Hey! A Magazine Redesign That Actually Works!

If you haven’t picked up a copy of The Atlantic lately, give it another look. They’ve redesigned the magazine, and it’s that rare case of a redesign that actually improves the magazine.

 Most redos are done for two reasons (dirty little media secret ahead):  1)  The mag’s staff is just bored with the old look  and 2) The art director wants to pad his resume in hopes of landing a better job. All the stuff about “serving the reader’s needs” is a lot of hooey, even if surveys or focus groups have been done, because 99% of readers don’t have any idea how to improve a magazine, any more than I would know what to recommend if Ford asked me to help design the 2010 Escape. (And given their troubles, they may be calling any day.) And once the redo is done, the vast majority of readers are either indifferent or resentful (“Where’s the damn crossword?”)

I’ll spare you the  art talk, but the look of the new Atlantic is bold, vivid, and at the same time unobtrusive, which is about all you can ask of mortal mag folk.

So enough about the bottle. What about the wine?  Well, if the editors can sustain the editorial quality of the current “Special State of the Union” issue, they can charge this reader more than $12 for next year’s sub.

When I buy magazines on the newstand, I use the 4-Article Test. If the issue doesn’t have at least four pieces worth reading, I’ll usually leave it there (after furtively reading at least one piece.) In the case of the Jan/Feb Atlantic, I’d say there are at least eleven must-reads, which may be some kind of record. To cite just three examples, I’m fetched by “How the New York Times Could Survive,” “Football’s Hardest Job,” and the cover piece, “The End of White America?”

Can this much quality  be sustained? Hope so. Anyway, have a look. And buy the issue. You can’t read all this standing up.


This isn’t the newly redesigned Atlantic, but I’m thinking about redesigning my blog and thought I might start putting a photo  with a lengthy caption and a reader-flattering question at the bottom of each entry. What do you think?


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