Reviews For Discover Magazine

An issue with the issue

The description on the page above says, "The first issue should arrive in 6-10 weeks" which suited my purpose perfectly since I ordered it well ahead of time as a birthday gift for my wife.

However, the first issue came almost immediately for the month that was almost over, followed in short order by another for the upcoming month. This allows Discover to send renewal notices sooner, I suppose (actually, I think they start putting renewal notices in from the first issue). It also may work out great for those who are in a bigger hurry.

Discover a graphic designer...please.

I subscribed to Discover earlier this year, and although it is not a terrible magazine, it is not consistently interesting enough to occupy my attention. There have been some issues I only managed to skim before sending them on to the great recycler in the sky. The problem is that most of the issues I have read treat many topics very narrowly when I would just as soon read something in-depth on a handful of topics.

Taking the June 2000 issue as an example we can begin with the biggest recurring gripe I have about the magazine; the graphic design is terrible from cover to cover.

Let's begin with page seven, the first contents page, which lists the featured articles. The page is a full page photo of a young woman standing on her head in front of a chalkboard. The chalkboard is dark and dominates the upper half of the page. The wall below it as well as the girl's shirt are white. The contents items are floated over this background, not offset by a border or a stencil of any kind. Four contents items are presented in white type against the dark upper half of the page. One of the items though runs across the chalkboard's edge which is an oak colored wood, making the description of the item, which is in fairly small type anyway, extremely difficult to read. The other two contents items are on the lower, lighter half of the page and are presented in black type. Because they are so much easier to read than anything else on the page they tend to draw the eye to that location. Not a crime but as a general rule you want to lead the eye from the upper left to the lower right of a page. It isn't a requirement, but it is a good rule of thumb that should not be ignored without a reason. Also, the Discover logo is located in the upper left corner, where it should be, but it is not presented in white or black, but in a sort of pastel grey or light tan. That makes the third color that type has been presented in on just one page.

When Viewing pictures and text a person tends to weight things on the page as dominant or subordinate. Since this is a magazine of information text should be allowed to dominate. Introducing multiple colors of type should typically have some reasoning behind it or it will, as it does here, reduce the value the reader assigns the text because the focus is being divided. Here the contents items have the contextual weight of spot illustrations. A reasonable use of different colors of type would be to differentiate between classes of text; black for the body of a text, and dark blue for captions for instance. Here the text seems to have been played with simply because the option was available.

Moving on to the next page. The second page of contents is much better designed than the first. Here we find the magazine's regular features. The page is double columned with a light graceful border separating the column of text on the left from a column of photographs on the right. Here the text is managed intelligently. There are still three different colors of text on the page but now they do represent different classes of text. The Discover logo is properly located at the top of the left hand column but it is still that inexplicable shade that on this page might have a hint of gold in it. The titles of the regular features are presented in a dark red and the contents in black.

On to page seventeen where we find the first regular feature, R&D. The section is six pages of brief topical items about an eclectic mix of subjects, with several regular sidebar items.

Taking the design as the first topic, this section is better designed than the contents section. The page ordering of this section is well done. The first page is a right-hand page followed by two pages of adds, the following pages are left-hand pages of content followed by right-hand pages of advertising. This is an intelligent page ordering because it mimics the reading of a book. The R&D logo occupies the upper left-hand corner of each of the pages and is nice and large on the first page and small enough to be unobtrusive on the following pages. The layout of the page's contents is not very good though. Here we have five different colors of text for, again, no apparent reason. The page is four-columned but the top article begins at the top of the third column, right next to the border of the R&D logo. The title of the item actually appears below the R&D logo, which means of course that the title appears below the first line of text. Have you ever seen a movie theater place the title of a film below the marquee? Of course not, that would be silly. The bottom of the first three columns is an item of white type on an orange background and the bottom right hand corner of the page is taken up by a sidebar item called Science myths.

Science Myths is generally a very entertaining tid-bit of information that corrects some grade school misconception. This issue we learn that Benjamin Franklin did not discover electricity.

The other pages of the R&D section are not laid out any better and continue in the habit of choosing multiple colors for typefaces for no apparent reason. The other sidebar items that are of interest to me are: Science Surfing which lists several science oriented websites, Landmarks which is a sort of "On this date in history" type of thing as well as obituaries and prize winner announcements, Millennium Watch which compares predictions made in a 1988 issue of Discover with what has actually happened.

Most of the other regular features are not any better designed than R&D, but since they typically deal with only one article-length item it isn't quite so noticeable. The predilection for as many colors of type as we can get continues but isn't quite so bothersome.

Future Tech is about what you'd expect. It takes sort of a "gee whiz" approach to science prediction.

The Physics Of... is one of the better recurring features. This issue it's the Physics Of...Guitars. A generally informative article on contemporary guitar construction.

Vital Signs is also a pretty good read on a regular basis. This month "a pathologist tracks the source of a small-town epidemic." A fairly informative story on salmonella, but nothing you shouldn't have learned in a junior high health class. Hardly on the cutting edge, but well worth reiterating. Most of the time the topic is a little more esoteric.

Bogglers is a feature where the editors are trying to make up for the fluff and filler in the rest of the issue by providing challenging mental puzzles. A lot of these are much more difficult than I care to tackle, but it's nice that they are providing something to balance the lightweight content in the rest of the magazine. Most of these puzzles and logic problems could be easily used in a high school classroom setting
without overtaxing the best students. The answers are provided if, like me, you get stumped.

Brainworks might as well be called neurology 101 and is usually very informative.

There are around five or six feature articles in most issues and to tell the truth, they are rarely very interesting at all. Even when they are about a topic I find compelling, they don't provide enough information. Most often they leave me with a lot of unanswered questions.

