For Athletic Business magazine, an architectural approach to redesign

Athletic Business magazine redesign

By Ron Reason

The tagline of Athletic Business magazine is “The resource for athletic, fitness and recreation professionals.” After owners Peter and Gretchen Brown contacted me about a redesign, I quickly learned of the emphasis it gives the architecture and design of sports facilities as well.

While we worked a lot on art and photo direction for covers, the inside pages provided an opportunity to mirror the aesthetic familiar with the reading audience. Modern, open, inviting, bright, easy to navigate: these words describe the facilities covered in the content, as well as the design I wanted to create for Peter and Gretchen.

Let’s take a look under the hood, at a few of the page grids underlying my Adobe InDesign templates. (These images are excerpted from the Design Style Guide I created for the magazine.)
Athletic Business magazine, page grid, after redesign Athletic Business magazine redesign

A 7-column grid was created for many pages that would build in white space, variety, and options for dynamic contrast of shapes of photos and text blocks. Click to enlarge these images to see how content adheres to the grid.

One new tool is the availability of a “bonus column,” the 7th column of the grid that in many instances, offers a great place to position captions, mug shots, author bios and the like. You can see how this works on the following pages:

Athletic Business magazine redesign

Athletic Business magazine redesignAthletic Business magazine redesign

The above pages also show how we sought to create a more dynamic visual impact from front to back, using more custom illustrations, silhouetted photos where appropriate, and information graphics – a nice relief from the square and rectangle shapes of people and buildings that make up a lot of the editorial content, and the density of colors and fonts inherent in the magazine’s ad design.

Other pages show the use of the grid and more of an infographic approach to content. Note how the white space in this layout complements the subject matter of facilities design:


The grid also allows for intrusion of dynamically shaped art elements such as the silhouetted kickboxer here

Cover story and other inside spreads also benefited from the new formats and visual approach:

Athletic Business magazine, AFTER redesign

Once in a while, where content warrants, it is possible to “bend the rules” a little, as suggested by these dynamic layouts on the increased popularity of climbing walls. Note how styles for labels, headlines and body text are all consistent with that used elsewhere in the magazine, but Art Director Nicole Bell has livened up the pages with story and sidebar shapes that complement the photography:

Athletic Business magazine, AFTER redesign

Athletic Business magazine, AFTER redesign

A new emphasis on infographics takes center stage on some standing spreads and special features, as follows:

Athletic Business magazine redesign, infographics

Athletic Business magazine redesign, infographics

Athletic Business magazine redesign, infographics

One of the biggest challenges of magazine redesigns can be “routine” or back-of-the-book pages – briefs or other small items that need to be gathered together, often with “press release” type art. The next two images show the “before” and “after” of one such feature, dubbed “Forward Progress,” with the second example (hopefully) displaying more clarity, and less emphasis on rules and reverse color labels and other doodads that can detract from the content:

Athletic Business magazine redesign, BEFORE

Athletic Business magazine redesign, AFTER

The Product Review page, shown below “after” redesign, is similarly cleaned up and organized. Note how the seven-column grid is employed on the right place as a place for captions. Editorial pages like this need clarity to help set them off from adjacent advertising, which in trade publications can tend to be colorful and at times, chaotic.

Athletic Business magazine redesign, AFTER

Some pages just are not a “sexy” part of the redesign process, but are important to the publishing mission and need extra care. Such was the “Digital Extras” page, which may have seen more prototypes in this process than any other page! It works extra hard to convey to readers all the additional benefit they will get from the magazine’s digital offerings. I suggested, at the bottom, the running counter of the ongoing increase (!!) in print subscribers, web visitors and social media followers, to remind advertisers of the growing audience they will reach:

Athletic Business magazine, AFTER redesign

Finally, some pages in trade publications just “are not like the others.” Not quite advertorial, but not quite editorial either, the following is such an example, with content highlighting speakers at an upcoming magazine-sponsored convention (a staple in the business strategy of most trade publications these days). It uses the same font family as the news and feature pages, but different weights convey to the reader that he/she is in a different place:  Athletic Business magazine, AFTER redesignAfter the launch of the redesign, CEO Gretchen Brown asked me to stay on for a year and a half as a creative advisor, reviewing pages in advance of publication, “pre-mortem,” to allow time for fixes before they went to press. (You can read more about our arrangement here and more about the value of pre-mortem critique here). Each month, I worked closely with Art Director Nicole Bell to optimize style consistence and ensure creative application of new photo, illustration and infographic philosophies.

I hope you agree Nicole has done a great job keeping the styles in check and ensuring an open, creative, architectural approach.

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