Flight Training Redesign: Necessary Updates To A Very Old Look

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Magazine: Lifestyle, Magazine: National, Redesigns
Tags: , , ,

Flight Training is an association magazine that I had not heard of before my new blogging friend, flyinggma, recommended it for a redesign review. Here are a few of her comments about it:

  • “I’ve tried to read the new magazine but it just doesn’t hold my attention.”
  • “In the old format the regular contributor pages had a photo border that helped identify their page easily as well as color photo of the author.  Somehow that made me feel more connected to them and what they were saying.”
  • “I think the content is comparable to the old just more work to get interested.”

So, here goes! In all photos, the older format (July 2009) is on the left, and the redesigned format (July 2010) is on the right. You can click on any photo to make it larger. Each section below is ruled a Fail, Pass or Win.


The new cover is sleeker and more pulled together. The new nameplate definitely helps: The old nameplate is clunky and dated, while the new one seems sporty and clean. Overall, the fonts are cleaner, and the bigger differences in type size and style allow the reader to more easily spot items of interest.

Cover Ruling: Win


The folks at Flight Training shifted from a single page contents to two pages, giving the features articles their own page. This change allows the contents to host more photos and more reasons for readers to turn the pages to the articles that intrigue them the most. A pullquote on the opening page of the new contents (on the green background) is more enticement for the readers to check out that story.

Contents Ruling: Win

Editor’s Note

In general, throughout the magazine, the redesign stripped away loads of color and opted instead for spot color. In the case of the editor’s note, as in every department, the strange prism of color that once banded the top left corner is gone in favor of a black strip, an updated font and a twist upward added in a color that matches the tagline. The editor’s note, called President’s Perspective and written by Craig Fuller, is now shorter (about 500 words vs. the previous 800) and is contained on 2/3 page instead of a full page. It looks more mature, more masculine and more readable.

Editor’s Note Ruling: Win


The best part of the new redesign is the intro spread to Training Notes & News. Whereas before, Training Notes & News started right off into news and short articles, the new design introduces a beautiful photo (offered as a download on the website) as the precursor to the news and notes. The editors also renamed the section Preflight, the name of a column that didn’t make it into the new redesign. (Instead, the former columnist writes a long caption for the downloadable photo.)

Departments Ruling: Win


Before Redesign



After Redesign



White space is a wonderful design element, and it appears that the designers are making better use of it in the new design. The features are not markedly different, though. Inside the features, the sidebars tend to go on a background that is too dark, with reversed-out type too small to stand up to it.

Features Ruling: Pass

Back Page

The final page transitioned from Why We Fly to Debrief: A Pilot’s Perspective. The concept is the same, but the treatment is different. (And although the redesign shown here is a celebrity, it is not always a celebrity on this page.) The chunked-up copy is much more appealing, but like in the features, the thin, reversed-out type on a dark background is difficult to read.

Back Page Ruling: Pass


This redesign was good, but not because the new design is so amazing; it’s because the old design was really unfortunate. Flight Training was definitely in need of an overhaul, and this was a good freshening up. However, while I appreciate consistency, the new design standardized so many sections that many of them look the same. Very few pages stand out from front to back in this magazine, and it might be worth the editors’ and designers’ time to figure out which pieces should remain. There are a few too many columns in Flight Training; commentary is important in an association magazine, but maybe some of the commentary should be presented differently so that there’s not such a feeling of sameness throughout.

The editors should also worry about comments like these from its readers: “I’m far from any kind of expert on reviewing magazines. I just know that the first time I picked up the new format it just didn’t feel right to me,” said FlyingGma. More important than any kind of critique like mine or technical observations from designers/editors is the feeling of connection by the reader. I saw in the June 2010 issue that Flight Training’s staff has reached out to readers and solicited feedback about the new design. I hope they find the perfect balance of design and reader contentment.

Overall Ruling: Pass

Have you seen the new design of Flight Training? What do you think? Another blog, My Flight Blog, had something to say about the redesign, too, if you’d like to read more on the subject.

  1. flyinggma says:

    Nice job on the review Tyler. I am trying to look at the redesign with a less critical eye. They have made some positive improvements in the past couple of issues. I’m getting used to the new look and they have had some impressive color photos on the last two issues that were eye catching.

    • I’m glad you’re liking it better. I was very happy with the letter from the deputy editor in the June issue where he talks about how some people’s reaction to the redesign has not been positive on some points and that staff members have already made some changes based on that feedback. I think they’re trying to be sensitive to the feelings of their readers, and that’s really cool of them. It seems like they have an open-door policy and would be happy to hear any of your comments regarding the new design. Thank you so much for sharing the magazines with me!

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