There are a few magazines that I read/peruse irregularly, usually at airports or doctors’ waiting rooms. For the most part I can remember what these look or feel like, even if I only see them intermittently. Whether it’s National Geographic, or Us Weekly, or Fast Company I can picture the layouts and the typography, no matter how high or low it leans. As news broke out of the recent redesign of BusinessWeek, and as I picked it up at the newsstand (in Denver’s airport) I was unable (perhaps unwilling) to remember what the old BusinessWeek used to look like — my best bet at this point is “generic” with a dash of “boring” as I simply could not picture anything other than the condensed serif on the cover. So as I flipped through the new BusinessWeek I was happy to find a cohesive visual tone that, even if not particularly groundbreaking in the general design sense (as every single visual styling has been done before, from the thick-underlined-text to the text-in-a-ragged-box mannerisms, which I have done myself I must admit), creates a memorable and impactful, in that businessy-type-A way, viewing experience — starting with the new logo on the cover, all the way through to the last page.
The redesign of the magazine and identity was done by Modernista! (exclamation point theirs), a Boston-based agency that has worked with BusinessWeek in the past, specifically in designing the magazine’s quarterly complement, IN (or INside Innovation for extended purposes), which you may or may not know was somewhat controversial in its disparaging of the design process before launching in Spring of 2006. Despite my contempt for a company named with an exclamation point (are they really that excited about themselves?) I am quite appreciative of the complete visual overhauling of the magazine as a signifier of the effort that BusinessWeek itself did in rethinking their magazine who, according to their story, spent 18 months in the process. And, as an ephemeral reader, I believe the effort shows.
The logo, in this case, is not the most important aspect of the redesign — although the 180-degree shift from serif to sans serif acts as the perfect statement to signify change, shoving the old, stodgy logo out of the way for a new, bold, no bullshit logo in a surprisingly well kerned sans serif typeface that looks to be a customized version of, my best guess at the moment, Univers, but I wouldn’t bet my mortgage on it. It’s inside that the magazine feels more relevant with a clean design and consistent typographic treatments that sway you from beginning to end. Simple size shifts from front of the book to feature stories to back of the book are enough indicators that you are changing sections without resorting to extra fancy opening spreads for the feature stories. I mention this in light of, and as a personal response to, Wired magazine’s opposite approach where each section is all fireworks all the time and the back of the book stories are usually painfully disjointed from the feature stories. But I digress. With its redesign, BusinessWeek has poised itself to play in the same field, in terms of shelf presence as Time, something it couldn’t quite accomplish before. In terms of content, BusinessWeek is going to great lengths in convincing us that this is the best magazine ever and Bruce Nussbaum (devoted contributor to the magazine) claims it’s “a new kind of print medium that will be the model for magazines to copy in the years ahead.” While this may be a happy exaggeration, I am pleased to agree that this redesign feels like a great step forward for BusinessWeek, and I’m almost certain that, when the next redesign happens, I will remember what it’s previous incarnation felt and looked like.
Some images from my crumpled copy for your perusing pleasure.