City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Surfacing briefly to note a couple of things. Monocle issue 05 is out now; a double-issue for summer, focusing on improving the quality of life in cities.

I’m personally pleased as it’s the first issue of the magazine that I’ve helped shape a bit, albeit no more than subtle nudges and suggestions here and there. I’m particularly proud that there’s a fine article on security in cities by Jonathan Raban; we’ve been in touch since I reviewed a talk he gave at the LRB Bookshop a few years ago, and I’m a huge fan, as regular readers will know. I also suggested Charles Landry to write about the practical side of shaping cities, and contributed a few items for our ‘top 25’ urban design ideas. It’s a cracking issue, I reckon, so get thee to a newsstand, or subscribe online. Well done to Andrew Tuck and the team.

Monocle issue 05

Speaking of which, we produced a few related broadcasts at around this issue. First up, a short news report on the recent C40 convention in New York. The C40 is a kind of ‘G8 for cities’ and features most of the world’s city bosses in one place. That in itself is an interesting thing – and lends credence to the ‘global federalism/city states’ ideas discussed here and elsewhere. Indeed, my future mayor, Sydney’s Clover Moore, even mentions the city states thing in our film. This year, of course, the subject of the convention was climate change, and it’s interesting to observe mayors articulate the role they see for their cities in affecting change globally.

Mayors gather at C40 Climate Summit

Our other two videos are more illustration-led, featuring some of the gorgeous illustration you see in the magazine (some of which is actually drawn by a Japanese monk, but that’s another story). We’ve a rendering of Monocle’s ‘Perfect High Street’, which is a retail-led exploration of the urban precinct idea, and a great collection of urban design solutions, from the scale of park bench up to entire precincts, via wi-fi and trams.

Perfect high street

City Slickers - top 25 urban design elements

We also have the sound of the Tokyo Airport Limousine Lady, having acquired the audio from the Airport Limousine bus service. I like this item, small as it is, as it complements our earlier Afghan radio piece – both are the sound of other places, presented without fanfare or unnecessary levels of context. They speak for themselves. Check our ‘Premiere’ programme brand for more. On that front, watch out for some amazing ident sequences from South Korean TV soon.

Thanks to our team of Gillian Dobias and Aleksander Solum in producing these pieces.

Back to the magazine, where Monocle drew up a list of the 20 most liveable cities in the world. London’s not in, of course, but many of my favourite places are. The ‘winning city’ is Munich, followed by Copenhagen, Zürich, Tokyo, Vienna, Helsinki, Sydney, Stockholm, Honolulu, Madrid, Melbourne, Montreal, Barcelona, Kyoto, Vancouver, Auckland, Singapore, Hamburg, Paris and Geneva.

You may have seen some press about it. We tied up with the International Herald Tribune over this, with both print and online version of the IHT carrying Monocle articles and videos respectively (e.g.). I think that’s quite a neat way of spreading the message, and it’s worked well for both titles. It was the fruit of several day trips to their Paris offices in the last couple of months. Thanks to Nick Stout and the team there.

Finally, it was good to see Monocle in the latest Eye magazine, one of my favourite publications. In one article, Rick Poynor lays into the magazine (somewhat unfairly I think, but hey). Whereas gets a more positive write-up in a good article summarising a state of play in contemporary website design, with the majority of comments tending towards the positive. I’m pleased that Erik Spiekermann finds it "a clever Web equivalent of a magazine I haven’t quite made up my mind about", and John O’Reilly enjoys the "genial content spread" (!) though finds "the design more forbidding in its horizontal logic" (?). Brendan Dawes doesn’t appreciate it much though, saying "it looks like a straight export from Quark or InDesign files slapped on the Web." In response to that, I can only say that I wish it were that easy.

Most of all, though, I’m delighted with the comments from Anne Burdick and particularly Adrian Shaughnessy, a man whose opinion I trust. Burdick writes

"At the risk of sounding like an elitist, I find it immensely satisfying and refreshing to encounter a clear and intelligent editorial point of view online. Monocle’s consistent quality runs throughout the design, the reporting, and the use of media. Whether or not the "international jet set" mentality suits your tastes, it is a well thought-out experiment in the relationship between print and Web, a kind of TV-print hybrid with text and videos perfectly suited in size and substance to Web viewing and reading."

