Publisher March 2014

Inside the mind of a magazine designer

Always looking for a good excuse to let someone else write this page, especially on deadline, I’m delighted to welcome our gifted Creative Director Cliff Cardona to share with us his wisdom on the much-anticipated redesign of BCCJ ACUMEN:

“Despite its success, BCCJ ACUMEN is a magazine with which I have never been pleased.

I inherited the design when I joined Custom Media three years ago and, while tweaks have since been made, I never had the chance to work on a complete redesign—until a few months ago, when Simon Farrell asked me to consider giving the magazine a new face.

I think it’s harder to redesign an established magazine than designing a new title from scratch. There are rules already in place, reader expectations to consider and restrictions enforced, before you even start thinking about the underlying problem: how can this product look, feel and read better?

I took on the challenge with the help of our talented creative team and considered what worked and what didn’t about the design.

We found that the flow of content made sense, but sections didn’t have their own voice. The design was straightforward, yet also felt busy. The articles were interesting, but generally too long, resulting in cramped, uncomfortable and difficult-to-read pages.

We concluded that the cover design was restrictive and needed a radical change; keeping the structure of the content was important so as not to alienate readers; and removing every unnecessary visual element was imperative to improve readability.

We started off with the logo. Inspired by the bold move of The Independent to rotate its logo 90 degrees, we felt we could give ACUMEN its own sideways logo and use the new format to try fresh and unexpected cover concepts.

This radical change means that we now have a much taller space for cover imagery, paving the way for exciting new possibilities.

Inside, all sections have been given a facelift. We removed everything we thought was redundant and kept things as simple and easy to read as possible.

There is more white space spread more intelligently throughout, providing stronger focus on key elements.

We rethought the typography, introduced two new headline typefaces, and increased line spacing, resulting in a shortening of article length, with a view to further increasing reader engagement.

All this is supported by a grid that helps keep everything consistent, while also providing flexibility. Some articles are now presented in four columns, as opposed to the strict three-column layouts previously used.

Stefan Sagmeister, a respected graphic designer, once said: “It is pretty much impossible to please everybody”. I take this with me to every project on which I embark.

Overall, however, we are happy and excited about ACUMEN’s new direction, and hope most of you are, too.

As always, we welcome any feedback that helps us further improve the magazine”.