There once was, for a brief and brilliant time, a wondrous experiment in design arts publishing entitled PORTFOLIO, a magazine created under the leadership of Frank Zachary and George S. Rosenthal (editors) and legendary art director Alexey Brodovitch. . Only three volumes were published, each issue exquisitely crafted and curated.
Portfolio magazine, created in 1950, was a graphic designer’s utopian dream. The goal: complete creative freedom and no advertising. Each feature was meticulously conceived through copy, art and layout, and paper stock where possible. Unfortunately, refusal to allow advertising to infect the flow of the magazine, and the choice to create a no-expense-spared publication, led to its quick demise – only 3 issues were published from 1950-1951!
The highest quality materials were used in producing the magazine and incorporated inserts such as 3D glasses, wallpaper samples and shopping bags. Dissatisfied with the types of ads they received, the decision was made to not include advertising.
Volume 1 was published in 1949, first issue contents featuring work by future icons Paul Rand, Saul Steinberg and E. McKnight Kauffer. Volume 2, a personal favorite, shared the incredible design for a kite by Charles Eames. Volume 3 gave us work by Ben Shahn, examples of stereoscopy and an extended visit with Alexander Calder’s work.
Portfolio was truly a high point of American graphic design, Portfolio magazine captured the dynamic work of some of the best emerging artists of the time and used beautiful printing techniques. Portfolio became the paradigm of what a modern graphic design and applied arts magazine should be.
Portfolio was, and still is, considered Brodovich’s greatest achievement. The publication may have died, but its superb style and extensive influence lives on.