A business newspaper redesigns – ‘from a position of strength’

[The first live edition of the redesigned newspaper. From the logo to the body text, all type was reconsidered. For the first issue, a more magazine-like centerpiece was planned to grab attention. See additional design variations in prototypes below, and compare the new look to the old look from recent issues.]

[LITTLE ROCK] Arkansas Business, the weekly business newspaper circulating throughout Arkansas, today launches its first complete redesign since 1993. I have been working with the staff during the past three months, to create a fresh new logo (dozens of variations were put on the drawing board), page re-sequencing, new design elements for old and new features, improved typography and a new navigational system. Newsroom planning, communications, and integration with web publishing and social media efforts were addressed. I have spent this week on site in Little Rock, Arkansas, assisting with training and implementation of the design, and lending a hand with a few pages as well.

Having worked with many city and national business weeklies including Crain’s Chicago Business and Advertising Age (published in similar large format tab, stitched and on premium glossy paper), the challenge at hand was not a new one. What was refreshing: Publisher Jeff Hankin’s reassurance from the start of my consult that “we are redesigning from a position of strength, not desperation,” alluding to the challenges facing almost all mainstream daily newspapers in the U.S. His company, Arkansas Business Publishing Group, boasts a higher paid circulation than it had five years ago, publishes nearly 20 glossy (and gorgeous) niche magazines and specialty publications, and has had a thriving web design business for years.

“Our circulation numbers, third-party media research and proprietary research tell us we’re doing many things right and our readership remains strong,” he tells reader in a column in the debut issue. “But we are keenly aware of changing media consumption habits and reader interests, so it was important to us to re-evaluate our brand top to bottom.” The project has been one part of the paper’s 25th anniversary celebration.

[Prototypes show how content from recent editions would translate to the new format. Click to enlarge. Headlines were rewritten to allow for more of a conversational, inviting tone, where appropriate, and the new typography allowed the same stories as published before to be projected with more flair and confidence.]

The newspaper is unveiling new features, more graphics, and new elements to distill and project the expertise of the subjects of its stories. Typographically, the new mix offers a greatly improved font for body text, as well as much greater contrast for headlines on the front page and on major stories inside, for department labels, and for boldface names within text – a key part of the publication each week. Making the paper easier for scanning was paramount, even though research shows a tremendous read-through rate, with the majority of readers spending 35 minutes or more with each issue. In-depth reading is an expectation with this audience, and the need to package longer stories with better photos and graphics has been addressed.

[Front pages show the look of the paper before the redesign. Among the challenges: a lack of contrast and impact in typography of headlines, and a monotony to the display of photographs – i.e., too much reliance on “old white guys in suits,” a problem which many of business publication clients have tackled.]

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  1. Arkansas weekly biz paper undergoes redesign « Talking Biz News
  2. Arkansas weekly biz paper undergoes redesign » WeNewsIt

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