Part of my design education focused on editorial design. Magazines. I designed three different magazines in undergrad and one in graduate school (it was my thesis, actually). I was nourished with the editorial design work of Alexy Brodovich (Harper’s Bazaar), Fred Woodward (Rolling Stone), Fabien Baron (Italian Vogue), Kalman & Toscani (Colors), George Lois (Esquire covers) and even David Carson (Beach Culture) among others. At the time magazines like Wallpaper and Nest were new and hip and cool. To my young, idealistic mind, concept and aesthetic were king.
So you can imagine as a design student at BYU I didn’t care much for the design of the Ensign (or any other Church publication for that matter). Not only was the typography dreadful, the images were (always) literal (and generally bad), but there seemed to be little consideration for concept. The designers/editors weren’t challenging me, they weren’t giving me anything to think about. It was like the bad Gospel Doctrine class where you only get (the same old) answers and no good questions to actually chew on.
Well, they’ve made a few adjustments since then, as have I. And through years of experiencing the real world I’ve come to understand that managing the design of large brands not only requires a realistic understanding of who your true consumer is, but also a realization that communication is king. Aesthetics and concept are merely tools that assist the communication. Of course, none of this is to say the design and/or editorial of the Ensign is good. Far from it. I mean, if there’s any magazine in the world that should be inspiring, this is it, right?
So, this is where you come in. Let’s say that you’ve been hired by the Church to completely overhaul the Ensign (or any of the Church’s publications). What would you change in the design? And the editorial? Do you like the features and departments as they are? What would you toss? What would you add? And keep in mind, this is the Ensign, not Dialogue or Sunstone.