brand and identity November 1, 2018

The Economist: redesigning done right

This year major brands decided to update and redesign at least some part of their identity. Ogilvy Agency went through a rebranding, and Coca-Cola introduced TCCC Unity. Last month, Mailchimp updated their look.

On the journalism spectrum, there was also some talk about the New York Times redesign website.
Now it was time for the Economist. Its recent redesign is worth analyzing because it bears in mind the most important of all the aspects: input from the readers.

Economist’ new look

Seventeen years. That’s how long it took the Economist to update their printed layout.

Phil Kenny, head of graphics, and Stephen Petch, art director are the ones responsible for this year-long redesign. This process compressed all the mediums and terminated with the print version of the Economist recently.

According to an interview, they decided it was time because the publication was starting to look outdated and because it’s custom to update publications every seven years or so.

Regarding the changes, they introduced two new typefaces; Milo Serif and Econ Sans. These types allow the magazine to retain a more British feel to it but more importantly, they make the reading experience more pleasant and enjoyable to readers.

Users first

Even though they were reluctant to use a market-research process, it proved to be beneficial. They discover that frequent readers perceived the old type as too much and that potentially lead to subscription cancelation.

The new section, Graphic detail, also intends to break down the massive text columns and insert data visualization into the printing version, something that already happened online.

As for the keepers, they decided to keep and enhance the section openers. Once again, readers were the number one priority. Since the Economist is a reasonably big publication, navigation habits are intrinsic to frequent readers and changing them could harm the experience.

Rather than trying to keep up with competition and being trendy, this team kept in mind the crucial aspects of redesigning a product: the consumer and the brand’s origin. As Stephen Petch said during the interview, they have a constant concern in making the publication better by adding value for the reader, and at the same time that they retain their visual language.

For me, this should always be the fundamental regardless of your company’s scope of action. Well done Economist, well done.


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