Inside the Stylewatch Redesign

Inside the Stylewatch Redesign

The September issue is always the biggest issue of the year for fashion magazines--even more so in the case of Stylewatch, as it was also when they debuted a brand new redesign. SPD spoke with Stylewatch Creative Director Emily Kehe about the process and how the magazine evolved.



What prompted StyleWatch's relaunch and redesign? 
Lisa Arbetter, formerly of InStyle, came onboard as our new editor earlier this year. Right away we started having conversations about how the magazine needed to evolve--in terms of design, and also content. Since launching seven years ago, StyleWatch had focused primarily on celebrity fashion, which was the first thing we wanted to change. The way women seek out style inspiration has dramatically expanded over the past few years. They still get ideas from the red carpet, but they also look to bloggers and women on the street. So we decided to include a lot more street style photography in our pages. Our goal is to reflect diversity in style, body shapes and race so that any reader can pick up the magazine and see herself. We also know that readers come to our magazine for fun, affordable, trend-driven fashion and beauty--we wanted to continue offering them that, just in a fresher way. Once we knew the direction we wanted the magazine to go in, it was up to me and my team to figure out how our pages needed to shift visually.

What was that process like?
One of the first things Lisa mentioned when she got here was that she wanted to "dirty" up the magazine's design a bit, while keeping it modern. We both created inspiration boards and could tell immediately that we were on the same page. We drew a lot of inspiration from British fashion magazines, which tend to be a little more fun and loose, and we wanted that point of departure from other US fashion magazines. The real challenge was timing: Lisa was brought on in March and we wanted to launch the redesign with the September issue--which meant we had to work fast! We brought on Nicola Neophytou, an art director based in London, to collaborate with us. Along with Nicola, StyleWatch art director Shawna Kalish and I spent the first few weeks mocking up a few different directions. After a couple of rounds with Lisa, we were happy with the results, and we moved forward with the current design. We were fortunate that the whole process was incredibly smooth and everyone was onboard from the beginning. 
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Can you talk about how exactly the aesthetic has improved? 
Merchandise is a huge part of our magazine's DNA--we've always shown a ton of affordable stuff and, historically, have shot very little on models. When it comes to showing still-life photography, it's much easier to make a $3,000 handbag look beautiful. Making a $40 clutch look amazing? That can be more of a challenge. But our readers prefer seeing items within their budget and we wanted to keep giving them those options while delivering great design. Our solution was to start showing slightly less merchandise on each page; giving each item a little room to breathe helped a lot. We are also shooting more on models to add texture to our pages. And we try to make sure that every issue has a "scale moment" in the well, which has given us the opportunity to introduce excellent still-life photography that elevates less expensive merchandise.  To help the pacing of the massive FOB, we divided the magazine into sections and gave each one a full-page opener. Not only are those important visual cues, but they give the reader a place to rest between all of the busy merch and collaged pages. 

There are a ton of photos on our pages--from celebrities to bloggers to street style to merchandise. We use a lot of pickup for the street style and we never photograph celebrities so I wanted to make sure we were displaying them in innovative, new ways. We created a more scrapbook look with colored tape corners, layering and textures, and we introduced the hexagon shape for something unexpected. Nicola also came up with great callouts that add such a fun energy. 

In addition, we also drastically changed how we display credit and price information. This may not seem like a big deal but when every page is filled with products, the credits become a huge unwelcome design element. In the previous design, they were very large and took up valuable space, so we reduced the size (since most of our readers are young and have no problem reading smaller type!). This small move made a huge difference to the cleanliness of the pages. 

Finally, we chose an all-pastel palette to distinguish ourselves from other fashion magazines and weeklies that tend to use bolder shades, and to signal a big change to readers. The previous design relied on those bold, saturated colors, and we really wanted to depart from that feel. The lighter colors are fresh and unique. And we brought in two new typefaces. Platform is clean and modern but has a few funky letters that give it just the right amount of character; and we paired it with Acta, which is more feminine and versatile with beautiful flourished characters in poster weight. 
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How has your cover design changed? 
StyleWatch always had a distinct cover so it looks more like a weekly than a fashion magazine, but it's always done very well on the newsstand. We didn't want to blend into the already-crowded landscape of full bleed celebrity images, so we created a brand-new formula. Continuing to use our signature "rail" and shifting the focus from one single close-up celebrity to three full-body silhouettes allows us to show the reader how much great stuff she's going to get in the magazine. The new covers have the same distinct feel but are more modern and reflective of what is happening on the pages inside!


Credits:

Emily Kehe, Creative Director
Lisa Arbetter, Editor
Ariel Foxman, Editorial Director
Shawna Kalish, Art Director
Rosaliz Jimenez, Photo Director
Bethany Heitman, Executive Editor
Julie Stone: Features Director
Betty Kim: Deputy Managing Editor
Nicola Neophytou, Contributing Art Director
Ronnie Brandwein-Keats, Jamie Lee: Deputy Art Directors
Rebecca Tessin: Associate Art Director
Anne Latini: Art Assistant
Lisbet Oley-Hopkins: Deputy Photo Editor
Urbano DelValle: Photo Shoot Producer
Erin Hendry: Associate Photo Editor
Hannah Tashkovich: Assistant Photo Editor
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