I get the feeling they are trying to slowly slant this magazine to a younger audience. I have no problem with that, except that at the moment they are neither fish nor fowl and that makes for an unpleasant read.

All in all if this magazine didn't look like it had been designed by a bunch of twelve-year-olds with desktop publishing software, I could probably tolerate it. I think part of the problem is something that I've seen happen at my workplace. There are a lot of jobs that are being targeted by software producers, ostensibly to make production easier. Sometimes a company has software that is not very intuitive and requires a certain amount of training. Consequently, when they hire people to perform in these jobs they make the mistake of thinking that simply because someone understands the software they understand the job. We have engineers who have to use a very complicated auto-cad type program. Many of them are assumed to be qualified simply because they have been trained to use this software. It doesn't necessarily follow that they know how to design anything, just that they know how to get the computer to accept their designs, no matter how pitiful.

It looks like the people designing the graphics for Discover magazine have too many toys in their design programs, and can't resist using them no matter how distracting or inappropriate. While I'm at it, the typeface is also difficult to read at any point size, and is far too small for comfort in the body of most articles, and borders on illegible in the captions.


Discover what?

Ok, I'm going to put this as a dislike. I do so enjoy the magazine. It is very interesting to read. I do look through them at the store.

But their articles are horrible!!!

If they aren't too short for a good feature, the stupid boring features are 30 pages long!

The Mind Boggler at the end of the magazine is either too difficult since you can't deduce anything from the vague questions, and it would take too much time to go get a calculator.

They do all these reports on saving the environment and lowering pollution, but the next page is a Land Rover advertisement.

My magazine always comes out with folded pages, so I have half a story and then this little flap of extra paper that has weird color boxes and shapes.

Sometimes the paper is cut totally wrong, and I only get a half page of readable material.

I go to tear out the paper inserts for subscriptions and since it isn't perforated or attached to the spine, I end up causing a huge tear through the middle of an story.

It always seems the stories are updates or revamps of previous stories.

They need someone to look at the covers before publishing since any child could tell you that the covers are tacky tacky tacky!

And they have a small editorial section for people to write in. You would think that a magazine that seems to be screaming for content might allow readers a little more say into what they publish, or might have a section devoted to questions and answers.

Overall, I like this magazine, but I feel like I'm getting ripped off buying one, and only feel it is necessary to scan over it at the store once every couple months or so.

The subscription price isn't bad, though, its just on the verge for being too expensive for the quality of the magazine's content.


Science without the Science

Discover is a very successful magazine, and it acheived that success with a formula that owes as much to the example of "People" magazine as it does to anything. It manages with cover all sorts of cutting edge stories without ever actually getting into the actual science involved. Instead, it concentrates on the people involved, the politics, the history... anything but the science.

Here's an example: A recent issue had an interesting piece on the physics of rocks skipping... expect it wasn't on the physics of rock skipping so much as it was on a particular fellow was was the world's champion rock skipper. Yes, there *was* a formula in a side bar that purported to describe the physics of a skipping rock, and some of the terms were even defined... but there was no explanation of the formula, or even any numbers. It was simple "Here's a formula. It's very impressive looking, isn't it? Now on to other things." And there was some history of how people looked at rock skipping, and even some allusions to how the physics of rock skipping had applications in understanding the physics of other phenomena. But what you couldn't find in the entire article was a single sentance that actually discussed the physics involved!

So what Discovery really is, is a magazine about science and scientists that doesn't actually have any science in it. And while there's a place for that sort of thing, if you're looking for actual discussions of science and technology that are still presented in a way that the educated non-scientist can understand, you'd be far better off with New Scientist or Science Week. And if a few equations wouldn't scare you off, American Scientist.

"New" Discover Disappoints

I thought I detected some deterioration in the quality of Discover Magazine in recent months, so I went to the web to see if anyone else had the same notion. Indeed they have. Sad.

Gone Way Downhill

Recently renewed my subscription after a three year hiatus and I couldn't believe my eyes. The magazine is a skeleton of its former self, with slim stories and little science. Bob Guccione Jr's mag is not even that fun to read. On the happier side, the magazine appears to shun its earlier environmental preoccupations.

8th grader quality? or 6th grader

I used to enjoyed Discover, but the past several months of their radicals changes, got me to think a real dumbing down.Once in awhile, they would put together a good article - but not constantly.How can we enlighten ourselves and improve our intelligence on science etc in the world stage.There are still many of us that do not want to be glued to the computer for science as we would for the tv.Discover's editorial staff ought to get their magazine back on track or the circulation and subscriber base is going to go down the tube. Thank goodness Scientific American, Astronomy, Sky and Telescope, Science News havent fallen down.I am not renewing my subscription unless Discover 'rediscovers' itself.How dumb Americans are!?


The web site confused me and the subscription, meant for our son, indicated that it would be sent to me. I then called Discover magazine to change the address. I could only speak my concern to a computer, but the magazine is now sent to my address.

I was disappointed

I expected it to be better. I subscribed last year, looking for a good magazine for the family, and decided on Discover. There is the occasional interesting tidbit, but the issues are generally pretty lean, have few photographs, and are for the most part, boring.
The latest issue with the bald, fat, naked man was just about the last straw for me and Discover magazine. I definitely will not be re-subscribing.

Not What I Remember

I remember reading Discover as a teen. So, last year when my daughter did a magazine fund raiser through school, I signed up for a year. After my first issue, I know I will not be signing up for another year.

This "new" Discover reads like a tree-huggers guide to science. It has so many environmental/global warming stories that I cannot take it as an unbiased scientific magazine.

You have been warned. Non-hippies need not apply.