Inside Harvard Business Review's Redesign

Inside Harvard Business Review's Redesign
Harvard Business Review  (HBR) has always been a go-to resource for insightful information about the business world.  This savvy publication, which was founded in 1922,  just wrapped up a fresh new redesign with their  January/February 2017 issue. We had the opportunity to speak with Harvard Business Review Creative Director, James de Vries, about HBR's revamped look.

Read on for James' answers and images from the redesign after the jump!

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SPD: Were there any major challenges in revamping the magazine?
James de Vries: The major challenge to any real redesign is that you are changing the way people work, and [you're] changing [their] habits. This takes sustained leadership and support. Our highly-skilled editors are used to working on complex ideas, over a long period [of time]  with brilliant external authors, who may be academics, consultants or c-level executives. [Our redesign] introduced a more multi-faceted visual direction to the magazine.  We are bringing design to a much earlier place in the whole [editorial] process, which moves us further from the simple 'handover' of articles. So, as a magazine, we are building new muscles that make early design/edit collaboration a part of our DNA.
The second challenge is simply that the magazine is now bigger, and we have the challenge of keeping each feature design fresh and interesting so that the well doesn't feel like an undifferentiated mass. Matt Guemple, the Art Director has done an excellent job of spreading the visual approaches between photographic, illustration, typography and in-house-bespoke-crafted ideas.  
The third challenge is that while we are doubling-down on the essential strength of a print magazine with this new design; heavier stock, more special print techniques (check out our first issue cover under a black-light), trimmed-short breaker-pages etc. We know that whenever a magazine reduces issues, it's seen as a sign of impending doom. But for us, it's a sign of strength and confidence that print is still a beacon element of our brand which has a growing circulation as well as growing digital value.
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SPD: What is your favorite part of the redesign?
JDV: Definitely the new section breaker-pages we've introduced. They create a really interesting design challenge, (I'm sure I will eventually drive our editor and designers crazy with these). Each breaker page needs to reflect the content of the section they are introducing, work with the following opener page, and also work as a part of a set across the issue. And of course they need to help our readers navigate the magazine.

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SPD: How has HBR's drop in print issues (from 10 to 6 issues a year) and new online strategy impacted your work dynamic?

JDV: Because each issue is bigger, with a greater emphasis on the visual, we are not seeing a drop-off in our workload on the magazine. The skillsets we need as a department are growing, and there are more and more artefacts we are producing that span the digital-print divide, such as our new 'Big Idea' digital only feature that demonstrates how we can make great long-form features online, and roll out a host of supportive elements and events that create a fantastic, in-depth, cross-platform experience for our readers. This feels like the direction good magazine-making is going.

SPD Bonus Question: If you could, what words of wisdom would you pass onto your childhood self?
JDV: Hey PAL! Set your own design standards higher. Nobody else is going to do that for you.

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C R E D I T S:

Creative Director, HBR Group: James de Vries
Art Director, HBR: Matthew Guemple
Designer: Michael Tavilla
Senior Information Designer: Matt Perry
Photo Editor/Researcher: Andrew Nguyen
Contributing Designers: Caitlin Choi, George Lee, Thomas O'Quinn, Bonnie Scranton, Stephanie Testa, Cat Yu

  • Alex Nabaum

    Stretch Armstrong!

  • Robert Supina

    Well done!

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