New editor on board? Bored comms team? Fragmented design? These may be contributing factors to revisit your magazine, but they should not be the driving factors to redesign. When considering the commitment and budget needed for a redesign, you have to look beyond internal factors to your readership and communications plan.
In fact, there are a number of reasons why a redesign might be in order. These are the primary factors we encounter at 2communiqué:
Direction from the Top. A member magazine is unlike a consumer magazine where the editor can be the personality behind the brand. Rather, editors of member magazines have a vision, but typically the guiding direction trickles down from the top. What initiatives does the President / Dean / Head of School want to see communicated? Is there a new strategic plan? Often these leadership factors call for a re-evaluation of the editorial plan and, if extensive, can lead to a redesign.
An Evolving Mission. Every magazine should have a mission statement that aligns with the school’s mission, acting as a benchmark for story development. As your school grows and changes, so should your magazine’s mission statement. Does your magazine’s mission statement still align with the institution's vision? If not, it will need to be revisited and reviewed against the current magazine approach; this typically means a revised editorial plan and possibly a complete redesign.
Not Connecting With Your Audience. Connecting with your community is the reason to publish an alumni or member magazine. Does your magazine engage your audience? And by magazine, I just don’t mean print–you also need to consider web and social. Do you have a plan to engage with your readers across all of these channels? A content strategy is imperative for any magazine—especially a member based one—and a lack of strategy is a good reason to rethink what you’re doing.
Need for a Robust Editorial Plan. As we all know, publishing a magazine is a lot of work: each print issue contains dozens of articles, the website has weekly, if not daily, updates, and consistent social media is key to connecting with your community. These parts must work together. And while it is easy to fall into a rhythm of overformatting story direction, particularly in the feature well, this will only lead to a staid publication and a bored team. Are you cranking out stories or taking the time to consider how to best tell a story? (Profile? Essay? Q&A?) When you reach this point it is time to reboot with a redesigned editorial plan.
Getting Pulled in the Wrong Design Direction. We see it time and time again: additional magazine sections or departments that are developed in response to a request. Oftentimes these are retrofitted into an existing template, and over time the structure and design breaks down. Additionally, brand alignment (if it was there in the first place) becomes muddled as fonts and colors get added to the palette. And what starts as an added font or a new color in one issue gets pulled back into another issue and then another. Does your magazine system align with the original design or the institution? A redesign will help get your magazine back on brand.
Is my magazine ready for a redesign? Maybe. Leadership, audience, direction—these are factors you need to consider when answering that question. Remember, it is a commitment that takes a lot of time, resources, and money. But the more thoughtfully and thoroughly you complete a redesign, the longer that investment will pay off.