"Does this outfit still work?" That's a question I ask my wife way too often, after I pull out an older garment from my closet or drawer. Bell-bottom pants. Skinny ties. Pleated anything. Clothing goes in and out of style, rising in popularity, falling away, reemerging. If you're not careful, you can end up embarrassing yourself.
It's the same for magazine design, which is why you'll see some updated typefaces and visual elements in this issue of Fast Company. We've been happy with our look, but we wanted to freshen up before we risked looking dated. And checking the mirror now, we're jazzed by what we see.
Some people make change look easy. Steve Nash, the all-star point guard for the NBA's Phoenix Suns, who is on our cover this month, has elevated improvisation to an art, both on the court and in his expanding portfolio of businesses. As senior writer Chuck Salter reveals in "Transition Game", Nash's skill at making difficult moves offers valuable insights for all of us about the power of creativity in chaotic times. "Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard", which completes our cover package, is adapted from columnists Chip Heath and Dan Heath's forthcoming book of the same name. The Heaths (who also wrote the best-selling Made To Stick) pragmatically explain how our own emotions and intellect can get in the way of our best intentions — in business dealings, our careers, and our personal lives — and how a few simple adjustments can yield dramatic results.
The challenge of transitions infuses this issue, from senior writer Ellen McGirt's keen examination of Volkswagen's bold effort to expand in the U.S. ("The Germans Are Coming,") to contributing writer Greg Lindsay's look inside Cisco's foray into instant cities ("The New New Urbanism,"). The word "change" has become something of a cliché in business, but throughout these pages you'll find examples that are truly surprising and inspiring. (Check out "Super Human," by contributing writer Paul Hochman. I dare you to keep your eyes from widening.)
There was nothing easy about the changes we've made to our design, and I want to thank art director Dean Markadakis and former deputy art director Jana Meier-Roberts (who recently relocated to her native Germany) for their efforts — and their accomplishments. I also want to thank articles editors Jeff Chu and David Lidsky for rethinking our front-of-the-book sections and creating a new one, the Goods (page 51). In Silicon Valley, the terms "continuous iteration" and "agile development" are in vogue to describe a never-contented approach to product creation. We pursue a similar philosophy, so we'd be eager to hear any feedback readers have about our evolving look.
Finally, I want to thank my wife — and not just for making sure my wardrobe choices don't come back to haunt me. Mary, you're one thing in my life I'll never have to worry about changing.
A version of this article appeared in the February 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.