Archive for the ‘Redesigns’ Category

I don’t like to see people get fired. Especially when I feel attached to them. When Michael Bloomberg took over BusinessWeek, I swore it off. I had gotten BusinessWeek free for three years as part of my Executive MBA program. I loved it. I would spend a couple of hours every week reading it, fantasizing about how smart I would be someday and creating a mental image of how refined I already was for reading BusinessWeek in my spare time.

So when multiple employees (many of them editorial) were let go last year, I was unhappy. I had read their stories, looked at their charts, absorbed their sidebars. I felt like this know-it-all millionaire had come into my playground and messed up the sandbox. I just was not going to play anymore.

But time has passed, and this new article has piqued my interest in the magazine once again. Richard Turley, a 30-something from Britain (a little reminiscent of Jonathan Ive, maybe?), pushed for a dramatic redesign and got it. The magazine’s creative director is daring with charts and photo shoots and concepts. I love this quote of his:

“One of the things I wanted to do was to have a magazine which you could graze. The idea that you could have two different kinds of reading experiences. One where you just flick through it. There’s a lot of ways of getting into articles, there’s a lot of things going on the page that hopefully catch your eye. So you can have a rich reading experience without actually reading the magazine. But, if you want to read the magazine, there’s a lot there to read.”

So what changed with the redesign? Everything. The covers are really intriguing — I’ve been watching them the last few months. I’ve just downloaded the new Bloomberg Businessweek iPad app that I plan to spend time with this afternoon, and next time I’m in the bookstore, I’ll pick up a physical copy. Some complaints I’ve read about it say that the magazine traded content for looks, or that the journalism has suffered so that the book will be more beautiful. I hope that’s not the case. Because now, after this year-and-a-half-or-so of being without the magazine, I want to open it again and enjoy it.

Have you seen the new Bloomberg Businessweek? What do you think of it? Click through here to see some of the more interesting pages from the past year.

Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

Update 4/25/11: Richard Turley got even more praise today by WWD Media. The entire article is here. This is an excerpt: “Turley, a quick study of the company line, explained how the open seating plan in the Bloomberg offices encourages the magazine’s art directors and editors, who sit amongst each other in the office, to collaborate. ‘Bloomberg is a very ego-flat place to work,’ he said.”

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What makes a cover tick? Its artistic merit? Stop-you-in-your-tracks cover blurbs? Incredible colors? Clever photography?

None of the above. What makes a cover tick is its readers’ desire to pick up the issue, open the magazine and plunk down cold, hard cash.

Sucks, huh? We editors and designers think we have it all figured out. We don’t. It reminds me of something Zach Frechette of Good Magazine said when he spoke to a group of us about magazine covers at the 2008 Folio Conference: “Don’t be fooled by the big guys. No one else knows what they’re doing either.”

I was inspired by this post by Folio today. It’s a great article in which the writer asked several editors what their least selling cover was and asked them to analyze the reason for the low sell-through. All of them said some version of the same thing: The readers didn’t connect with the cover. The image here of the Inc. cover is an example. No matter how cute the little girl with the guitar is, readers of this business magazine don’t really connect with her.

We did an experiment at work one time where we had four covers we liked. Our editor thought it would be a great idea to put the four covers on our website and let our readers vote for the winning cover. They did, and, boy, were we way off! The cover we all liked the least won. The colors were awful, the angle of the photo was weird, and it paled in comparison stylistically to the covers that all of us in the office preferred.

The difference was that the winning cover had a big ol’ bass on it. That’s right! That’s what our fisherman readers love most. The thrill of the pursuit, the mastery of the biggest fish in the water, the conquering of bass bigger than what your friends have caught. We know that’s what they like, but we didn’t know they valued that more highly than all the other factors, combined, that make up a cover .

So what makes a good cover? Frechette told us what his art and editorial teams at Good decided on as their rules for each issue:

1. Don’t sell out subscribers. Don’t go for the newsstand look so much that it alienates those readers who have committed to you.

2. Create art. Be proud of what you create. Make it wall-hangable.

3. There’s no secret success formula. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you there is. Everyone’s just guessing.

