How Do You Redesign a Magazine?

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The general interest magazine, The Atlantic , formerly The Atlantic Monthly, launched its eighth redesign in its 151 years of high-brow history last month. Pentagram partners Michael Bierut and Luke Hayman led the magazine redesign, which featured an updated logo from a previous early-60s design—you might have seen it as a prop on "Mad Men" last season. Euro RSCG, New York handled the relaunch brand campaign, including spots that asked people on the street The Atlantic's hard-hitting questions: Is Google making us Stupid? Can Jesus Save Hollywood? Why do presidents lie? These questions were incorporated into the spots as white neon signs and also as cover lines on the relaunch debut issue.

Below, Bierut walks us through the redesign and how it synched up with the ad campaign so well.

Why did you decide to adapt an existing nameplate?

We did also consider wholesale redesigns of the logo and nameplate, but we wanted to build on something that we thought was authentic, their history, something that they could possess as uniquely their own. The logo we adapted had been abandoned in the mid-20th century, which was a great period for the magazine. As opposed to trying to go back and invent uniqueness out of nothing, the new logo draws from that heritage. The nameplate served as a basic point-of-view for the magazine, as expressed on the cover. Once we had that, we just extrapolated and extruded it through the guts of the magazine.

The magazine's design history.
The magazine's design history.
What's the philosophy behind the pages design?

The graphic scheme on the inside is really based on two typefaces; it's really, really simple. I think the inescapable model for that approach is The New Yorker a little bit. One of the powers of The New Yorker is: If you're sitting next to someone on the subway and they've got it open on their lap, even if there's no headline, you can tell that they're reading The New Yorker.

By creating a very limited palette, in terms of type face and layout options, we were trying to establish a visual protocol that would come to align itself with the brand. We're hoping that the single headline type that we use inside, which is established on the cover, and the single font family that we use that we for the text will play all the way through and be associated with The Atlantic.

The connection between the editorial redesign and Euro's relaunch campaign is striking. Did you work with them?

The Atlantic provided a lot of connection between us and Euro. Euro initially did a very nice brand position that led up to that tagline "Think. Again." That was helpful in shaping the way we saw page layout. When we were trying to figure out what should go on the cover of the relaunch issue, this idea of an all-type cover came up and using the serious questions, some of which were then used to dramatize Euro's campaign. It was a nice way to relate the advertising and the editorial. When I went to the launch event, I saw how beautifully they went together. I have to give The Atlantic credit. They did a great job navigating; they pointed all their resources in the same direction.
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