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The New Arch Digest: a Totally Nitpicky, Obsessive Review

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Hear ye, hear ye, sound the trumpets, alert the masses, for the January issue of Architectural Digest has just come out. It's the premiere edition for new editor in chief Margaret Russell, who was poached from her plucky perch on high at Elle Decor to revitalize this, the world's foremost design publication that had nearly inarguably become stale. We're breaking out the eagle eyes for this one and giving the January issue a critical once-over: How does it differ from the November issue, the last under the reign of former editor Paige Rense Noland? How has Russell's dainty hand changed the magazine? The full breakdown follows the jump.

ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST, JANUARY 2011
· Cover: A gorgeous photo of Greece and a large-font cover line proclaiming "Global Style." No smoldering-eyes Rob Lowe standing awkwardly in front of a fireplace.
· Inside-cover ad: Cadillac. Same for November.
· Page count: 128. The Nov. issue had 180.
· Number of features: Eight. The Nov. issue had 10.
· Updates to the Table of Contents: There's a new, sans serif bolded font for photo captions; and page numbers over each photo denote where each falls within the magazine. Points for being service-y.
· Updates to the "Visit us online!" page: Architecturaldigest.com is now called, simply and ever so coolly, Archdigest.com. (Even though the browser will redirect you to architecturaldigest.com.)
· Interesting masthead intel: Nora Sheehan, formerly of Travel + Leisure, is now the AD art director.
· Editor's letter page: Whereas Rense Noland published her editor's note on the Contributors' page, Russell assigned it its own page. There's a much larger headline, lots of white space, and a comely oversize drop-cap first letter.
· Front of book updates: "Discoveries by Designers" has been replaced with "AD Discoveries," which begins with a full-page photo of a single product and continues with a few pages of product photos, much like Elle Decor's "What's Hot!" column. (The product photos look slightly larger than Rense Noland's, and they seem to be categorized intelligently, by color and/or style.) Additionally, Russell has added a number of other "AD" columns to the front of the book, including "ADAgenda," "ADArchitecture," and "ADTravels," the latter of which mimics Elle Decor's "Goes to" column, both in layout and tone. Furthermore, Rense Noland's dreadful "Estates for Sale" column of high-priced real estate listings is nowhere to be found.
· Features updates: Finally! A well opener! It's a simple, eye-pleasing photo with the letters "AD" superimposed in a large font and limited caption text. Features have larger headlines—ones that don't just rattle off the name of the celebrity/person whose house is being featured—a byline that only includes the writer and photographer (and not, as Rense Noland listed, the interior designer, landscape architect, or architect); and captions are changed from a serif to a bolded sans serif font. Each feature kicks off with a bigger drop-cap, and creative opening spreads seem to diverge from Rense Noland's oft-used full-bleed exterior-shot model. But perhaps the most noticeable difference is Russell's sharp eye for chic styling, comfortable camera angles, and an overall roster of better, more varied projects. Here are some of her best photos:

And now, have a look at the following, which are from Rense Noland's November issue:

The difference, dear readers, is extraordinary.

· Architectural Digest [official site]
· All Architectural Digest coverage [Curbed National]