First Look: The Newsweek Redesign

First Look: The Newsweek Redesign
We have an EXCLUSIVE FIRST LOOK at Dirk Barnett's redesign of Newsweek which hits newsstands on Monday. It's been a quick three months since Dirk left Maxim for Lucky, and then got the call 5 days (thank you, Keith Kelly) later from Tina Brown to relaunch a merged Daily Beast/Newsweek publication. Here, Dirk answers questions on the process and bringing back the swagger that Newsweek once had.

Newsweek, featuring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, March 14, 2011 (above, top).
Photograph by Stephanie Sinclair

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First off: Maxim to Lucky to Newsweek in under a week. Were you at Lucky long enough to get a email address? What was Tina's pitch to you?

Tina's pitch was simple: make Newsweek a strong, vibrant, living brand again, and merge it with a strong, muscular news website, the Daily Beast. That meant a total overhaul from top to bottom of a major international brand. I was sold. Plus, the opportunity to work alongside Tina was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A week into the job I was sending Lynsey Addario to Sudan and hiring Dan Winters for our annual Oscar portfolio. And for the record: I was at Lucky for 5 days (not 2, Keith Kelly), and Brandon Holley is an amazing EIC, but something better for me came along, both profesionally and personally. It's just business.

Explain the process you went through. Where did you start? What were the goals? Did you look back at past incarnations of Newsweek?

Working with the fantastic designer 
, we started by stripping everything away and keeping things dead simple. The main goal was to revive Newsweek with a sleek, modern design, and pump up the photography. We definitely tried to create a subtle design symbiosis between Newsweek and the Daily Beast, as well. This is a merger so we felt there had to be some similar design personality traits. We have a series of small, tight design details that only showcase the editorial, and don't interfere in strong journalistic storytelling. And we certainly did look back at past Newsweeks. There is such a rich heritage there. We've created a new page called "Reliving History" where we pull an issue from the archive and showcase it every week.

Tell us about the new logo--an evolution from Jim Parkinson's slab serif. New typography throughout?

I wanted to blog about the logo process as we were doing it, but obviously that wasn't possible. Let's just say this new logo evolution had many incarnations that are now on the cutting room floor. And the one that was eventually published was almost on that floor as of 48 hours before we hit the presses, so I'm ecstatic we were able to change the logo, in the end. The whole magazine's design is based on two typefaces, 
 and Acta (designed by Dino de Santos). The logo came from Titling, and I hired
. Being the mastermind behind the last 40 years of the Newsweek logo, he was the perfect man for the job. At the end of the process, we had two new logos, one a modern take on the slab, and the one you see here. As Jim pointed out, running with the Titling logo was a perfect way to announce to the readers our new direction, as the whole inside has it running throughout. As for the red box, it has remained, although let's just say there was much debate about that one, but in the end, and being such a staple of Newsweek's design DNA, it endured, and I think the solution is strong, and consistent.

Please tell us about your strategy on covers. How will you differentiate Newsweek from the other news weeklies?

Well I can't reveal all of our secrets, now can I? Let's just say, Newsweek is back and will be a major player again. To be a successful news weekly in this day and age, we have to look and read like no other weekly. It's sink or swim time for us, this is our shot to bring it back from the dead.

Newsweek, Table of Contents

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Newsweek had a strong tradition of photojournalism, which had been abandoned over the past couple of years. Tell us about the role of photography and photojournalism in the new Newsweek.

Let it be known we are bringing strong, dynamic photo-journalism back to Newsweek. We have an amazing team of photo editors led by Director of Photography Scott Hall who are doing amazing work. Situations at Newsweek over the last few years quite literally nearly killed the magazine completely, from morale to the quality of work. Sadly, one of those casualites was the photography. One of the great things about Tina is her love for photography, and she completely supports us in making strong images one of the leading voices in telling the news from week to week.

