Remake/Remodel: The Hidden Art of the Magazine Redesign [Part 2]

bats Magazine

Guest author: Scott Oldham, Creative Director

In the last installment, I revealed some of the thinking behind GLC’s recent redesign of The Residential Specialist, the member publication of the Council of Residential Specialists. In this sequel, I want to look at the redesign of a totally different kind of animal: Bats (the member publication of Bat Conservation International). 

With TRS, we’d been able to develop the cover branding in tandem with the interior, which is always the preferable approach. With Bats, we didn’t have that luxury. We’d presented branding comps to BCI before officially signing on to redesign the book, and they’d already settled on a design. Art Director Gretchen Rund had taken the lead:


But unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, Gretchen wouldn’t be able to complete the redesign for GLC’s first issue. Meanwhile, Editorial Director Evan Noetzel and I had crafted an entirely new department structure for the magazine, based on our conversations with BCI stakeholders and research into their audience. We needed the magazine to convey information on three levels: member-based, institutional and domain-wide, plus function as a fund-raising tool.

We knew the design would be largely driven by member-supplied photography, such as:


The photography was great, but limiting. There’s almost no chance to knock out foreground elements, to provide depth and non-rectangular shapes within pages:


It’s just not the same. That meant we’d be stuck with rectangular images with lots and lots of black in them. But if you can’t hide your flaws, you should find a way to feature them. So I developed a series of framing elements around the photos that would also enclose the text and any captions or calls-to-action:


With so many hard corners throughout the book, I was concerned that it might look too machined for the subject matter. So I looked for a set of typefaces with mostly organic shapes, starting with the body font, Lomba:


Gretchen had used a very unusual typeface for the magazine brand, called Voor:


It was great for display purposes (and I used it for the department headings), but I worried about it breaking up at smaller sizes. So I threw in Jeanne Moderno and Cyclone for various headline and deck treatments:



Here’s how it all looked together:



Both Bats and TRS shared one important characteristic that made the process a treat for me and the other designers who contributed: we were off the leash. Both clients were new to GLC but, nevertheless, gambled on trusting us to correctly interpret their program goals and didn’t feel the need to over-direct the design (or the editorial platform). That’s not just gratifying; it liberates the work to entertain the constituency that matters most in the end: the reader.