Redesigns with Results: A Simpler Time
Few magazines have undergone the scrutiny Time received when it announced it was planning a redesign last year. With the newsweeklies losing subscribers and ad dollars, media critics anticipated something that would allow them to proclaim this a desperate attempt from a creaky franchise.
While many redesigns seek to add elements and pump up the visuals, Time decided it needed to step back and make the design simpler, both in terms of look and organization. The multitude of sections and departments developed throughout the years felt cluttered. “The ornaments had taken over the tree;it was hard to find the magazine in there and I think that hurt us with readers and with advertisers,” says managing editor Richard Stengel. “We wanted to do something that was new and contemporary yet felt familiar.”
The planning process began with Stengel’s return to the magazine in June 2006 and included Time art director Arthur Hochstein and celebrated designer Luke Hayman of Pentagram. “Luke is a modernist but he reached back into the history of the magazine typographically while doing everything on a grid that made more liberal use of white space that made it clean and fresh and modern,” says Hochstein.
The redesign broke the magazine into four identifiable sections: Briefing, which offers a digestible roundup of the week’s news; The Well, devoted to feature stories; Life, which gives writers more prominence; and Arts, a cultural and entertainment section.
In keeping with the “classic yet contemporary theme,” the magazine reverted to Franklin Gothic typeface, as well as the magazine grid used by legendary editorial designer Walter Bernard. “The biggest change is that we really quieted down the headlines, they’re not so big and blaring,” says Hochstein. “It leaves fewer choices for designers and makes it a more efficient process where we can focus more on content and less on the decorative aspects.”
One major difference from previous redesigns is that Time kept its staff involved in the process. “We tried to make this very transparent for the staff,” says Hochstein. “The last time we did a big redesign it was kept a secret. That was wrong for two reasons: the staff didn’t know what to do with it when it went live and they felt like weren’t being brought into the tent.”
By end of the first quarter of 2007, the redesign was ready to go live. “There was a lot of publicity that it was coming;it’s one thing to spring it on people, it’s another when they expect it,” says Stengel. “We’re trying to quantify it now. Anecdotally, the redesign is popular with younger readers. Like some of the coverage we received in The Chicago Tribune and MarketWatch said, who thought you could reinvent this brand?”
Owner: Time Inc.
Circulation: 4 million
The dilemma: The proliferation of demographic editions and departments developed through the years was bogging down the magazine and confusing readers.
What they did: Simplified both the design and organization of the magazine for a cleaner look.