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Why We Moved the Couch

A note from our Chief Content Officer on the magazine's redesign, its path forward and our dedication to the art of storytelling
SDM Vintage Covers

The many faces of San Diego Magazine through the years

You ever move around some furniture and it seems like you set free a Montana amount of extra square feet you never knew you had? Ever get such a good haircut that it felt like your hair and bone structure were finally getting along?

I hope you feel that way about this issue of San Diego Magazine. We freshened up the space. Went in for a trim. New logo, new layout, new evolution of our storytelling house. It was spearheaded by editor-at-large Gillian Flynn, art director Samantha Lacy, and national designer Dan Bishop.

The idea? Let art breathe. That’s what a magazine is: storytelling as an art project. A four-part harmony of words, art, photos, and design. No single part should bully the other.

If you think about the different media forms—a newspaper is mostly a legion of very important words, photos taking a back seat due to the simple fact that the paper stock is built for efficiency, not art. In digital media, the written word gets subjugated in favor of very active visuals.

Fall Arts Preview

A look at our new and improved Fall Arts Preview calendar in this month’s print edition of the magazine

In magazines, you are given a glossy, full-color palette to play with. Filling it mostly with piles and piles of gray words is like forming a rock band with six guitarists and no other sound. If you go too far the other way and load it with images and art, you’re a picture book.

There is a balance. This is us, finding ours.

As a writer, it pains me in ego places to admit that words, lovely as they are, are not the only important thing. We felt that SDM was lacking in wild art and photography and design—not giving proper acreage to the city’s visual artists. We felt a need to make something you’d feel compelled to stare at. Get you a little drunk visually. We want art that makes you feel the stories of this city.

Don’t worry, writing matters more than ever. You’re going to start seeing long-form stories with thousands of words you can get lost in, form a relationship with. We’re lucky to work with some of the best writers in the city, and we’re going to give them space.


Our redesigned pages give us more room to breathe, more space to take in the beautiful sights of our city

Fitting that this is our annual arts issue. This year, the city’s art moment that grabbed international headlines was the massive, $105-million reimagining of MCASD in La Jolla by one of the most talented architects in the world, Annabelle Selldorf. Having an art compound like that attracts international creative forces, which then raises up the next gen and new voices.

On the cover is what MCASD will show us next, an icon’s work on the American obsession with pop culture and celebrity. The piece, “Men Don’t Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses,” is by Alexis Smith. For decades, she’s explored this country’s tabloid heart in smart, funny, approachable ways. MCASD’s show, “The American Way” will be the first retrospective of the California artist in 30 years.

Like San Diego Magazine, this cover expresses both a history of our creative work and its future. Thirteen years ago, Gillian and I worked on another magazine. For our arts issue, we chose this exact image for our cover. We stood back, marveled at it, stunned. It seems as if Alexis created this piece as a gift to magazines—striking and beautiful, while also striking a blow to the commodified idea of beauty and lust. So we decided to give it second life as a magazine star. It’s a nod to the work we’ve done, are doing, will do.

And that work is—creating the most inspiring vehicle we can for artists like the ones you’ll read about in this issue, and the ones we haven’t yet found.


Troy Johnson

Publisher and Chief Content Officer

By Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

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