Adrian Shaughnessy writes:

"If the aim of 21st-century publishing is summed up in the dreary phrase ‘cross platform’, then Monocle hits the target. But the magazine is eclipsed by the website, which is a triumph of confident and unclichéd design. It boasts broadcast quality video and audio, and functions as a genuine expansion of the magazine and not the usual online dumping ground."

While the idea isn’t to "eclipse" anything as such – except lazy thinking elsewhere – many thanks to both for those comments in the Eye article. Shared kudos to the team of Richard Spencer Powell, Ken Leung, Maurus Fraser and Paul Finn working with me on that interface between magazine, web and broadcast. Ditto Rufus Leonard, our excellent developers.

It’s funny for me, as I’ve been focused on the editorial side – commissioning and producing those pieces mentioned above – and simultaneously on the design and build of v2, which has just emerged, rather than the v1 they’re referring to. (Hence my ability to deep-link to magazine articles above.) Either way, Shaughnessy and Burdick managed to nail exactly what we’re trying to do with What the next release tries to do is keep the best elements of the hastily-built v1 whilst extending it significantly, giving it a bespoke yet scalable architecture yet retaining its clarity. Stay tuned for more on this, and check out the new site in the meantime. Then it’s straight into v2.5, which ties up some loose ends and extends the navigation with a few key aggregation points around place and keyword – and then v3, more programmes etc. But all via a few big life-changes first …


8 responses to “New Monocle; one Eye satisfied”

  1. Martin Belam Avatar

    I’ve yet to see a copy for sale here in Chania (and I’m gobsmacked it isn’t the top twenty cities on earth!), but I’m going to be back in the UK for a couple of weeks at the end of the month, and picking up a copy is on my to do list.


  2. Brendan Avatar

    I have to say, when I read in the livable cities rankings intro that a fair amount of objectivity was employed, I almost did a sommersault right off my chair. It is SO refreshing to see people admitting the fact that cities are not agglomerations of statistics and that numbers are inadequate for measuring something as clearly personal as “livability”. Between that list and the lovely urban design solutions video, Monocle gained a new fan in me.


  3. Matt Avatar

    Great site – I loved your previous entry on aesthetic parallels between design and football (soccer).


  4. adrian Avatar

    Good stuff – bravo to everyone. Great contributor’s list , that must be work….. can’t wait for the rest of the 25X25 (Paris’ especially 😉 )


  5. Blake Avatar

    I’m a huge Monocle fan. Cheers on ya for the work, and great article about the fun. If only my response wasn’t so quick and half-hearted!


  6. Jukka Avatar

    The 5th issue of Monocle finally had some edge in it. Previous issues needed a sharper point of view and critical look at the stuff you’re writing about. Thus, I loved the tiny bit about why London didn’t make it to the top 20.
    First four issues left me feeling like reading a very high-end airliners on-board magazine, half-expecting the catalog of the trolley tax-free to be included.
    Next you need a decent two-way communications channel with your readers 😀


  7. tobi Avatar

    Classic summer issue indeed! Congratulations to R. S. Powell or whoever for the cover and design of Monocle; how have you been able to create such a classic cover yet at this point?; how could that guy Nakagawa come up with those delightful illustrations that so perfectly match Monocle’s line?… I’m glad to introduce such an elegant, upscale piece of work to my reads (and mag rack). I devoured the quality of life related items in a matter of minutes. All other contents just as interesting and high-quality, although the funniest thing is, lately I find myself distracted trying to imagine how could I manage to have breakfast at Bills and get a bottle of that shampoo… Only you could do that!! 🙂
    Great website as well, everywhere else’s so gimmicky and tiresome.


  8. Limo Vancouver Avatar

    A good Vancouver limousine service will help you do just that: by providing the best transportation available to you, you can make sure that such life-changing events will be made as memorable as possible.


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