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Redesigning a Brand

Redesigning a magazine's layout doesn’t just update it – it revolutionizes it. Luke Hayman, an art director with the design firm, Pentagram, spoke to an audience of about 50 students and professors at the final meeting of the Delacorte Lecture Series at Columbia Journalism School on April 24. Hayman explained that any redesign has to be a careful process, as a magazine represents a brand and a particular audience base.

"Part of the magazine is pacing and making sure you don’t jar anyone," Hayman said, "It's a delicate balance of variety and sameness."

During his design career, Hayman has worked on the redesigns of magazines such as Brill’s Content and Travel + Leisure, and most recently he worked as a design director at New York. Rather than offering advice on how to break into the business, the British-born designer described the nitty-gritties involved in art direction, including how fonts exude particular emotions and appeals, and the importance of good photography.

For example, most of the identity of Travel + Leisure (whose target audience, Hayman said, is "wealthy, 50-year-old women"), comes from its simple typeface. In addition, he and his fellow designers made sure that the editorial distinguished was from advertisements by a white border around the page. "If you have good content, good photography, good imagery, you don't want to compete with it," he explained.

Hayman also explained why a redesign is so valuable (not to mention, expensive) for preserving a magazine nowadays. Readers often flip through pages, he said, and an eye-catching design is essential to keeping a reader from tossing the magazine aside after a quick glance." Visually, things get tired," Hayman said. "Some of it is expression. They get stale." With New York, in particular, it was all about adding little bits of detail and fun, while trying "capture tone and smartness."

He cautions however that it is important to preserve the heart and soul of a magazine throughout the redesign, since a layout can define a brand.

Editorial content can get cut to make room for art’s sake, which can be good or bad, depending on your personal tastes. "It’s really hard because you can be there with an editor, and cutting 500 words is hard, but if the page is solid gray, you'll have less people reading," Hayman said. He also warned that a magazine layout shouldn’t come off looking like a brochure. But with every magazine, he emphasized, a magazine’s purpose is to provide essential information, and typography and art design involves a great deal of work weaving all of the pages together.

Within a magazine, there are several mini-magazines," Hayman explained, "They all have to fit together well."