Sneak Peek: The Ebony Redesign

Sneak Peek: The Ebony Redesign crooklyn.jpgVenerable Chicago-based Johnson Publishing went for broke last year in an effort to turn the tide at their flagship magazine, Ebony. First, they reached out and hired former Harper's Bazaar Deputy EIC, Amy DuBois Barnett. She, in turn, tapped Esquire's AD, Darhil Crooks, to revamp the magazine's look and feel. Here he gives us the inside scoop on their redesign process.

At the end of 2010 I was presented the opportunity to become the CD at Ebony magazine in Chicago. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to help redefine an American institution. We immediately set about the task of redesigning the iconic brand that was launched over 65 years ago for a new generation of readers. With a new editorial team in place, we started to rebuild the magazine piece by piece, starting with the logo:

The new Ebony logo is an evolution of the magazine's original logo. I don't think it's ever been redesigned other than it becoming larger a few years ago. We wanted to pay respect to the legacy of the brand, so instead of starting from scratch, we took the original, cleaned it up, and began to change it into something more modern and elegant. We added contrast to the characters and shortened the height in order to work better on the cover.

Our first cover of the "new era" is  the Comedy Issue featuring Chris Rock, Mo'nique, and Steve Harvey. Photograph by Mark Mann.


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The new Ebony, of course, features new editorial. The FOB has been expanded to included new departments including The Radar, Style, Elevate, Achieve, Connect, and Live. We also added all new fonts: Brunel (serif) and a custom slab from Commercial Type, and Founders Grotesk and Founders Grotesk Condensed (sans) from Klim. There's a lot more information and extra content now, but everything has been cleaned up and organized making it easier for the reader to get in and out of each page. Here are a few samples:


 Illustration by Josue Evilla


Photograph by Rayon Richards



Photographs by Ken Kochey

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The feature well has been revamped as well. We opened up the magazine to take advantage of the amazing original and archival photography.

Thumbnail image for EBONY_KingsOpen.jpg





Photographs by Dudley M. Brooks

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We also are introducing some illustration into the mix. Shown here is a piece done by one of my favorites, Brian Stauffer.


There's a lot more to see, but I don't want to give it all away here. Pick up a copy. This is just the beginning, so keep an eye out for Ebony.

Special thanks to the Ebony team: 
Lynnette Galloway, Associate Art Director: 
Rodney Parker, Designer
Dudley M. Brooks, Senior Photo Editor

See related stories:
Sneak Peek: The New York Times Magazine Redesign
A New Look at Parenting
First Look: Travel + Leisure Redesign
Bloomberg Businessweek: A Second Look
The redesign of the Texas Observer
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  • Erik Spooner

    Indeed, Brunel is certainly making the rounds right now! It's hard to resist, just given how complete the drawings are and how versatile the face feels.

    I have to say, one of the things I just think kicks in this is that new nameplate. I feel like the first thing everyone ever says to me when this comes up is that a logo can never change, it's so intrinsic to the brand, you'll confuse the readers, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's not all wrong, but when you're stuck with something that's old and dated, why not put it on the block and re-examine what you're really holding on to? This one is a fantastic evolution and a great execution. I hope this, W, Newsweek, etc, etc, all open up the conversation for all of us where we've been shut out before by folks who have egos invested in bad logos. This new EBONY is awesome and grabs attention.

    And all that stuff on the inside is nice, too :p (no, seriously--what a class A job!) Congrats!

  • Robert Newman

    I love this redesign, front to back. When someone asks you how a redesign can revitalize a brand, just show them this. Ebony rocks! And now can we officially call Brunel the typeface of the moment?

  • Andrea Dunham

    This is a very delicious redesign. Tasty. Bold. Spicy. I think I need go eat a sandwich, but I digress. Excited to pick up the issue and inhale.

  • Glen Karpowich

    Nice work Darhil!! Ebony looks tight! Love the use of the bold serif font...really has a nice impact on the look of the mag.

  • Claibourn Hamilton

    Wow! Congrats to Ebony and Darhil Crooks on the NEW redesign!

    I grew up with this title through the 80's, at home and in the community. It's great to see the strong bones of Ebony's masthead evolve with subtle curves, bold style and contemporary strokes

    - Claibourn Hamilton, Designer

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