Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Behind the Relaunch of The New York Times Magazine

Jake Silverstein, of the Times:

This magazine is 119 years old; nearly four million people read it in print every weekend. It did not need to be dismantled, sawed into pieces or drilled full of holes. Instead, we have set out to honor the shape of the magazine as it has been, while creating something that will, we hope, strike you as a version you have never read before.

To this end we have made many alterations. You will find new concepts for columns, new writers, new ideas about how to compose headlines, new typefaces, new page designs in print and online, new ideas about the relationship between print and digital and, animating it all, a new spirit of inquiry that is both subversive and sincere. (You will also find, in this Sunday’s print edition, more pages of advertising than in any issue since October 2007.)

Make no mistake: this is a tall order. The new page layouts are seriously impressive, with big, wide imagery and a recognizable kinship with the rest of the Times’ site, though decidedly its own style. The typography is fairly impressive as well:

The redesign was led by our design director, Gail Bichler, a 10-year veteran of The Times, along with our art director, Matt Willey. They worked closely with the talented designer Anton Ioukhnovets, who created the look and feel of these pages. Gail and Matt also oversaw the creation of an entire suite of typefaces.

Not a single letter in this relaunch issue has ever seen the light of day. They are infants; treat them gently. Gail also had the magazine’s logo redrawn by the typographer Matthew Carter.

I love the redrawn logo. Carter has done a terrific job of retaining the feel of it while allowing it a little more breathing room. It’s way easier to read, too. I love the standard serif and sans-serif faces, too; the latter is particularly exciting, as it shares qualities of Gotham, Avenir, and Akzidenz Grotesk, without directly aping any of them or feeling like an ungainly mashup.

I’m much less keen on the condensed slab serif the magazine is using for headlines, though. It feels a bit Old West, and it’s pretty tricky to read on index pages. It’s not so much that it’s bad; it’s a perfectly functional and rather nice condensed slab. It just doesn’t fit the Times very well, I don’t think.