Five ways to tell if your magazine needs a facelift

Here are a few questions we’ve found to be helpful while in a redesign critique:

1. Are the mission and identity clearly defined? Is it clear whose magazine this is, what it does and whom it serves?

It’s easy to answer these questions when you see the magazine everyday. Try grabbing a fresh pair of eyes and ask these same questions. If the answers are unclear, core elements of communication and design are off point and need some refreshing.

If a first-time reader picks up your magazine and cannot distinguish whose magazine it is, and to whom it serves within the first three to five seconds, you may have lost a potential customer. Tell readers what the magazine it is, whose it is, why it is, and what they can get from it—as fast and as clearly as possible.

2. How would you describe the appearance of the magazine’s cover and how can it be improved?

Does it catch your eye? When sitting on a crowded magazine rack, does it stand out from competitors? If not, consider using expert artist illustrations, professional photography and more innovative fonts. Note that the top two inches of the cover is a critical design space because this is generally all that a consumer can view when a magazine is sold on a rack.

3. How impactful is the magazine’s logo?

A logo is the face of a brand. It’s found everywhere, from the website to the stationery. Therefore, it must be easily identified, easy to read, memorable, and functionally designed—carefully considering strategic placement on all marketing materials.

4. How are the features and departments differentiated within the magazine?

Great magazines apply visual hierarchy throughout their departments. The layout design should be organized to naturally direct readers to the articles and information they’re hunting. If they can’t find what they’re looking for quickly, you’ve probably lost them forever. Speed and ease-of-use are critical elements of organization that should be reflected in each layout design.

5. What is the most important call to action and where is it located?

Engage your audience! People want to feel involved and want their opinions to matter. Ask them to leave reviews, to subscribe for another year, to donate to your organization, or to share information with their friends. All readers, even those who just scan through quickly before putting it down, should see the call to action immediately. It should be totally unambiguous and appropriately placed. If not, it’s lost—along with the reaction you were hoping to collect.

The decision to redesign a magazine is a big endeavor and should be founded upon more than just a few unhappy editors wanting to make the transition happen. We recommend requesting a professional critique and considering all budgetary influences before committing to a full facelift.