Newsweek, News Gallery, Steve Job introduces iPad 2, March 14, 2011

Newsweek, "NewsBeast" section opener

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Tell us about your plan with infographics in the magazine.

Infographics, another element killed off over the past few years at Newsweek, will definitely be coming back. While we plan to up the presence, we have no plans to blow them out in a Bloomberg/Wired direction, our content just doesn't require or sustain it (plus, Bloomberg Businessweek is killing it, who can compete with that?!). Rather, it will be a vital tool to telling elements of stories that photography or illustration just don't nail. We have introduced a new page, DataBeast, that will give us the opportunity to do a weekly infographic on various subjects.

Newsweek, NewsBeast, Charlie Sheen's Meltdown, March 14, 2011

Newsweek, "The Hillary Doctrine" feature opener

Newsweek_3.14.11_150 Women.jpg
Newsweek, "150 Women Who Shake the World" feature opener (above)
and jump spread (below).

Newsweek_3.14.11_150 Women Jump.jpg
Will the individual websites for The Daily Beast and Newsweek merge?

Eventually, yes. Our first goal was the magazine's overhaul. With that motion now in a solid direction, we can now turn our focus on the sites.

Are you working on an update to Newsweek's iPad app? What other tablets will you develop apps for?

Again, another next step we can now tackle. Our iPad app is just a pdf of the magazine, and that needs to change. We are looking at that now, along with some other really exciting ideas we have for iPad apps. For us, it's not about just translating the magazine from week to week as an app. We aren't interested in that. We want to create something that is a strong brand extension, but entirely unique. We will get there.

Newsweek, back of book "Omnivore" section opener (above)
and "Want" department page (below).


Newsweek, "My Favorite Mistake" featuring Harvey Weinstein

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The Newsweek creative team:
Creative Director: Dirk Barnett
Art Director: Lindsay Ballant
Senior Art Director: Sara McKay
Senior Designer: Sean Noyce
Designer: Kristen Ren
 Director of Photography: Scott Hall
Deputy DP: Katherine Harris
Senior Photo Editors: Michell Malloy, Jamie Wellford, James Perse, Elizabeth Johnson
 Production Director: Ignacio Kleva

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See related stories:
Sneak Peek: The New York Times Magazine Redesign
A New Look at Parenting
First Look: Travel + Leisure Redesign
Bloomberg Businessweek: A Second Look
The redesign of the Texas Observer

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  • Grant Glas

    I have been a huge fan of Dirk since his Maxim days. I admire his ability to combine the perfect font with the perfect layout. I plan on picking up the magazine today.

    Hats off to your team! This looks crazy good.

  • Stephen Coles
    > headlines set in Leitura

    Whoops, I missed that this is Acta. Looks like it's not on DSType's site yet.

  • pcrowl

    I love how fresh this is. Dirk always uses the grid to it's maximum potential (Blender, Maxim) and his style shines through on this beautiful redesign. I love the bar work.

  • Erik Spooner

    Wow, stunning shift.

    I might be the only person in the world who's *dying* to see the newsweek slab nameplate that didn't make the cut, but I have to say, the sans is a lot more refreshing than I'd have imagined. Also, love Dino dos Santos' work and the pairing of his leitura-style Acta with Titling is a beautiful choice. And thanks so much for bringing back the front-of-book photo spreads. Can't wait to see how this evolves. Typo, design, and edit choices here do this magazine justice.

    Stephen: holding a print copy in my hands, I can tell you the kerning oops you're referring to on page 52 did not make it into print. Can't say the cover shot moves me much either (and who can top that NY Mag cover of Hil by Bridgette Lacomb?!) but everything comes in steps, right? Totally killer job. Not just as a designer but as a news geek, I know I'm rooting for these guys to make it work. Congrats on the first issue!

  • Stephen Coles

    One more gripe: the headlines set in Leitura are good overall, but what on earth is going on with the "Wo" in "World"?

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