Adam Banks, who has died suddenly at the age of 51, was that rarest of things in publishing: a true renaissance man. Not only a brilliant writer and editor, Adam was a superbly talented designer and production person who had a profound impact on magazine design in the late 1990s.
The label 'genius' is often used, but it's a term that undoubtedly applied to Adam. An accomplished editor, journalist, creative director, designer and illustrator, Adam was the master of all the skills to which he turned his hand. Despite this, he wore his talents lightly, and everyone who knew him knew a man who was not just talented, but one who was kind, endlessly curious and enthusiastic, and a tireless cheerleader for those around him.
He was best known as the editor of Dennis Publishing’s MacUser magazine from 1996 to 2000, and again from 2011 till its closure in 2015. During the first period, at the time when Apple was at its lowest ebb, he transformed the publication from a well-respected magazine for computer enthusiasts into required reading for every designer and illustrator in the country. And because the majority of its audience were in the creative sector, its design, voice and mission had a much wider influence on magazine publishing than would normally be expected from a technology title.
Working in tandem with art director Paul Kurzeja and a slew of young and highly-talented designers, Adam pushed MacUser towards the cutting edge of design and photography, with contributions from some of the country’s most creative illustrators, designers and photographers. Few titles – especially ones in the area of technology – would have invested in contributor headshots by the likes of Steve Double or Rankin, but MacUser did. The result was a fantastic magazine which won multiple awards for its design, illustration and covers.
The covers, in particular, were often extremely radical. Where other technology magazines used multiple cover lines to grab attention, CD-ROMs as giveaways and almost always the classic “picture of kit” to appeal to hobbyists in, MacUser went for a single cover line and often focused on illustration – sometimes highly abstract.
One infamously abstract cover prompted an irate phone call from Felix Dennis himself asking “what have you done to my magazine?”, but the company’s owner always supported the product, and it was such a profitable title that Felix often referred to his mansion as “the house that MacUser built”.
On those occasions when a Mac was front and centre of the cover, Adam’s MacUser did things differently. When a computer was withdrawn from production on the day a cover featuring it went to press, rather than have some kind of “filler”, Adam took the film of the old cover, scrawled the news of its cancellation in chinagraph pencil, and made that the new cover. It looked brilliant – and it emphasised that MacUser was capable of getting exclusives even when products were cancelled.
During his second period as MacUser editor, as befitted his wide skill set, he would write, edit, design and often illustrate the publications himself. It’s a mark of Adam’s talent that this didn’t mean any decline in standards, with a 2012 cover chosen as one of the PPA’s “Covers of the Century”.
An assiduous user of social media, Adam's frequent, incisive tweets always cut to the centre of the issue with wit, clarity and humanity.
Adam's wide circle of friends knew him as a quiet, modest man whose self-effacing nature belied his vast knowledge and towering intellect. He was a gentle man – a gentleman in the widest sense of the word.
Born in Grimsby, Adam moved to London to pursue his journalistic career but, after leaving Dennis in 2001, moved to Newcastle with his family.
Adam was taken from us on 25th November 2020, as a result of a non-symptomatic heart condition known as atherosclerotic coronary artery disease (ASCAD). He leaves a wife, Brynn, and three children, Ethan, Zak and Erin. To say Adam will be sadly missed is an understatement. The world will be a poorer place without him.