Time magazine delivered the first issue of its big redesign last Friday, so Advertising Age asked an unusual mix of observers -- including media buyers, the editor of In Touch Weekly and Radar's creative director -- to play Monday-morning quarterback and tell us what they would have done differently.
Richard Spencer, editor in chief, In Touch Weekly
"Well, you've asked someone who created a very photo-heavy magazine to comment, and I realize the responsibility Time has to the news, but I think any magazine's redesign should take into consideration that today's consumer wants something very visual and very immediate. With that said, there are three distinct problems: The cover doesn't tell me the magazine has been redesigned; the pacing still feels a little slow; and the photos don't pull me into the stories.
"CNN tells some of the hardest-hitting news stories on 'The Situation Room' with an assortment of breaking photos behind Wolf Blitzer. I think that device works incredibly well, therefore I wouldn't start the 'Briefing' section with one photo (in this instance Alberto Gonzales).
"I don't think readers are buying Time for stuffy portraits of politicians. I want to see what they're like when they're not posturing."
Robin Steinberg, senior VP-director of print investment and activation, MediaVest
"It looks great: easy to read, very navigable. I like the layout. All good. It's great they are thinking about delivering news in a different format as consumers' behavior in consuming news has changed. What shouldn't change is the credibility of Time as a brand. Aesthetics are important as well as ease of navigation, but content and credibility are still key."
Barbara Reyes, creative director, Radar
"For years Time has established itself as a strong journalistic brand. To completely alter its recognized identity would have been a mistake. Instead it is clear that it has been given a subtle face lift -- a look that's modern and less cluttered. The cover is clean and iconic even with the minimized logo. The new display type works well with the simplified pages, which welcome the use of negative space. Three section openers with bold typography have been developed to help organize information in the magazine. Also notable was the larger emphasis of the writer's names on their commentary pages.
"Overall, the heavy, overwhelming look of the past has been eradicated. One can spot the smart sensibility that Luke Hayman brings to Time, where the design is used to accent the content without losing the essence of the brand."
Bill Falk, editor in chief, The Week
"The overall look is clean and highbrow, and takes Time further away from its old identity as a timely newsweekly devoted to a quick, smart review of the week's events. Clearly, the new Time wants to look more like The Economist or The Atlantic Monthly, and the design frames stories in a more abstract, intellectual way, with no apparent connection to the news. The section headings add to this abstract approach, at the price of clarity. 'Briefing' appears to be snippets about virtually any topic, with a high-concept emphasis; instead of presenting straight gossip or People items, for example, Time now presents 'The Score' on each gossip item, adding up Google hits with blog hits. The Life section is similarly vague, containing musings on modern doctors, bison-hunting and the Federalist Party of the early 19th century. And what does 'The Well' -- the main section heading -- mean to anyone outside the magazine industry?
"Perhaps we're biased, but the new Time, it seems to us, borrows many of the aspects that have made The Week so popular among disaffected newsweekly readers. There is an increased emphasis on shorter stories, and on opinion and perspective over long-form news summaries. 'Briefing' is one of our signature features. And for six years, we've had a publication schedule that puts The Week in the hands of readers on Friday and Saturday instead of Monday or Tuesday, which Time has adopted. Time's new design and format are, characteristically, very polished and slick, taking elements from several other magazines. But is it distinctive or a hodge-podge of greatest hits from elsewhere? Will readers prefer it to the old Time? Only renewal rates will tell."
Tracie King, art director, Pregnancy Magazine
"To give a new face to something as recognizable and respected as Time magazine is entering waters that need to be treaded [carefully]. The delicate process of maintaining the integrity of the brand yet massaging the design enough to bring a more modern feel is quite an undertaking. The redesign met these challenges beautifully. The font choices maintain the classic feel yet give just enough edge to bring it to 'today.' The bold section heads and use of white space give a modern and clean look. And the organization of the book make it very user-friendly for today's 'time-restricted' lifestyle.
"The new design serves as a perfect modernized compliment to the well respected brand that Time is. Kudos!"
Matthew Creamer, editor at large, Advertising Age
"They really need to blow it up, and they didn't. The design changes don't bother me, but they don't wow me either. Where they really fail is in improving the content. I mean, their way of getting interesting writers and branding them is completely without imagination, beholden to dreary wonkishness that, while probably effective in helping Time remain a Beltway voice should do little to expand its appeal in flyover country.
"If I were Stengel, the first thing I'd do is walk down the hall to Entertainment Weekly and rescue Stephen King from its back page and get him to write about pop culture for Time. Why? Because he's really good and he sells. Then I'd go back to my desk and look at a bestseller list and find a bunch of other authors who somehow know how to write for something approaching a mass audience in this day and age and pay them a huge amount of money to write for me on various events of the day -- with the kind of insight and voice that you need when you're by definition late to the news. If you're going to do analysis and insight, do analysis and insight. If you're going to do mass, do mass. If you're going to do middlebrow, do middlebrow, which in the U.S. of A. is basically filtering reality through the garish light of celebrity. Time in 2007 should be all celebrity writers and photos and cool graphics. Don't just do a profile on Will Ferrell and his bizarre gentile-fro. Get him to write something. There should be Rosie O' Donnell vs. Ted Nugent (sorry, first conservative celeb to come to mind) point-counterpart on the war or guns or Donald Trump's hair."