Six Things B-to-B Editors and Designers Can Learn From Consumer Magazines
Art director Robert Newman shares tips from the successful re-launch of JCK.
Business-to-business publishers are going one of two ways when it comes to their remaining print magazines; slashing budgets and staff to the bare bones or investing in print as a premium offering.
Those choosing the latter route are increasingly turning to expertise from the consumer world. Reed Exhibitionâs JCK, which unveiled a new design in June, tapped art director Robert Newman, former design director of consumer titles Real Simple, Fortune and Details, to lead the makeover, which included adoption of a large format (10x12), new sections and openers and heavier paper stock.
The new issue (produced by custom publisher TMG, which retained much of the original JCK staff) boasts a 240-page folio and a 48 percent increase in ad pages to 120.
FOLIO: spoke with Newman about what b-to-b magazines can take away from consumer titles.
1. Package The Magazine
With JCK, Newman oversaw an effort that completely remade the magazine from design to paper stock to editorial approach. âThere is no denying that b-to-b magazines know their stuff,â Newman says. âBut traditionally theyâve been weaker at what consumer magazines are good at, which is packaging. Before the recent economic downturn and shift away from print, a lot of b-to-b magazines didnât have to worry about packaging. Now itâs more of a challenge and, like consumer publishers, they really have to sell the magazine.â
Use the magazine architecture to let people know where they are at all times, Newman says. âThe editors re-imagined the front of book so instead of one traditional opener they came up with five or six new sections such as business, fashion, news. Each section has its own color palette and each has a very strong opener with use of white space and logos on every page to break up the sections. Even within sections we are very aware of the spacing so itâs not essential to have little things everywhere. Each section is a mini magazine where you use different texture and pacing.â
2. Create A Sense of Value
JCKâs new oversize format and heavier paper stock is reminiscent of W. âWeâre creating a sense of luxury and value with the magazine,â says Newman. âFortune recently increased its size and paper stock, which is the direct opposite way things have been going. The idea is people will continue to read the magazine if we make this more of a keeper product. JCK is arguably the type of magazine a retailer will leave in the store. Before it was not necessarily one youâd show customers or leave out. Itâs a cool kind of tool people in stores can use day-to-day.â
3. Differentiate Advertising from Editorial
One of the problems with b-to-b magazines is that the advertising is not quite as glamorous or as well designed as in consumer titles. âMany of the ads are designed by the advertisers themselves and not to criticize but sometimes they arenât very elegant,â Newman says. âPartial-page adsâhalf page, two-thirds of a pageâare often a challenge for the editor. Use white space to separate ads so itâs clear and clean. If every b-to-b magazine adopted a rule that you had to have a quarter inch of white space between ads and edit, Iâd be a much happier man.â
4. Itâs Better to be Clean Than Clever
Newman says many b-to-b magazines have excellent design, such as McGraw-Hillâs Architectural Record and Greensource. However, he also recognizes that most b-to-b titles donât have the budgets of their consumer peers. âYou donât need design thatâs award-winning or edgy or even creative but you do need a design that is orderly and structured and clean at a minimum,â he adds. âThe reader needs to know where they are at all times.â
5. How Do Readers Read The Magazine?
One of Newmanâs biggest pet peeves is the editorial assumption that all readers read the magazine the same way and they do it cover-to-cover. âItâs no shame to say a third of your readers skim the magazine. Your job as a responsible editor or art director is to deliver a package of whatever they want, even if they only read the captions. People does this so brilliantlyâevery photo has a caption. Some magazines donât do photo captions because they figure, âOh itâs in the story.â If you could, go to peopleâs business and watch how they read magazinesâwhere do they read it? If youâre JCK, how many retailers read the magazine at the counter?â
6. White Space Is Your FriendâStop Trying To Jam So Much On One Page
One of the biggest problems with b-to-b design is trying to do too much on one page, according to Newman. âMore is not always betterâreaders are very busy and overworked, they donât have a spare moment,â he says. âWhat they really want is for your magazine to curate a little more, not deliver everything. Allow more space in the magazine.â