The New Look


With this issue we introduce a new design: new cover, new typefaces, a new look for every page in the magazine. All of it is the work of our irascible but talented design consultant, David Herbick. We’re very pleased with the design, but I’m guessing that at least some of you will be less than pleased. That’s okay. If you feel a certain affection for a publication, then it’s natural for your first reaction to a redesign to be, “Why can’t anyone just for once please leave well enough alone?” I often find myself in this camp with magazines I like, but I try to give any new design a few days, or perhaps a few issues, to become familiar. Before long I look back at the old design and wonder what I ever liked about it. We’re hoping, of course, that most of you will approve of the new look at first sight, whatever the state of your loyalty. You are the ones who should write us a letter or an email. We’ll try not to be too hurt by those of you who probably will write in, the ones suggesting that we’ve found yet another way to ruin a perfectly good magazine, and, oh, just cancel my subscription. But we’ve got some advice for you: sign up for the Scholar on Kindle,  the Nook, or the Sony Reader. The magazine is available now on all three, pretty much free of design.

So why didn’t we just leave well enough alone? After all, we’ve made a lot of changes in the look of the magazine in the last five years or so.  In part, all those changes are the problem. We worked with the design as we found it, and the changes were evolutionary. Lately we’d begun to feel that the time had come to stand back and look with fresh eyes. Did the design really fit the the editorial content of the magazine, which has itself evolved? The answer, we thought, was that it did not. The one element we decided merely to tweak was the magazine’s logo, which has a new font but should still seem familiar.

The real reason for change of this sort is simply to keep up. Even a classic design grows stale quickly; without change, it soon grows redolent of a different era. Whenever we’ve altered the design, it’s been encouraging to begin by leafing through the back issues lining a wall of the office. It’s surprising how  often the cover design has changed in the years since the Scholar was founded in 1932, and how much each look seems to reflect its time.

We live in an age when how we read is changing at warp speed. That’s axiomatic by now. In addition to those e-reader versions, we’ll soon offer a digital edition of the Scholar, and the website is next up for a redesign. But who can fall out of love with print? And, relic that I am, I can only believe that at least some stubborn souls in future generations will continue to fall in love with print. Long may it last.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Robert Wilson's most recent book is Barnum: An American Life. He was the editor of the Scholar for more than 17 years.


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