Unless, each month, you turn immediately to page 10 to read this column first (in which case, Hi Mom!), you have noted that the product you are holding has a different look and feel than last month’s issue. Art directors Chris Winn and Scott Buchschacher have done the first comprehensive visual makeover of this magazine since it was first published, in September 1993.
The time is two decades past when most business magazines could be said to resemble dictionaries. Desktop publishing software, allowing instant manipulation of a multitude of typefaces and colors, helped change that, as did the advent of digital color printing.
Technology does not always stimulate imagination, however. Business magazines might not resemble dictionaries, but like dictionaries, they do tend to resemble each other.
We have always intended this magazine to be an exception. In the very first issue, we pledged to be informed, lively, colorful, and unpredictable—visually and in written content. Sales representatives Shelly Crowley and Connie Van Housen recall that back when they had the unenviable task of selling advertising into a publication that did not yet exist, they were encouraged to describe the upcoming publication as “a business magazine that wouldn’t look like a business magazine.”
Designing (and thoroughly redesigning) a publication is a little like designing a house. The options at first seem limitless, but once the floor plan is completed and several construction materials are picked, the choices narrow—and they challenge the designer to make sure the components work together to create the intended effect.
One elemental decision is the selection of a typeface for the text of stories, which establishes a tone and imposes limitations on selections that follow. The typeface you are reading is New Aster, a modified form of a classic Roman type that conveys a sense of updated tradition and is highly readable in large blocks.
The Twin Cities Business cover logo was chosen for its contemporary flavor from a score of possibilities prepared by Winn. Designing the logo was made easier by dropping the word “monthly” from the magazine’s name—a decision prompted by a determination that if we weren’t going to look like a typical business magazine, we would want the word “business” to appear more prominently on the cover. (But if you consider changing the name of one’s product an easy decision, turn immediately to this month’s focus on branding.)
Headline typefaces, column logos, photo captions, and the elements identifying departments within the magazine were chosen with similar care. You might be amused at the number of shades of red we considered to carry the words “Twin Cities,” and by the variety of visual aids we considered to help navigate readers through the “Starters” department alone.
Part of the purpose of publication design is simple seduction—to pique readers’ interest in the magazine’s articles. Part of it is to enhance the value of each issue as a product. My associates and I want the design to be as crisp as the writing it surrounds, the pictures to communicate as well as the stories do. Winn and Buchschacher promise a magazine that has bold covers, expressive typefaces, and artwork and photography that reveal the personalities of their subjects, not merely show what they look like.
In the best companies, the configuration of the corporate organization closely follows the formation of strategy (and strategy is driven by perceived market opportunities).
Similarly, good magazine design begins with an editorial plan, which in turn derives from a point of view. Our essential point of view has not changed and is not likely to do so: We continue to believe that business is interesting and important, and therefore worthy of positive attention—that throughout Minnesota, there are business leaders who deliver well-produced products, create innovations in service, seek opportunities for their employees, reward their shareholders, pay their taxes, keep their promises, and enhance their communities. You’ll find some of them in this issue.