Communication Arts magazine is a great source of inspiration, with profiles and features on top designers and work. While there is not a focus on design methods, it’s a well-designed magazine that keeps up with the latest trends.
Communication Arts often focuses on showcasing recent exhibits, styles, designers and design firms. The “exhibit” section takes a look at specific campaigns or design pieces, while “fresh” showcases up-and-coming designers with short profiles and work samples (one of my favorite sections to flip to). Even the full-length features often look at a particular trend (ie Green Design), region (ie Design in China) or style.
Five of the eight issues of Communication Arts each year are annuals: Design, Advertising, Illustration, Photography and Interactive. Even more than the standard issues, these annuals focus on a particular category and showcase the best (according the magazine and submissions) work of the year. More books than magazines, these issues are great keepers to flip through when looking for some creative inspiration. While entrants into an annual competition do pay for the chance to appear in the magazine, it is still a great showcase of work from top designers.
As of this article, a one-year subscription in the U.S. cost $53. While high for a 8-issue magazine subscription, the high cost of the off-the-shelf issues (especially the annuals) makes this a good deal if you are a regular reader. Students can get a $39 yearly rate.