Inside the Consumer Reports Redesign

Inside the Consumer Reports Redesign

Kevin Brainard and Cybele Grandjean known for their redesigns of Condé Nast Traveler, Martha Stewart Living, and Condé Nast's Brides, have launch a redesigned Consumer Reports--and their new partnership Area of Practice, along with Robert Spica.

Area of Practice developed the strategy and redesign for the new Consumer Reports in close collaboration with VP and general manager Brent Diamond, director of growth initiatives Steve Cooper, editor in chief Ellen Kampinsky, and creative director Tim LaPalme.

Founded in 1936 as Consumers Union, Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit magazine that serves over 4.5M readers monthly, through unbiased product testing and ratings, research, journalism, public education, and advocacy.

Although Consumer Reports is best known for its product reviews, the team recognized that the organizations lesser known but highly influential advocacy work and focus on consumer empowerment was an unique asset that would resonate with a broader audience. 

Seeking to make the publication more accessible and attractive, to an audience of new readers, Brainard & Grandjean brought on board Martha Stewart Living and Brides alum Mary Cahill as a consulting photo editor.

Together the team started to rethink the editorial voice and shape the content to help create a modern publication that embraces its history and looks toward the future without alienating its core-audience.

Cover Strategy

The new covers focus on one highly-relevant topic illustrated with a central conceptual image and leverages the top-third of the page by placing secondary headlines live above the Consumer Reports wordmark. 

The November cover was photographed by Grant Cornett


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The team improved the structure and navigation of the magazine by standardizing some elements while retaining the flexibility necessary to allow the staff to tell stories and create an engaging reading experience. 

Some features include:

• Strong right-hand section headers that highlight the newly-conceived magazine structure. 

• Stories that vary in length, creating dynamic layouts and an engaging reading experience. 

• Infographics and charts are used in addition to the traditional Consumer Reports charts. 

• A strong use of conceptual illustration and photography. 

• Bright colors are used in imagery and charts throughout the publication.

Table of Contents

Since Consumer Reports is a publication void of advertising, the cover opens directly to the table contents. The team used this opportunity and implemented a unique typographically-driven contents page that creates a direct link between the cover, the TOC, and the cover story.


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Section Openers

To highlight Consumer Reports' mission of empowering and advocating on behalf of consumers, the "Your Advocate" section was introduced to the front of the book.

Some of the other section names were also reworked to be more compelling and consistent. "Up Front" was renamed "The Update," "Cars" became "Road Report," while "Lab Tests" was retained.

The section openers feature photography by Grant Cornett and an infographic by Raul Aguila


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Front & Back of Book

The team worked with a wide range of talented contributors to transform the magazine. Contributors include Raul Aguila, Brownbird Design, Grant Cornett, Kesley Dake, Oliver Munday, Evan Applegate, and Paul Sahre.

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Data, Charts & Infographics

The standard Consumer Reports chart is an integral tool used by the editorial staff to convey large amounts of complex information. Although this tool served the staff well over the years, it limited layout and page design possibilities--and often felt too complex and unapproachable.

To remedy this, the team introduced a variety of new visually driven charts and infographics that helped broadened the publications vocabulary but delivered the same wealth of research and findings.


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In order to bring life to a story on consumer spending, portrait photographer Wayne Lawrence photographed people on the street. French photographer Benjamin Bouchet created his own interpretation of a Rube Goldberg machine to illustrate waste in the healthcare system. Andrew B. Myers and Na Kim brought life to a straight-forward product story.


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Selling It

Formerly the back page of the magazine, "Selling It" features reader-submitted marketing bloops. To deal with the varying quality of the art, the team chose to photograph one main item and illustrated others.


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Looking Back

When visiting the Consumer Reports offices, the team was struck by the great modernist photography that documented the history of their rigorous testing process. With a nod to CR's deep history, they introduced the "Looking Back" page on the inside back cover. 


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  • iquack

    CR should stick to testing products and skip annoying Democrat-left advocacy.
    I've subscribed to CR for decades but will rethink renewing my subscription because I don't want to pay for know-nothing liberal twaddle. I want to know what toaster to buy, not learn about how "progressives" butter their toast.

  • Westread

    Too many single pages when the basics of magazine design is a spread. Some sort of visually linking device, maybe a thick tone rule or color band, could solve the problem.

  • Dale Harmon

    I got my November issue yesterday. Today I wrote a letter to CR canceling my subscription. The issue was awful. Anyone notice how the rating scores of small cars on page 64 are different from the scores for the exact same cars in the April issue? No explanation, some up and most down. Only 13 of the 72 pages actually contained information that was even remotely relevant to me. I am sick and tired of CU's advocacy being promoted in CR. I want product test reports, fair, unbiased, and in depth. I particularly want test reports on products that I might actually buy, but cannot afford to sample buy. AKA, I don't need to know how a Big Mac compares to a real hamburger!!!! I also don't need the BS they published on the Tesla S. Here in AEP coal country, a Tesla (depending on the calculation) causes 0.6 to 1.0 pounds of CO2 per mile and will only go about 200 miles before range anxiety sets in. It is a rare person who can afford $90,000 for a 200 mile car. In contrast our 2012 Camry Hybrid puts out 0.6 pounds of CO2 per mile and we can easily drive 800 miles in a day.

  • Cyclone fan 79

    Fail! I am not subscribing to Consumer Reports for their advocacy. I want easy to read reviews with pictures.

  • Matt Gronbeck

    Everyone involved in the CR magazine redesign should be fired immediately. This is the most horrific looking and difficult to read magazine I've ever picked up. The graphics are bland, the product images are bite-sized, and I'm still in shock...

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