Frechette added that these are the elements the magazine minds look for when creating covers:

  • clever, provocative, fun
  • simple
  • edgy content
  • compelling cover lines
  • bold visuals

What do you look for on a magazine cover? Have you ever bought a magazine because you specifically liked the cover — or not bought one because you didn’t?

Want more related reading? Try out these articles:

Seven Design Principles of Magazine Covers

20 Magnificent Magazine Covers

The Most Controversial Magazine Covers of All Time

Great Magazine Cover Design

Forbes recently unveiled a redesign, one that its leader called a “re-architecture” of the magazine and the website. One of the main changes Forbes points out is the addition of reader commentary in the margins of stories in order to add more voices to the magazine. What struck me the most of the new design was the use of white space and the stripping out of color. The redesign issue also happened to be the special Forbes 400 edition, so some, if any, of the changes may only be part of this current issue.

So, here goes! In all photos, the older issue (Sept. 27, 2010) is on the left, and the redesign issue (Oct. 11, 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.

Cover

Forbes fills its cover with big personalities — both before and after the redesign. Forbes makes its readers feel important because they get to read intimate portraits of important people. Nothing on the cover indicates that this is a redesign issue, but that’s really problematic to say because the Forbes 400 issue is also a special issue and gets different treatment. We’ll have to wait until the next issue comes out to determine that. Regardless, I give it a pass because newsstand magazines like this one take great care to appeal to the newsstand crowd, so I’m sure the powers that be know what they’re doing here.

Cover Ruling: Pass

Contents

The contents pages are the first place the reader can start to see a shift in the design, to a more retro, almost newspaper look. The harsh reds and large photos from the previous contents are gone; subdued colors and an abundance of lines are introduced here. The new fonts are very pleasing; the titles stand out, and the designers use a lot of white space on the two pages of contents.

Contents Ruling: Win

Editor’s Note

The Editor’s Note, like the contents and like all the departments after it, showcase the new use of white space, margins and black-white-sepia tones. Steve Forbes goes from being the columnist (shoved up tightly in the corner) to being the main visual. No other photos appear on his two-page column, and the playfulness is removed from the second page on which restaurants to visit. The previous “playfulness” was color, which was stripped away by the designers. It’s almost like this new version is saying, “We don’t have time for silliness. We’re here to work.” If you don’t like the look that’s in the contents and editor’s note, you won’t like the rest of the magazine. It borders on plain, but it’s also more sophisticated, less busy.

Editor’s Note Ruling: Win

Departments

Entrepreneurs is another section in which the move away from color and toward white space is obvious. Some of the design elements are so subtle (for instance, the double lines above and below the section head, the dots coming from each side of the section head) that they make the pages feel elegant, even though stripping the color out seems like it would make the pages drab. Even the folios are simpler and more succinct.

Departments Ruling: Win

Back Page

On the pre-redesign Thoughts page, the quotes just flowed, one into another, with nothing driving the reader to each one. I imagine many readers scan just to see if there are any names they’re interested in. If not, they read the first item or the one just under the photo and then close the book. In the redesign, though, the page draws the reader in on each item because all the quotes have something distinct — type size, leading, color, length. Fewer quotes are on the page, but each is markedly more readable.

Back Page Ruling: Win

Feature from Before the Redesign

Overall

Forbes is made up of big personalities — untouchable by the masses, but brought to you, the reader, courtesy of the Forbes brand. In the previous design (see photo), President Barack Obama was the lead story. In the new design, it was Warren Buffett and Jay-Z. The subjects didn’t change with the redesign; only a bit of the presentation. The change was subtle but pleasant, retro but current, simple but sophisticated.

Overall Ruling: Win

Have you seen the new Forbes? What do you think? This redesign has gotten a lot of attention: You can read an interview with Lewis D’Vorkin, who led the redesign, with Talking Biz News, a preview of it in Business Insider, or the announcement about it on Forbes.com.

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.

Cover

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

Contents

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

Departments

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

 

Features

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

Overall

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.

Excerpt from Jill Herzig’s editor’s note, October 2010 issue of Redbook:

“Have you ever arrived home after making what you think is a major beauty change … only to have your husband look straight at you, open a beer, and notice nothing? In this way, husbands and magazine readers can be similar. … We editors think we’ve rocked our pages with some momentous transformation, but readers often take a look and shrug.”

Dear Mrs. Herzig, I am here for you.

