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When and How to Redesign a Magazine

| October 7, 2013 | 0 Comments

Today in modern magazine publishing, magazines are being redesigned every few years. I think we can call this 2013, a year of redesigns because so many famous magazines had opted for the change in the design (Inc., Men’s Health, MS Living, Lookbook, AdAge, Texas Monthly, Self, Stern… to name a few). Even legendary New Yorker who’s design almost did not change from its beginnings, updated its design a bit. 


magazine redesign process

Copyright © Pentagram, Gruner + Jahr: Redesigned cover is on the right.


The process of redesign happens on several occasions. If there is a new editor in chief who has some new ideas that he or she would like to implement. If there is a new publisher that also has some ideas.

If the publication’s design is outdated, if the circulation is going down, if the competition is getting ahead, if your publication is trying to gain a new audience…

As you can see there are many reasons for a redesign.

But which one if justified? First two that I mentioned are not justified in my opinion. So many times editors and publishers want to make their mark in the world of publishing and they do it by making a redesign of already successful and established publication.


Make sure the reasons for the redesign are the right ones


Other reasons are justified and even the best looking publications become outdated at some point and redesign is the only option to freshen up the publication’s image and looks.

Sometimes sales go down and this is a good time to change the way the magazine looks. But whatever is the reason for the redesign, don’t do it just for the sake of redesign. Don’t do it to show off your design skills or because you are bored with the existing layout.

When doing a redesign, make it big and visible. There are very few instances when only a touch up or polish is enough. Make your redesign visible. The reader has to see the changes you have done.


magazine redesign process

Copyright © Pentagram, Gruner + Jahr: Second and fourth images present the redesigned pages.


Also don’t make changes from issues to issue. Make all your changes in one issue. Don’t redesign contents pages in one issue and features in the next one and news section in the one after.

Give yourself a deadline for a launch of new redesigned issue. Make it a period when the magazine sales go up. A few months before the summer is always a good way to start off with the new design. Or just before the winter if you are working on a snowboarding magazine. In this way more readers will see your new work.


Make a big splash with your redesign


A redesign can take a few months, so don’t rush it, but don’t take your time also, because you can get yourself into deadline with no good results to show off. In this case you will be compelled to finish things and the final result may be just that. A rushed product with no clear vision.

Time can be a challenge but this is an even bigger reason not to lose focus.

Include as many people as you can in brainstorming meetings, but in the end, you as a designer and editor-in-chief have to decide what ideas will be used.


magazine redesign process

Copyright © Rodale Corp.: Bottom masthead is the new one.


Before doing the redesign decide what are you not going to change. Typography, grid structure, color palette… Do you plan to change the masthead?

Make a list of things you need to change. Draw some sketches, make few proposals, present them to the staff.

When you make some initial changes, sit on them for a few days. Something that seemed great that exact moment may not be so great tomorrow or the next day.

The changes that you do have to stick, because the worst thing that can happen is to make a redesign and few issues later you and your team realize that the changes do not work and you will have to correct the things that are not satisfactory.

This will puzzle the readers and may alienate them, but even the best redesign can and definitely will drive away some readers, but if done right it will bring new ones.


magazine redesign process

Copyright © 2013 Bonnier Corp.: On the left is the old cover and on the right is the new redesigned one.


When launching new redesigned issue make it big. This issue has to be especially great. Not only because of the new design, but it should contain great articles,  introduced new features, some great interviews, maybe a giveaway… Make a splash with it. You can persuade your publisher to reduce the price of this issue. This will help to boost the sales also. The main goal is to get as many people as possible to see your renewed magazine.


Dr. Mario Garcia tips for proper redesign process

Regarding exact redesign process and do’s and don’ts I will have to quote Dr. Mario Garcia, one of the leading experts in editorial design. His experience and knowledge of the matter is so big that I can only repeat his words.

  • Not every redesign is the same. Customize your work to make it appropriate for the specific product.
  • Get a full briefing of expectations, target audience and extent of change. Some redesigns are just a face wash, while others are a full bath.
  • Rethink the publication around four major story structure: typography, page architecture, structure of publication and color.
  • Story structure should be the first step. How can the hierarchy be emphasized.
  • Typographically, test at least three font combinations of serif and sans serif type and choose the most appropriate one.
  • For page architecture, develop at least two grid patterns with various columns and perhaps include both in the final design.
  • Play with the color palette that starts with two dozen combinations, from dark to light and in-between. Create the sample palette of no more than ten shades.
  • Emphasize navigation because readers are used to internet and its navigation and they can express impatience if they see no clear navigation in print.
  • Review the order in which the content will appear. Will you be moving elements in or out or will you change the order of things.
  • Work closely with editors and reporters as they will bring the necessary journalistic ingredient to the process of visually changing a publication.


For greater knowledge about design in print and digital media I advise you to follow Dr. Garcia’s blog at following address:

For a detailed explanation behind the Stern magazine redesign and other editorial work from Pentagram check out this link.




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Category: Design

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