When Bucknell teamed with Zehno for simultaneous print and online magazine redesigns, editorial strategy drove the process. The challenge was not just to tell the right stories, but also to present them with an editorial zing that matches the spirit of Bucknell readers.
The redesign echoes the university’s new branding, tells deeper stories without burying readers beneath a wall of words, and peps up typical “alumni profiles” at every turn.
The revamped magazine gives the content new life online. New page types showcase photography — portraits, lifestyle shots, headshot — and accommodate feature-length stories without losing the visual impact of print. To maximize sharing, a centralized set of common transactions lets readers submit letters and post class notes without any hassle.
Handling both projects in tandem produced a print version that’s cover-to-cover compelling and an enlivened website that extends richer content to more alumni.
- Redesign the print and web versions in tandem.
- Develop signature editorial treatments that establish the magazine’s personality.
- Build on the university’s new branding themes and design — but shape them for magazine readers.
- Adopt a “package” approach to features that captures stories from multiple angles.
- Highlight career success and other outcomes through varied — and lively — profile formats.
Bucknell won top mag awards from UCDA, Cuppie Awards, Education Digital Marketing Awards, Educational Advertising Awards and CASE.
The beefed-up mag structure is an editor’s dream. Its clearly defined departments — paired with a goal-centric approach to story selection — make slotting stories more efficient.
Motivated by savvy storytelling that exemplifies liberal-arts learning at its best, donors have stepped up — completely unsolicited — to fund student research and academic programs featured in the magazine.
SUPERFEATURE: STORYTELLING FROM ALL ANGLES
In the premiere issue of the redesign, Bucknell turned a complicated and potentially long-winded story about an ongoing World War I research project into an original and engaging 18-page superfeature.
The feature started with an overview story, and then the editorial team examined the research project from every angle. The piece is divided into chapters covering Bucknell grads at war, the environmental impact of battle, the meaning of monuments and more.
“One person wrote in to say that this is the first time he had read everything in an issue — every single page — and he particularly pointed out the World War I story,” said Sherri Kimmel, editor of Bucknell Magazine. “It was engaging for him because it was a very personal story. Even though it’s about a horrendous event a hundred years ago, it tugs at your emotions today.”
For the WWI story, Sherri traveled to Europe as an embedded reporter and also hired a photographer to document Bucknell’s students and faculty researchers at work. The feature was originally scoped at 10 pages, but the abundance of material led to a decision of “Let’s add eight more pages!”
But the writing was still tight and easily digestible, qualities Bucknell readers asked for in the magazine readership survey.
“Not every story you do will have this fantastic travelogue photography that can carry the whole feature with a journey-type theme,” Sherri said. “This story happened to have that, but it took an immense amount of planning to bring all that together.”
Sherri also sees a way to extend the life of the WWI feature beyond the magazine. The editorial team plans to capture media interest in the second leg of the research project next summer, with follow-up pieces targeted to non-Bucknell audiences.
“We’re hoping to take this story beyond the alumni magazine to get the name of the university out on the national stage,” Sherri said.
WHAT ZEHNO DID
- Position paper: Audit and strategic recommendations.
- Prototyping: Print magazine redesign, content strategy with new sections and storytelling devices.
- Templates: Layout of first issue and template preparation.
Tips for your team
- Create signature editorial formats that appear in every issue. Experiment with editorial patterns that convey each story type in the most vivid way.
- Don’t chicken out on tackling print and website redesigns at the same time. It’s your chance to approach them not as separate channels, but as one continuous storytelling opportunity.
- Bring in your official brand’s themes and styling, but don’t turn your magazine into a viewbook. It needs to still cover big issues, add context and color to stories, and balance the many voices of your institution.
DOES YOUR MAGAZINE MATTER?
Next time budget slashers descend on your office, be prepared to answer what it actually accomplishes.