Business publications are redesigning.
Bloomberg Businessweek emerged as a redesigned, relaunched weekly news publication last week. Editor Josh Tyrangiel and Creative Director Richard Turley should be proud. While there’s nothing particularly innovative about a print magazine — or for that matter, the new design — it is, in fact, a clean and smart delivery of business news.
The new design is classic and simple. It’s a bit of a cliché in editorial design circles and as old as Methuselah to say, but still rings true: “Design is best when you don’t know it’s there.” It’s the way I was trained 25 years ago as a young magazine art director.
I applaud its ability to create an engaging, accessible experience for readers through multiple entry points, without appearing overly cluttered. Everything about the publication is timeless, from its crisp, Swiss-style grid and mixed use of column formats to its abundance of Helvetica bold. Think clean, basic lines and you’ll get the idea. A long time ago a mentor once told me, “Restraint is an important principle of design.” To successfully design and package the written word, is to remove any and all capriciousness or frivolous elements from the page. Design is meant to deliver content; it’s a matter of form serving the function.
That thought still rings true for the presentation of all media, be it an e-reader, like an iPad or Kindle, or iPhone (or any of the other devices for which Mr. Jobs is currently building distractions into our lives). The idea is to engage the reader, inspire them and hopefully, build an enduring relationship and sense of community. Business journals and magazines place the written word first and foremost, and design recedes into the background. Content truly is king.
For other magazines, like “shelter publications,” it’s more about the photography or ambiance, the experience. In every instance, the presentation of content — content being many things, either image or word — must align with the needs of the audience. In the case of Bloomberg Businessweek, the editorial team has done a remarkable job of meeting that audience need.
While the April 26th article in the Times points to the culture dissonance between Bloomberg L.P. and the newly acquired Businessweek staff, there’s clearly something special happening here.
The Harvard Business Review also just redesigned and debuted the new look in their January-February 2010 edition. Editor in chief Adi Ignatius stresses the need to bring a more modern and accessible magazine to readers. That was definitely the goal. The traditional academic journal design has been disposed; the new look has more entry points, more energy, and is closer in feeling to Fast Company, in fact.
It’s worth noting that he also plants a significant stake in the ground for print media, stating, “The redesign reflects our strong belief that print is still the best medium for conveying the big ideas in HBR.” Of course, along with the redesign, they have also reconsidered hbr.org, and worked to create a better integration of the two properties.
My early experience in magazine publishing tells me this is all a good sign. Redesigns are a symbol of hope. In this case, it would seem a good indication that publishers are realizing that the print publication is not only still viable, but critically important, so long as it is supported by an substantial online component and in some cases, a half dozen other channels.