Archive for the ‘Magazine: Women’s’ Category

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Family Circle (

Issue reviewed: Oct. 1, 2010

  • Published in New York, N.Y., by Meredith Corp.
  • Circulation: 3.8 million
  • 132 pages, perfect bound


  • median HHI: $52,516
  • median age: 50.5
  • 100% female
  • moms, especially of teens and tweens
  • 58.9% married


Family Circle hits on multiple levels of interest for moms: health, beauty, parenting, cooking, celebrities and style. The coverage brushes past each issue, touching on it only enough to keep its moms current and then leaving the heavy niche coverage to other magazines. This method makes it a good one-stop magazine for moms who don’t want 12 magazines a month. And it helps moms know who their kids are listening to or watching with interviews with and bite-size stories on teen heart throbs like Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber.


The design ranges from so-so to stellar throughout. On some pages, like 58-61, Let It Shine, I felt thrown right back into the ’80s with the dark colors, dated pose and hairdo, and justified type. But pages 90-91, The Anti-Cancer Diet, is eye-catching, informative and colorful — right where it should be. Also, Family Circle makes good use of black backgrounds, using them in small, powerful doses and set against strong contrasts of pinks, oranges and yellows.

What’s Best

  • Easy how-tos: Where some supermom magazines make readers feel inadequate just by looking at the crafts (“I’ll never be able to do that!”), Family Circle shows easy craft ideas (cakesicles, spray painted wreaths, cut-out letters, etc.) that most moms could do quickly and easily.
  • Food photography: I could eat the cantonese shrimp off the page of the Wok & Roll feature. The background is pleasing, the lighting is good, and all the veggies look so fresh. This photo isn’t out of the norm for the magazine, either; with only one exception (the macaroni and cheese dishes on 115 aren’t very appetizing, and the dark background doesn’t help the photo), the food throughout the magazine looks tasty, fresh and easy to make.
  • Momster: Family Circle has created its own social networking site, Momster, where moms can share stories, advice and support. The magazine promotes it but doesn’t go overboard. It does publish results from polls conducted on the site in the magazine.

What’s Worst

  • The vertical ads: In the back of the magazine, several 1/2-, 1/3- and 2/3-page vertical ads interrupt what would otherwise be great cooking/recipe features. It comes off as disruptive and annoying rather than appealing to the reader to buy the products in the ads.
  • Design missteps: As I mentioned, some of the pages just don’t hit the high bar set by other parts of the magazine. Maybe some sections got to go to a redesign meeting that other departments didn’t get to go to?  The style and food sections look strong, updated and smart, but the Inner Circle, Family section and that feature, Let It Shine, are outdated and out of place.

Overall Opinion

Family Circle’s design team could come together more and create a more cohesive, beautiful product for its readers.  The talent is obviously there because so many great pages are already being printed. However, Family Circle has great editorial content and hits on a lot of issues that are important to moms. Its Momster site is a great benefit for its readers. For these reasons, I give Family Circle a B.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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.


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


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


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



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


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.