass on “Batshit Design: How to identify and avoid it.”