Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow: Redesigning Cycle World

Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow: Redesigning Cycle World
It's been a busy few months for the award winning design and photo teams over at Bonnier's Outdoor Group. Design Director Sean Johnston is the head of design for the group which includes SPD faves Field & Stream and Outdoor Life. Since taking over in 2009 Sean and his crew have given both titles fresh new looks with 2 great redesigns and now his team add a third to their portfolio with their retooling of classic american motor cycle mag: Cycle World.  

Bonnier acquired Cycle World from Hearst back in 2011 describing it as the "Number 1 motorcycle brand in the industry" so when Bonnier's Editorial Director for the Men's Group Anthony Licata proposed a redesign Sean's team embraced the challenge. 

The new look (which includes the lyrical tag-line for it's "Ignition" section: "Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow"!) was officially unveiled last night and after the jump Deputy Art Director Pete Sucheski gives us his exclusive guided tour. 

Sucheski: Over the last few weeks, the art departments of Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Cycle World have been working in collaboration to revamp the look and feel of Cycle World magazine.   The idea came about when Bonnier Men's Group Editorial Director Anthony Licata, and Cycle World's Editor-in-Chief Mark Hoyer discussed how to freshen up the look and feel of CW.  That discussion eventually led to the collaboration between the art departments, led by Field & Stream and Outdoor Life's Sean Johnston.  The main goal of the project was to not only change the design of the magazine, but to address the overall approach to how the magazine was put together.  A new emphasis on bold studio photography and a completely rethought front of book section were just two of the main objectives.  What eventually took shape can be seen in the images below.


It's the first full cover redesign in almost a decade.  The most critical update was to design a new logo with a brand new font.  It's adapted from the font Bullet from House Industries, and is inspired by connecting script lettering that characterized metal nameplates on industrial products.  In selecting this new font, we were inspired by bike logos, gear, retro clothing, race posters, and felt this new look with its rounded corners makes it feel both modern and masculine.  As well as redesigning the logo, we knew it needed a shift in position on the cover.  We decided that it needed a more central placement, which shifts the balance, giving the title a stronger identity with plenty of room for the always necessary newsstand design tricks.  We are also pleased with the new font families Klavika and Elena from Process Type Foundry to round out the new look and give the cover a strong identity which is then mirrored inside the magazine.


The new photography approach is to focus on a cleaner, sharper and more graphic image for the cover.  We have therefore decided to hire notable still life photographers like Nick Ferrari who shot July's BMW HP4 and Ducati 1199 R.  Collaborating with photographers like Nick allows us to shoot the bikes for the cover at new and dynamic angles and to ultimately have more control over the look and feel of the image and the cover as a whole.  We are using lighting that highlights all the necessary details any bike enthusiast would be looking for.  Through a more graphic cover, we want the reader to immediately be able to connect with the bike.   









The most dramatic change in the magazine was probably the retooling of the front of book section.  From the TOC and the columns, all the way to the main FOB section, we reimagined how these pages should be built.  We decided to use a more flexible grid to allow us to work in many different sized images and entry points.  Instead of relying on one large holding image on a page, we worked hard with the editors to come up with more creative ways to deliver the content through small quick hits.   We also introduced illustration, which was traditionally not something CW took advantage of.  The final result is that the FOB now reads quicker, and is far less intimidating to the reader.






Another big change for CW was how we approached the feature package.  In this issue, the feature well was a larger package of multiple bike comparisons.  To create a more cohesive feel, we started the package out with a single page opener to act as a TOC, since the well was over 20 pages long.  The first feature introduces strong beautifully lite photography from photographer Nick Ferrari. The design also sets up the rest of the feature well by creating one single look.  We used Caslon as our headline font to give it a more sophisticated feel, and Klavika as our industrial hard working san serif font.  The remaining features all use the same design template, but are applied in several different formats.  The turn pages of each feature maintain a simple clean look, but are able to work in a mix between static bikes, and strong action riding shots, which CW readers have come to expect.


We decided to use a full page photo to anchor the section, and showcase the bike, instead of using a slightly dated black and white illustration.  We also felt that using bold colors helped to give the page some life.  The end result is a simple, clean, easy to read Q&A section. 

Design Director: Sean Johnston
Deputy Art Director: Pete Sucheski
Associate Art Directors: Kim Gray and Jim Walsh
Photo Editor: Amy Berkley
Cover Photography: Nick Ferrari

  • The Elena type is working quite well with readability. Keep going! Like those of us on bikes! (BMW K1200RSport, and desiring the S1000RR or S1000R, along with 43 other models...)

  • Magazine Designing

    Great stuff. I am big fan of clean and structured design. As long as it is not boring, and this one certainly is not.

  • I'm a big fan of these spreads. It's a huge jump ahead of most motorcycle magazines. Love the grid, love the use of yellow, and love the Caslon Black for the headlines too.

  • marshall

    Clean. Smart. Sophisticated. Great column structure and the use of Caslon as a massive display font sizzles. The whole redesign screams speed and style. I think it's spot on. Further, really appreciated the logical and thoughtful approach to the feature well.

  • moysexxx

    this work is very simple, don't have design is only text and photo,
    don't like

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