In 2008, Rolling Stone embraced the change that was in the air - not arbitrary or capricious change, but change as growth and renewal - and took the next evolutionary step in the magazine's history: a complete reformatting of the magazine. Throughout the historic election year, the magazine remained dedicated to its uncompromising standards and broad reach that have made it one of the most passionate and engaged observers of American politics and popular culture. From its elegant design and stunning photography to its provocative commentary and investigative reporting, the magazine affirmed that nothing is out of bounds - even a complete redesign of the book - as long as it is executed with imagination and originality.
Without a single line of type, the bold portrait of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on the cover of issue 1056/1057 announced that it was a special issue. This cover became an instant icon, gracing posters and T-shirts and becoming a hot topic on television, Websites and blogs for weeks after it appeared. The political coverage inside the book featured exclusive photos of Obama framed in elegant typography and page design. The rest of the issue attests to the depth and variety of the magazine's design mission: In "Up All Night With Amy," illustrator Sean McCabe illuminates a revealing night with troubled singer Amy Winehouse; in "Greenland Melting," reports from the ground zero of global warming feature awe-inspiring landscapes; and Max Vadukul's stunning images from Bonnaroo Music Festival reveal the pure, exhilarating force of young people deeply immersed in sex, drugs and rock & roll.
The debut of the new format, issue 1064, published on the eve of the election, fittingly featured the candidate for change on the cover: Obama. The glossy redesign announced a new, sleeker RS, done under tremendous pressure, in a very short time and in-house by the art director and staff. The result is a new Rolling Stone that has quickly become a natural part of the evolution of the magazine into the 21st century. There was great risk involved in drastically reformatting an icon like Rolling Stone, akin to redesigning the Coca-Cola bottle, but we believe the magazine is better than ever: more pages, on higher-quality paper, as well as more spreads and space devoted to the lush photography and illustration that RS is famous for. As a result, the response to the new look from readers and the media has been overwhelmingly positive. The very first reformatted issue lets readers know that while RS may have gotten a face-lift, it carries more heft than ever: from the exclusive photography that accompanies the in-depth interview with Obama, to SebastiÃ£o Salgado's lush black-and-white pictures of Ethiopian tribespeople, to the intimate photo of Elvis Costello schooling Nick Jonas on the ways of the rock star, to the graphic images from hostile territory in Afghanistan that bring home the harrowing account of being kidnapped by the Taliban, to the quiet grace of Richard Burbridge's portrait of David Foster Wallace.
With RS 1067, Rolling Stone reintroduced the new, improved Britney Spears to the world. The cover and inside feature, with its gorgeous portfolio by Peggy Sirota, captures a star who has evolved from a troubled girl to a stunning and mature woman. The annual Hot List has become a much-anticipated showcase of the best in photography and design, and this issue does not disappoint, from its opening riff on Shepard Fairey's iconic Obama poster (executed by Fairey for RS) to page after page of vivid images of the hottest stars of the moment, framed in an elegant design that embraces the imagery but never takes the focus off the subjects themselves.
Taken together, these three issues of Rolling Stone exemplify magazine design at its finest. Even as the magazine changes, it remains one of the nation's freshest and most vivid voices, combining provocative photography and design to take readers on a raucous and wide-ranging tour of American life.