Billboard redesign by Pentagram

Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and team have redesigned the US music industry magazine Billboard, giving it a new identity and issuing a complete overhaul of its pages

Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and team have redesigned the US music industry magazine Billboard, giving it a new identity and issuing a complete overhaul of its pages…

The new layout launches in this week’s issue (January 26). Fans of the magazine’s lists and charts, including the famous Hot 100 Singles and Top 200 Albums, will immediately notice a restructuring of these dense and detailed pages (more on which below), while the up-front and feature pages have been designed to give the text and images more room to breathe.

Billboard launched in 1894 and began publishing music charts in the 1930s. It first ran its signature “Hot 100” in 1958 and by the 1960s was exclusively covering music, Pentagram explains on its blog. The magazine’s main readership is label executives, music retailers, artists and DJs. “Billboard has a more central role in pop culture than any mere trade magazine,” says Bierut. “It’s an American icon, like the Coke bottle.”

In the past decade, say the studio, “the publication has transitioned from looking like a trade newspaper – text-filled covers in black and white – to a mainstream music magazine, with colour portraits of artists and cover lines”.

Indeed, in 1966, it looked like this:

While more recent editions of the title have featured a range of contemporary artists and musicians (and One Direction) on the cover – from Katy Perry and Rihanna, to Adele and Taylor Swift.

Prior to Pentagram’s involvement, the covers looked something like this (Adele, December 2011 issue):

And this (December 2012) – bright, with some interesting type, but perhaps a little too breezy for some:

And also, er, this – a “duel” cover issue from March last year – a pastiche of teen magazines the world over:

The latest issue (top of post), in comparison, is clearly a much more serious affair. OK, so it’s a great picture of Prince – evocative, mysterious, and quite unlike most of the previous year’s covers – but might it be indicative of a new direction in terms of the kinds of portraits used on the covers?

A major part of the redesign is the reworked masthead – but this also incorporates elements of the previous iteration in a version for use online and in marketing materials. Pentagram has described the changes to the identity on its blog:

“Since 1966, the magazine’s familiar masthead identity has featured lettering with strong circular forms that suggested records (and later CDs) and kicky ‘mod’ colors. As part of the refresh the logo has been completely redrawn to emphasise the basic geometry of the name, creating a typeface that echoes the circles of the original and still looks ‘pop’.”

The previous masthead (top); followed by the new version (middle); and a tweaked version (bottom):

The name is now entirely in lowercase (with tightened spacing) and the colours have been removed from the letters’ counters. “This makes the print version look immediately more grown-up and serious,” say Pentagram, “and a lot easier to design with full-bleed color photographs. The colour version of the logo will be retained on the new website (designed by Area 17) as well as in retail uses and event marketing.”

According to Pentagram, Bierut and his team worked under the direction of Billboard creative director Andrew Horton, editorial director Bill Werde, and editor Joe Levy.

The redesign incorpates new sections, while some of the older ones have been renamed. “Headers are paired with graphic bars inspired by the charts,” say the studio. “Page layouts are opened up, with graphs, pull quotes and other data appearing in the margins. The design employs a carefully coordinated suite of typefaces, including LL Brown, Lyon Display and Atlas Grotesk for headers, and Lyon Text for body copy. Ziggurat is used for special features and advertorials.”

Here’s what the inside looks like:

“For me, helping to redesign the Billboard charts was the ultimate information design challenge,” says Bierut. As part of this, the Hot 100 (the top 100 singles chart) has expanded from one page to a full spread (shown below, and with detail).

“Positions on the charts are also easier to scan,” say Pentagram of the changes. “These were formerly organised so ‘This Week’ appeared first, followed by its ranking in previous weeks. The redesign moves the earlier rankings to the left, in lighter shades of grey, leading up to ‘This Week’ in black, so readers can easily follow the record’s progression on the chart.

“The ‘bullets’ indicating rising hits are knocked out in white around the chart numbers, and weekly awards like ‘Greatest Gainer’ and ‘Sales Gainer’ are marked by red banner icons. The record’s peak position and weeks on the chart appear to the right of the title. The chart data is set in Amplitude, changed from the longstanding Univers, and chart names appear in LL Brown.”

Top 100 page detail

A colourful information graphic, developed by creative director Andrew Horton and based on chart movements and other trends, will also feature on the magazine’s back page.

The website has also been refreshed accordingly by Area 17, and an iPad app version of the magazine, designed by an in-house team headed by Horton.

Project Team: Michael Bierut, partner-in-charge and designer; Laitsz Ho, Lisa Maione, Deva Pardue and Michael Deal, designers. More images of pages at and Billboard’s introduction to the new design is at


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