Pentagram Redsigns The Atlantic

- - Magazines

Pentagram’s Michael Bierut and Luke Hayman give the 151-year old general interest magazine it’s 8 redesign (see the process here).

They revert back to an old nameplate from the middle of the last century and bring back a version of the “TOC on the cover,” something that’s very common with literary magazines.

“In a magazine of ideas, writers depend on words to build their arguments, but we didn’t want The Atlantic’s pages to look like homework,” says Bierut.

“Photography has an enhanced presence, and is more journalistic and real-life in execution. The use of photoillustration or montage has been reduced: illustrations are illustrations, and photos are photos.” (*translation: photoillustrations and montage’s are lame)

As always Pentagram does an amazing job with restrained design, powerful typography and grounded photography. A redesign is always an exciting time to work at a magazine as the budgets get loosened a bit and the mantra for photography becomes “new and big.” I hope it works out for them.

There Are 10 Comments On This Article.

  1. Hmmm…I’ve always been a fan of Pentagram’s work in general, but I’m a little disappointed in the redesign’s new cover. There’s such rich material inside this magazine that I think the old trick of using the TOC as the cover falls short of delivering what’s behind it.

    On the other hand, I think Esquire has done a good job of blending the TOC typography and photography to make a compelling cover. It’s a bold move, but I think they’ve been pulling it off well long enough to prove that approach’s success.

    The Believer is another magazine, though it’s a real niche title, that does a good job of an all-type/TOC cover with some use of illustration. And I think their overall design style works well with their content approach.

    But I’m glad to see that The Atlantic is promising photography in the future. I’m a big believer in consistency when it comes to covers and layout and it’ll be interesting to see how the first photo cover is worked into the new design…

    • @STONER,
      I don’t think they’re planning to do all type covers but I wonder how a picture will work with that black bar down the left.

      It’s always interesting to see it evolve after the 1st issue of a redesign.

      • @A Photo Editor,
        Hopefully, they’ll use the black bar down the spine side to keep alot of type off the image, Rob!

        We went through the exercise of finding a solution to keep as much info for each subhead while keeping the cover clean and the cover image unimpeded and so far, I think it’s working for us. But I would love to know why they went with an all-type cover for their debut of the redesign. That’s a curious thing…

  2. @TA If any blogger deserves it, it’s certainly the dapper Dr. Hetherington, but I don’t think Mrs. H wants quite that much facial hair around.

    As a big Pentagram fan myself, I was a little surprised that their wrap-up on the Atlantic redesign didn’t even mention the Greenberg scandal, which in part might have pushed them towards a more rooted, documentary approach? Maybe if you look back at that post in a couple of years, it wouldn’t be a real omission, but right now it feels like the elephant in the blog.

    The nameplate feels off to me as well, but its always a solid strategy to remind readers that you can reach back for 150 years to understand and unravel the future. Maybe part of the pitch was that because it feels from another time it might set the title apart on the newsstand.

    • @John Loomis,
      Nameplates are impossible to reinvent. I saw one owner take a fresh one he was presented and over the course of 2 months tweak it back week by week to within a hair of the original.

  3. i like it… the beautiful nameplate… “who what when where why and how”… it’s back to basics, not reinventing but going back to the roots… more questioning. it’s smart.

  4. Yeesh

    This looks like a bad marriage between a Soviet propaganda poster and a Herbert Matter poster. Both very strong looks. But not for this kind of magazine. Besides, this look came and went back in the 80s. Definitely not the look of a literary think-tank. Back to the drawing board, kids.