Southern Living: Redesigning an Institution

Southern Living: Redesigning an Institution Few brands in publishing have as dedicated a readership as the 46 year old regional lifestyle magazine Southern Living. So how do you go about evolving the design of brand with such reader Design Director Robert Perino explains...


Describing Southern Living with its circulation of over 2.8 million as simply a regional lifestyle brand could be seen as downplaying the success and influence of this media juggernaut. The brand includes a hugely successful books division, spin-off special issues, tablet and mobile apps, events and heck even a home goods direct marketing company (now called Willow House). Operating from a glorious campus in Birmingham Alabama (a river quite literally runs through it!) Southern Living is the flag ship title for the time inc owned Southern Progress group and it's safe to say that a copy of the  issue is just about as common a household item in the southern United States as an antique skillet or a mint julep!

With a dedicated (and huge!) readership how do you carefully evolve the look of the brand to better represent its place in the market and maintain a contemporary image? Long Island's own Robert Perino, former design director of Budget Travel, Fortune and Field and Stream, was tasked with just that challenge when he relocated south of the Mason-Dixon line just under a year ago to take up the reigns as Creative Director. Here he gives us exclusive insight into the scale of the undertaking and the results of his labor.

Perino: Southern Living is as much a staple in every Southern home as monogrammed linens and a cornbread pan. So setting out to update the look was no small matter. Consider that the Southern Living brand reaches out far beyond just the print magazine and you quickly realize that consistency is key to the success of this multimedia, cross-platform redesign. Here are just a few highlights.


Over the last few years Southern Living magazine has gone through several transitions. As a result the design became a jumble of different people's vision of how it should be presented. Working with Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Bierman, the Lifestyle Editorial Director Sid Evans, and the design staff, we set out to clean up and unify the design from front to back. Some of the main goals were to clearly identify section openers, simplify the color palette, help with ad/edit separation, and highlight photography. Among many design changes we introduced a few new columns such as The Grumpy Gardener, a Q&A w/ gardening guru Senior Writer Steve Bender; and What's Cooking, where we highlight the food stories each month and give a signature cocktail that pairs well with the entire issue. We also reordered the flow of the book. Always leading with a beautiful table setting, Set a Southern Table; and ending on a delicious dessert, Save Room.


Once we had our basic direction in the print product we moved over to the website. We incorporated the overall look and feel of the magazine into the homepage. Limiting the color palette, changing the background color to white and creating a clear navigational bar quickly helped move the look of the site forward. One of the biggest undertakings was the introduction of The Daily South, our newsy blog that brings attention to what's current in Southern culture. It's sort of a mini site that covers all the topics we feature but has the advantage of making them really timely.


Working from elements in both print and web, we created a true hybrid component for the tablets. Thinking about the differences of how consumers read the print magazine to how they use the website, we built a top bar navigation. Giving the ability to quickly and easily jump from section to section adds a level of usefulness to the print product yet doesn't intrude on the enjoyment of reading a magazine cover to cover.


Moving forward we will continue to evolve the design across all platforms as well as establish unified branding elements to ensure a cohesive look no matter what the medium.


Creative Director: Robert Perino
Art Director: Chris Hoke
Art Director, Digital Editions: Paul Carstensen
Associate Art Director: Erynn Hassinger
Assistant Art Director: Tim Kilgore
Designers: Richie Swann, Jennifer Madara
Art Assistant: Betsy McCallen Lovell
Photo Directors: Julie Claire, Mark Sandlin
Style Director: Heather Chadduck
Photo Editor: Jeanne Dozier Clayton
Photo Assistant: Kate Phillips
Senior Stylist: Buffy Hargett
Prop Stylist: Caroline Murphy Cunningham
Photographers: Iain Bagwell, Robbie Caponetto, Jennifer Davick, Melanie Dunea, Greg DuPree, Laurey Glenn, Becky Luigart-Stayner, Art Meripole, Helen Norman,
Illustrators: Jack Unruh, Michael Witte, Ryan Kelly

  • Laurie Ann

    Simply amazing! As a fellow publications designer and long-time (20yr) reader/subscriber to SL, I solute your entire design team. I love it, both as a reader and a designer. It's a beauty :)

  • Simone Tieber

    Great posting. Thanks for sharing the redesign. Very informative. Like the new column formats, bigger photos and less clutter.

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