I too have been on the editing end of a redesign and heard very little from our readers. I feel your pain. I am here to save you. I will show you that I paid attention to Redbook’s redesign. Below, you will see that I broke it down, section by section, with highlights and lowlights of the transformation. (I live for this!)

So, here goes! In all photos, the prior issue (September) is on the left, and the redesign issue (October) is on the right. You can click on any photo to make it larger. Each section below is ruled a Fail, Pass or Win.

Cover

Fonts, colors and styles are the same from September to October. The only difference I detected was the removal of “Love Your Life” from Redbook’s nameplate. It was actually removed throughout the magazine, from the cover to the spine to the masthead. I wonder … should we stop loving our lives? Or was loving our lives just a phase that we were meant to work through, and now we’re on the other side? Either way, it appears the powers that be added this phrase in its redesign in 2007 and is taking it away now. I’m positive this makes Jezebel happy. (If you don’t mind harsh language and super-tacky commentary, read Jezebel’s diatribe about Redbook adding this phrase in 2007 here.)

If Herzig and staff wanted to get comments from readers on the redesign, they should have done something new with the cover. It’s only an OCD like me who would notice the “Live Your Life” removal; the cover would have been a great opportunity to kick off the big change and guarantee notice by more readers. However, the newsstand is a fragile animal, and if Redbook’s staff members felt that their combination was magical as it was, then I get it.

The cover was good before and it’s good now. But it definitely does not signal a major redesign.

Cover Ruling: Pass

Contents

Redbook condensed its contents from 2 2/3 pages to 2 pages. The emphasis is now off the article titles and on the page numbers, which makes it hard to find articles that are of interest to reader — it’s more work to go through the contents. The font is harder to read in the redesign, too, from the section names to the article titles. It’s so much work, in fact, to get through these contents pages, that many readers will just skip it and opt to flip around until they find what they want.

Contents Ruling: Fail

Editor’s Note

The new design brings the poor editor out of a hidden corner of a page to her own page with a few accessories added (in this case, they’re Insider Secrets). The photo is light-years better (I think the original photo was taken in 1982), and the design is open, welcoming and eye-catching.

Editor’s Note Ruling: Win

Departments

Lots of magazines say they “re-imagined” their issue in a redesign. Most don’t really. It’s not a safe strategy to re-imagine too much because you might alienate your readers. It remains to be seen if Redbook will alienate its readers because its sections have completely changed. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Old: Style Scoop; Your Love Life; Body & Mind; Making It Work; Living; Downtime
  • New: Beauty & Health; Men, Love & Family; Make It Work; What To Wear; Features; Good To Eat

The Good To Eat section is completely new; the old magazine included a couple of recipes, but not a cooking/dining section. The opening short-item department, Just In Time, was replaced by Spill Vent Gossip Go!, changing the content from quick fixes (cook chicken in 15 minutes, give yourself a makeover) to a more interactive reader polls section.

Departments Ruling: Pass

 

Before Redesign

 

 

After Redesign

 

Features

My familiarity with Redbook is admittedly low, so it’s not easy to judge the features based on these two issues. I don’t know how similar all the previous issues’ cover stories resembled the Julianna Margulies spread, and how similar the upcoming ones will be to the Lauren Graham spread. But the Margulies spread is clearly more dramatic, with only the deckhead on the opener, whereas the Graham spread introduces the first two paragraphs. The inside of the features is the same, though.

Features Ruling: Pass

Overall

The taglines at the top of most pages morphed from feminine and delicate to chunky and edgy. The design overall looks less like it appeals to teenage girls and more like it appeals to women in their late 20 or early 30s. The new food section is appetizing, useful and creative — and now that everyone is a foodie, this section needed to be added. One other great change is the back page: The old version had “I love my ____ life,” where readers filled in the blank. It was a very plain design. The new back page is a spunky, funny chart to help the reader determine, in this case, if she’s “in the mood” enough to go all the way or go to sleep. Here’s the comparison:

There were a lot of good changes throughout, but there wasn’t anything that blew me away. Redbook’s readers will surely be pleased — at least, the ones who notice will!

Overall Ruling: Pass

What do you think? Have you seen the new design? If you’d like to keep reading, check out what two other websites have had to say about it: MediaWeek and MagaScene.