Redesigning a magazine can be challenging but the new-look Case da Abitare has proved a hit with readers since launching in April this year. The Winkreative team responsible for the changes to the Italian interiors title – creative director Tyler Brûlé, art director Kuchar Swara and photo director Stephen Ledger-Lomas – talked us through the process behind its relaunch.
What was the brief for the redesign of Case da Abitare magazine?
Tyler Brûlé: The brief for the redesign was rather open but the key message was newsstand ‘stand-out’, clarity and modernity. At the same time, we had to look at the competition (Elle Décor and Architectural Digest) and offer a point of differentiation for both reader and advertiser.
Who do you see as the magazine’s main audience?
TB: Case da Abitare has a mix of informed consumers and also trade. If you look at the mix there are a number of readers who are in the design/architecture business who use the title as a reference tool. It was important that we got this balance right from a content and visual perspective. So far so good.
What did you think of the previous design of the magazine? What did you see as the main problems with it?
TB: I thought it was too quiet and the front cover got lost on the newsstand. Inside it lacked a certain rhythm and metabolism which is necessary to create a pace that appeals to readers.
What was your solution to the brief and how did you come to it? Was this a lengthy process?
TB: We didn’t have very long to turn the project around and we got to a final solution on the cover and inside quite fast – retail and product driven up front with a travel bridge to move readers into the more feature/text heavy middle section. At the back we aimed for a classic ‘well’ but went for stronger, quite masculine typography.
Kuchar Swara: One of the first problems that we had with the old design was the layout and lack of distinctive page furniture, which made it so easy to confuse the advertising with the editorial. We began to experiment with big bold numbers, page straps, framing devices etc. We wanted a real sense of pace and rhythm using typography, photography and layout. The three sections had to be clearly divided without disturbing the general rhythm – the news pages, framed by a light coloured tint, use a very loose layout system which can cope with multiple stories as well as single articles. Primo Piano uses a tight grid-based layout system, using thin key-lines to frame the pages. We’ve employed various different types of photography to separate the stories – portraiture, travel, still life, set interiors, architecture, reportage, black and white photography, manufacturing, etc. The Portfolio section loses all of the page furniture of the previous sections – the strap at the top of the pages and the big page numbers, no tinted frames or thin key-lines. Design-wise the sense of pace and rhythm is achieved through much bigger, all cap headlines, more generous use of white space and longer standfirsts. To prevent this section from having the static feel of one home interior after another we have macro photography stories, illustration, portraiture as well as home interiors that look lived in as well as inspiring. We had just over four weeks to complete the redesign, in time for the Salone de Mobile. Of course being a relaunch as well we had a magazine that was over 300 pages, so plenty of late nights.
What fonts have you used?
KS: We use Farnham by Christian Schwartz for the body text and standfirsts. The headlines are set in Beuro Grot bold condensed. The masthead is bespoke, we started to play with the bold Grot condensed but found it quite eccentric especially in case of the ‘C’ and ‘S’. We sent it over to Christian who rebalanced the letter combinations and took out some of those uncomfortable quirks.
Did you specify certain types of cover image? If so, what?
KS: We didn’t really specify the exact sort of image that the cover should be, the danger is that you’ll slip into that uncomfortable place of predictability. We thought that the covers could be made up of still life, illustration and interiors. The covers should be contemporary, young and inspiring – this may come from a variety of different stories within the magazine.
Stephen Ledger-Lomas: The photographic direction for the magazine was decided fairly early on in the redesign process. We decided that everything should be commissioned wherever humanly possible and the style and approach should be natural, inventive, styled but not overly stylised and a general reaction to what can be a fairly cold and over-polished genre of editorial photography. A roster of talent and extensive image research provided us with a strong sense of what we needed to achieve on the pages of Case da Abitare and a bar we needed to aim for. We have nurtured young talent and really tried to reach outside of the traditional comfort zone of interiors magazines.
How do you feel that it compares to other interiors/furniture magazines?
KS: I think it was our aim to put the magazine on a distinctly different path from the others in the market. We chose to steer the photographic style away from the consistent high-gloss photography which we’ve been exposed to for so long, instead we are favouring a more natural and earthy style which gives the magazine a real sense of sincerity. Instead of being just nice eye candy we wanted a magazine that would be intelligent and informative, that could deliver inspiring high quality imagery and switch on the glamour when it has to.
Are there any magazines (design or otherwise) that were influential on how you approached this job?
TB: Obviously it was important to pay attention to the ‘mothership’ Abitare but we didn’t look to other titles past or present for inspiration. I think the offer is fresh for any market, not just Italy.
Have you had much response to the redesign from the readers?
TB: We’ve had a very positive response from the client. As we’re consultants in the background we don’t have day-to-day contact with readers like I do at Monocle, for example.
KS: The response has been incredibly encouraging from the readers as well as advertisers. The general response is that the magazine is more informative, easier to read, better structured and aesthetically more appealing.