Rethinking your magazine, newspaper, website or other publication? Start here.

Magazine and newspaper redesign resources. Start here.
By Ron Reason

Welcome to Design With Reason, the blog of Ron Reason Consulting. I’m passionate about excellence in storytelling, editorial design, branding and strategy, and have collaborated worldwide for more than 25 years with news publishers, as well as corporate, academic and nonprofit news providers. (Bio. LinkedIn. Client list.) After a number of years on faculty at Poynter, heading my own design firm in Chicago, taking a detour for a Distinguished Professorship in Journalism at the University of Montana, I’m now based in Portland, Ore., and work virtually or travel to clients as needed.

In addition to traditional redesign services, I also offer remote creative direction, as well as ongoing design and production, for smaller publications that may not have access to a creative supervisor or full-time designer. (Read more on these services.)

What’s kept me in business, even through challenging times for some areas of editorial publishing? A creative yet grounded approach that puts great storytelling – as well as user experience and yes, revenue implications – above mere good looks. My clients usually express this best:

“Ron showed a real understanding of the day-to-day editorial process and limitations – something I’ve found to be the biggest weakness of most other editorial designers. His designs are not only aesthetically pleasing, but actually help build a better publication that gives more (and more useful) information to the audience – in other words, he can actually help you improve your journalism, not just the look and navigability of your product.” [Jonah Bloom, editor during my ongoing work through several redesigns with client Advertising Age, in New York City. For additional references, link here.]

Here you will find more than 300 blog entries with tips, cases studies, and tons of advice for approaching an editorial redesign – with the help of a consultant or even by yourself – or just improving your daily design, graphics, writing or editing. Magazine redesign? Got that covered. Newspaper redesign? All over it. Business and trade publications? Lots of info here. Tabloids? On it.

LET’S TALK! After exploring here a bit, if you are interested in learning more about how we can work together, here’s what happens next:

  1. Email me at ronreason@gmail.com, with a brief about your project.
  2. I ask to review recent editions of your publication (electronically is fine). I may ask to see examples of your competitors’ work as well.
  3. Then we arrange a phone interview or meeting to discuss your recent history, challenges, goals and timetable for the project.
  4. Very soon thereafter, I will dispatch a proposal. This will include deliverables and expectations for you and me, a timetable for completion of the project, references and proposed fees.

Not every client needs the same approach, so I break down a menu of options including project strategy and management, prototyping from basic to exhaustive, staff and executive training, refinement of templates and style sheets, Design Style Guide creation, relaunch marketing campaign development, and even focus groups. From there, you can pick and choose one or more services to fit your budget. You may have someone on your team who can do one or more of these tasks to speed things along and keep costs down.

Before committing to a full redesign, some publishers have opted to bring me in for a day or two of “getting to know you,” before diving in to a full contract. This involves presenting a thorough critique prepared in advance; discussions and Q&A with your team about how the project might go; and a review of your planning and production processes. I love this approach and am proud to say that each client who has started with an introductory visit soon committed to a full redesign contract.

In recent years, some publishers have opted to have me produce their redesigns entirely virtually, to reduce or eliminate  travel costs, and have been very happy with the results. Ask me for references.

Because I’ve spent years as an educator – on faculty at Poynter, as an adjunct at universities including the Ringling College of Art and Design, as a guest lecturer at Indiana University and countless other places, and most recently, as a visiting Distinguished Professor at the University of Montana – I view an important function of this blog (and my work in general) to be sharing lessons I’ve learned along the way. Check out my insider tips such as “Secrets of the prototyping process” and “Tips for making the most of text, visuals and ads in the prototyping process.” Sure, I’d like you to hire me to help you move forward, especially if you are a dynamic publication in a challenging market – but not everyone has the resources to hire even a reasonably priced consultant, so I hope you find my content of some use.

Among the most popular features here are the hundreds of visuals showing my client publications before, during and after redesign. You can find these embedded in the text of most blog posts or linked at the end of each entry, or if you just want to browse visuals directly, you can go to dozens of page design portfolios at my Flickr portal.

I’ve worked with news publications as large as Brazil’s one-million circulation Folha de Sao Paulo as well as 5,000-circulation community newspapers such as the Bristol (RI) Phoenix and its seven sister weeklies. I also work with what I call specialty or niche publishers who aren’t in the mainstream news media but who want a sharp, journalistic, editorial focus to their publications. These include Capital Ideas, the quarterly journal of research and ideas for the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business; Champion, the magazine of the NCAA; Catalyst, the chronicle of change in public schools; and Catholic Health World, informing hospital administrators and constituencies around the world.

Want a detailed opinion from a former client about what it’s like to work with me? Check out this independent interview from Signature, the flagship publication of the trade group Association Media & Publishing, who spoke at length about my work with Judy VandeWater, editor of Catholic Health World. (Signature also interviewed me for my side of the story, and I detail my view inside the process here.)

In addition to redesign, I provide executive and staff training, strategic consulting in marketing and advertising, and organizational development. I’ve created marketing campaigns and have conducted focus groups. I’ve also been a frequent speaker to professional organizations and colleges such as the Society for News Design, Florida Magazine Association, and the arts journalism program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Thanks for stopping by. Any questions? Email ronreason@gmail.com or call (773) 562-7464 and I’ll get back to you right away.

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2 Comments

  1. wonderful!! i am in Namibia lecturing media and journalism. This info will be helpful in designing our small free College

  1. Venciendo la resistencia al cambio en procesos de rediseño | Jose Moriano

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