We’ve now done three issues with the redesign – time to take stock…
Now that the shock of the new has died down and we have had time to make some of the minor adjustments that all redesigns need as they are bedding in, we wanted to check back and see how readers are feeling about the magazine.
In the original blog post announcing the redesign, a lot of people were responding to images rather than the magazine itself which, at that point, they hadn’t yet seen. Nevertheless, we were very encouraged by the reaction – especially given the somewhat, shall we say, feisty nature of blog comments generally and blog comments about anything involving new logos in particular.
What was also interesting was the divergence between the blog comments – which were about a third wholly positive, third positive with some reservations and third negative – with the comments that began to come in the next day via Twitter. Possibly because Twitter is not anonymous, but more because those Tweeting had actually got a copy of the magazine in front of them, the Twitter comments were far more positive – 90% so.
We’ve now had the full gamut, from that old favourite “epic fail’ to calls for the May cover to get a Black Pencil at D&AD next year, from “that’s fucking horrible” to “I love it. It feels intelligent and like something of value. It no longer feels like an industry magazine, it feels like a serious (but playful) arts journal rich with commentary and critique.” (We liked that last one, of course).
With redesigns, and especially rebrands, it’s very rare to hear anything of the goals of the project. Commenters are left with nothing but form, which invites simplistic responses, whether positive or negative. Here then, briefly, is some of what we were hoping to do with the CR redesign:
1, Make the magazine a better physical product. Make the most of it being in print, better paper, a better format. Make it something of value, something worth keeping. Give print a chance. And if we could do that it would help us…
2, Turn the spotlight back on to the magazine. The website is fantastic and helps us in all kinds of ways. Traffic has gone up fourfold in a year. We wanted to reclaim some of the enthusiasm with which the site is received for the printed magazine which was feeling overshadowed. We wanted to get it talked about again.
3, Signal the change at CR editorially. Some 18 months ago we changed the focus of the magazine to be more opinionated and less of a showcase, to be less just ‘here’s a new piece of work’ (which the website can do far better) to ‘what do you think of this work and what it means?’ To be more challenging. We needed to make people realise that there had been a change of direction and get those who hadn’t picked up the magazine for a while to do so.
Finally, a word about the logo which, of course, was always going to be the most contentious issue. As stated above, we needed to signal that change had taken place and to express a new stance, which would have been difficult if we hadn’t changed the logo. In fact, I’m sure we would have been slammed for wasting an opportunity if we hadn’t changed.
We wanted to write the name out, we wanted newsstand presence, we wanted to be distinctive and invite a response and not be yet another bit of polite sans serif with nothing to say, and we wanted something that, on the website, reminded visitors that there is a printed magazine at the heart of all we do. And, no, we don’t expect it to last 30 years – we’ve had six changes of logo in the past 30, so I expect we’ll have a few more in the next three decades.
Of course we wanted to make a magazine that looks good, but this redesign is about addressing some very significant issues for the magazine, some of which are outined above. We won’t know if it has ‘worked’ or not for 6, even 12 months, if then. The May issue sold out in some stores (the first time that has happened in about four years) so it seems that we may be on the right track, but there’s a long way to go.
Add to that the fact that we just had a new record month for traffic online and the Illustration Annual attracted way more entries than we budgeted for and it seems people like what we are doing.
The redesign has created an opportunity for us, now it’s up to all of us at CR to make the most of it.