Tips for a Magazine Redesign

By Mike DeArmond


No matter the size of publication, a magazine redesign is guaranteed to be a big undertaking. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but if you follow these tips to stay on track, your readers (and your publication team) will thank you.

Hit the Bookstore
The first magazine was launched in Germany in 1663. So no matter how brilliant your personal design-genius shines, chances are your ideas have already been implemented before over the last 350+ years. So take advantage. Stop by the library or bookstore and pour over the current newsstand. Flip through mags in your same genre. Flip through mags NOT in your genre too. Take photos and notes of what you like.

Questions & Considerations Purge
Next, gather the core contributors of the publication and set clear goals for the magazine. Set aside a full day as there’s a ton to consider: What’s successful about the current design that you want to keep? What needs to be overhauled? What look and feel do you all prefer? How can the look be more suited to your audience? Are there tweaks you can make to be more friendly to advertisers? What are more effective ways to package a typical issue’s content within features and departments? Do you need to budget for new fonts? How can you drive more engagement to your website and social media channels? Could process and design changes lead to managing deadlines better?

Save the Date
Create a timeline and stick to it. Large tasks are always more manageable when broken into segments. Create deadlines for individual milestones. Start with a couple front-of-book department pages and create some mockups. Set dates for critiques to narrow the focus down to the final version. Set deadlines in that same fashion for the rest of the book. Be sure to leave more time than usual before the production cycle of the first issue. You’ll need it.

Tighten Up
Create thoroughly vetted master pages—it simply falls under best practices to do so. After putting all the time and energy into your newly designed masterpiece, it would be awful to lose it to laziness. Polish up your master pages to ensure your new design has consistent grids, type, baselines, and spacing for each issue that you utilize it.

Remember the look of your magazine is constantly evolving every issue. Don’t sweat perfection out of the gate. It will likely take a few issues to iron out the kinks and get your publication where you want it to be.