Friday, July 09, 2010

Toronto Life makeover is an "homage to classic magazine design"

Toronto Life magazine has unveiled a redesign that recovers its iconic red box and a revamped logotype (above). Its August issue's new look was unveiled at a reception in Toronto this  week and essentially undoes much of a redesign made 5 years ago. It is on some newsstands now and will be on all of them by July 15.

The magazine's content has been shaken up, too, with former Globe and Mail columnist Jan Wong writing regularly, a new culture column and a new back page memoir.  City Survivor, the service/lifestyle segment, has been renamed Navigator.
The magazine moved away from the red box -- originally created by Ken Rodmell some 35 years ago -- in April, 2005 with a redesign by art director Carol Moskot under the then editor John Macfarlane. This is the design that the current art director Jessica Rose and editor Sarah Fulford have  worked with since.
The Moskot logo (below) went across the top, with skybars. The new look has a skybar and subsdiary cover lines to the right of the logo, as before. The logotype itself is more angular, less rounded, not at all retro. But the red box is back, only transparent, rather than solid or, as Rose says "way cooler".
Rose turned to the London design firm A2/SW/HK and noted designer Henrik Kubel to collaborate on a reworking of the letter form of the logo. 
The body face (Farnham) stays the same but with a new, darker cut and leading is much more compressed . As a result, the columns of type seem quite concentrated. The display face is various weights of Bureau Grotesque throughout, including the column headings.
Rose and a team, including editor Fulford, has been working on the redesign since January, with the help of designer Colin Bergh. They looked at "every nook and crannie" and changed many of the elements. 
We asked Rose a few questions about the thinking behind the redesign and the changes that flowed from it. Here is some of what we were told:
Q: We note that you've reinstated the red box, with a reworked logo; what was the thinking behind that?
A: We identified that right away. I don’t have the baggage of people who have been there before who said “Oh, the red box. It’s getting in the way.” I was like “Wow, the red box. You can see it from a mile away”. The red box has been part of Toronto Life for 35 years....
I’m very interested in the Toronto Life brand across the board and it seems to me that recognizing and celebrating it is a priority. It’s not a step back; I don’t want people to say “Oh, you just took the old logo”. It’s very different, the logo is very different and the red box is different, because it’s way cooler and it’s transparent, so the idea that it is almost like a red film gel sitting on top of the cover. You’ll see the logo in other places, without the red box.
Q: The pages seem more dense.
A: The grid is a lot bigger and a lot denser. I wanted the overall magazine to be smarter and more condensed. The new design is a response to what we thought was no longer working. I wanted to go way beyond that. In our new grid, leading is way higher. I kept the same body copy, it’s still Farnham, but it’s a different cut and different leading. The leading is 8.5/10.The previous type was set 8.5/11.2 and 11.2 seemed to be way too open and the type was cut really, really light and I didn’t feel the weight of it, the weight of the content and the weight of the font; it kind of lacked authority.
A large part of this redesign is an homage to classic magazine design, going back to old school ways of dealing with type.
Q: What changes have you made to the columns and the contents page?
A:In terms of the contents page, one of the main things is we decided to have a table of contents in order, the order of the magazine, and to have one contents page instead of two. A big goal was, the recession has happened, we used to have 100 pages and we now have an average of 65 pages of edit. How can we make 65 pages as packed as possible? That was the reason for the larger grid.
One of the key pivotal changes in the magazine is that every section has its own keyline and its own graphic pattern. You always know where you are. There’s a real emphasis on architecture and navigation in this redesign. All the information is cleaned up and reorganized and the idea is that you’ll never get lost; you’ll always know you’re in The City, for instance, or you’re always know you’re in a column.
Q: Have you done away with a lot of turns?
A: We have. One of the first principles, and that’s reflected in the final product, is that we worked really so closely with the ad teams and the publisher.  I don’t think ads are a bad thing -- in fact they’re supposed to be there – so the first thing we did was to start embracing the ads and saying we want to create a better environment for advertisers, we want things to be better organized, so let’s work with the ads to make the whole magazine better. A lot of this comes out of pacing and we were having some issues before where these “ad ghettos” would happen. So essentially the flat plan was built making space for the ads as well as the edit….we were really able to build this magazine with the same amount of ads and fewer turns.
Q: The feature [on Christopher Plummer] really jumps out at you.
A: I think the font is giving way more weight to the display. You know you've arrived. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the well. There’ll be three-four features in every issue. That’s the area that’s undergone the most change in the last two years and now I think it’s going to be the least surprising for people.
Q: The new Memoir page is also the only one in which there is a drawn type treatment as its main heading. What was the thinking there?
A: The art direction for this page is that there will always be a type treatment for the head, it will always be drawn by an artist. It’s the back page of the book, a particularly fun page. The pattern the size of the slug and the keylines are identical to the editor’s letter at the front of the book. We kind of imagined this page without art because it is a personal memoir and we wanted to be able to have a lot of words and work with artists from all over who are doing amazing things with words and type.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to see Jan Wong back on the scene again.

7:12 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks awful

4:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The magazine has appeared amateur ever since Rose was granted the A.D. position, and her interview responses only confirm such an observation.

Considering that Toronto Life positions itself as so sharp-shooting, cutting-edge, and vital... why does it always end up so awkward and dull, and such a waste of time.

6:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done Toronto Life! I have been living abroad for the past 5 years and it had always hurt me to see Moskot's taste on the cover of Toronto Life. Although this visit has been refreshing, to see a design classic reinstated.

8:44 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate it. The font is so hard to read now. I have to wonder if they did any usability testing at all. The magazine used to be fun to read; now it's just pretentious and hard on the eyes. Big thumbs down.

8:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really boring with no new ideas (and a lame attempt to rip off New York). This is such an amazing, vibrant city--why can't somebody produce a magazine that reflects that energy?

3:32 pm  

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