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Kathy Cain


Magazine redesigns: before and after

April 1, 2022   //   Kathy Cain

What’s not to love about seeing a tired, aimless magazine take an about-face?

In our 35+ years of magazine redesigns, we’ve worked alongside editorial and creative teams to bring about amazing magazine transformations that have drawn readers in and garnered 60+ awards from CASE, UCDA, Educational Advertising Awards and more.

What we’ve learned — and what you’ll see in these magazine makeovers — is that creating award-winning magazines is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

You have to define your goals—then map content to what you want to achieve. And that strategic approach is more important than any award.

Here are a few of our before and after magazine transformations tailored to each client’s goals.


Most colleges claim to be “like no other,” yet their magazines come across as “like all others.” With an offbeat structure and newsstand pop, the revamped Rice Magazine leans in on the university’s quirky culture and embraces its unconventional brand. See how the redesigned magazine tapped into the school’s brainy-cool culture, won a CASE Circle of Excellence Grand Gold award, and was recognized alongside TimeBloombergOprah and others.


The University of British Columbia is one of the world’s most-renowned research institutions, so when alumni UBC embarked on a magazine redesign, the question was clear: How can we squeeze in more brainpower? Now each issue of Trek is anchored by a thematic package that tackles a complex topic from multiple angles — and proves UBC’s global impact. See how the magazine redesign is reaching record audiences, thanks to the new website and monthly e-newsletter.


Many college mags fear that “serious” content will come across as “skippable.” That’s why they shy away from stories that go deep into academic subject matter. But Bryn Mawr isn’t afraid to write about spheromak research (that’s physics, if you’re not familiar) or Sierpinski triangles (that’s math). See how this this award-winning redesign (which captured Best Redesign from UCDA) doubled down on smart content for an audience whose reading list includes both Real Simple and academic journals.


After the death of its beloved writer and editor Brian Doyle, the University of Portland redesigned Portland magazine to update one of the best-known magazines in higher ed. The result preserves the classic style and literary content beloved by readers, while making room for varied voices and a talented new editorial team.


By relaunching Swarthmore’s print and responsive online magazines at the same time, we were able to leverage in-house resources more efficiently, use different tools to tell the same story, and give new life to great stories beyond the coffee table. This smart content strategy keeps the college’s web presence fresh and brand-focused and builds the readership and reputation of the magazine. See how Swarthmore won 10 awards for its magazine redesign, including a bronze in magazine improvement in the 2015 CASE Circle of Excellence awards.


W&L’s challenge was clear: give the magazine a fresh new voice and look, while showing generations of readers that W&L is still the university they know and love. See how the redesigned magazine balances the university’s deep history as the nation’s ninth oldest institution of higher learning with its standing as a top-tier college of today.


On the heels of a university-wide brand refresh, Tulane University’s School of Medicine redesigned its Tulane Med alumni magazine to elevate the school’s expertise. See how our redesign realigned the magazine’s content strategy with the school’s overall goals and new “stand apart” brand.


St. Ed’s magazine redesign revolutionized its editorial approach, publishing its best stories in multiple ways: Print features get chopped up for social media, and web content chunks get combined into features for print. Thanks to multi-channel thinking, a typical feature story can be seen by upwards of 90,000 people — before it’s ever in print.


For Bucknell University’s simultaneous print and online magazine redesigns, 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 result is a print version that’s cover-to-cover compelling and an enlivened website that extends richer content to more alumni.


The “skip one” solution enabled TCU Magazine to redirect the money and time to revamp both its print and web magazines simultaneously. And the results? Readers are discovering online extras through social media, which drove 63 percent of new traffic to the site during its first year and doubled its number of Facebook followers. Now the team is choosing stories based on how they’ll perform in the digital space, where research stories often attract the most readers.


From strategy and content consulting to building digital magazines, we can do it all. Based on your staff’s capabilities and budget, we’ll tailor our magazine services to fit your needs. Let’s talk.

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