Cooking Light's Redesign with Creative Director, Rachel Lasserre

While reaching 30 years in publication is no small feat, the Cooking Light team also had something more to celebrate with their recent September issue. The 30th Anniversary Issue featured an unveiling of a fresh new redesign and rebranding. The issue revealed both new content and a new design that emphasized a shift toward focusing on "fresh and healthy" and less attention on "light." 

Cooking Light's Editor-In-Chief, Hunter Lewis and Creative Director, Rachel Lasserre collaborated with design consultancy Area of Practice on the new design. We spoke with Rachel about the collaboration and what went into producing Cooking Light's new look.

Read on for Rachel's answers and to see more images from the redesign after the jump!

SPD: Why did Cooking Light decide to do a redesign?
Rachel Lasserre: It is an exciting time for food. Food is no longer just dinner on the table. It's a culture, it's medicine, it's an experience to share. But there are so many places to get your information now that we wanted to reposition ourselves as the arbiters of fresh and healthy food. With the 30th anniversary approaching--bringing with it the introduction of new sections and contributors--it felt like the right time to unify and strengthen the visual identity of Cooking Light across all platforms. Over the years, the design and presentation of the magazine became a patchwork of competing ideas. Working with Area of Practice, we set out to create a clean, unique identity that appealed to both millennials and our loyal readers. 

For the redesign, we sought to address several goals: 
Create a new, more legible wordmark for print, merchandise, and digital experiences as well as a corresponding social media mark.
Craft a clean, modern design that projects authority and differentiates Cooking Light from its competition.
Create straightforward navigation so readers can easily orient themselves in the book.
Develop a simplified food-forward photographic style that elevates the food and the recipes.

SPD: How did you create a cover that would stand out on newsstands?
RL: To push our food-forward aesthetic, we strived to make the food front and center on the cover with the image as large as possible. Rather than opting for a more traditional approach with a left rail or right rail, we decided to overlay it on the image, allowing the two to work together rather than compete. Similarly, we organized the secondary cover lines above the image to project authority and let the photography breathe.

SPD: Why did you update your logo and what were the changes?
RL: The existing logo was clearly made just for print. However, Cooking Light is no longer just a magazine. It's a brand across multiple platforms, so we wanted to create a new, more legible wordmark and a corresponding social media mark to work across all print and digital experiences. We worked with Schick Toikka on a customized redrawn version of Noe. We liked how Noe speaks with clarity and confidence, yet it sparkles. There is a certain elegance to the thicks and thins and rounded curves, and then a fierceness to it's unique wedge-shaped serifs. We liked the legibility of Noe as a masthead and at smaller sizes for web and mobile content.  

SPD: So that means, Cooking Light has all new typography. Can you tell us more about that?
RL: I was looking for typefaces that had character--so that the designs could remain simple but still have personality. The serif was easy. When Cybele Grandjean and Kevin Brainard from Area of Practice presented Romana, I loved the oldstyle characteristics that are most dynamic on the oversize type treatments like the department openers and feature display. And it feels modern even though it was drawn in the late 1800s. Romana has some very interesting features such as the distinctive "cut" in the curve of the lowercase j and f and the sloping serif-less R.

The san-serif wasn't as easy. I wasn't sold at first on GT Walsheim. After exploring other options, Cybele and Kevin convinced me to come back to it and I am glad we did. It is warm and friendly and has a lot of intriguing characteristics that distinguish it from other geometric sans. For instance, the oversize dots on the i and j and the unorthodox construction of the G. It is also very hardworking with its precise, symmetrical letterforms. It works well on display, body copy, and in smaller sizes, which we need for our nutrition information. 

For our body copy and recipes, we decided on Lyon. It's elegant and easy to read. And for a little extra texture, we added in Italian Plate No2 for small bursts and headlines where a condensed font is needed. 

SPD: What was the process of redesigning both the front of book and back of book sections?
RL: We've learned that readers now use the magazine in a completely different way than they have in the past. If they are just looking for a specific recipe, they will go online. When they look to the print form, readers are seeking inspirational "me" time. They're using the print product as a "lean back" experience before they dog-ear the pages and lean forward to plan, shop, and then take the magazine to the stove. Driving more engagement via the page was a big goal of ours. To cater to this, the magazine has placed an emphasis on short essays from different contributors offering unique approaches to healthy eating and cooking, plus bigger, more food-forward photography. 

For design, we have simplified the pages and elements on the page to make the photos as big as possible. The magazine feels more book-like with the oversize serif type on the section openers and use of rules, justification, and a strong grid. For the departments, we eliminated a lot of the signposting and implemented a flexible opener system, which allows for multiple design options. Another goal of the redesign was to separate edit from advertising. The simplified design with classic typography and a strong grid definitely helps. But one of my favorite things that we did to create separation is place a heavy rule on the inside of edit pages. 

SPD: What was it like designing the features?
RL: In the feature well, we sought a simple or elegant treatment rather than a page design that feels labor-intensive or over-designed. Here, we sought type solutions that are straightforward yet considered. 

SPD: What's your favorite thing about Cooking Light's redesign?
RL: The before/after. The design is much more photography-forward, with classic typography that supports images without competing with them. We have a stronger grid, so the book feels like it's delivering more information on every page. And it is.

Editors always say it best:
"I think this is the cleanest, crispest, most reader-friendly look the magazine has ever had. It lets us convey our passion for food, cooking, and good health more powerfully than ever." - Tim Cebula, Senior Food Editor 

"Consistency and clarity are my overall favorite things. I love how the pages are consistently labeled, with consistent fonts and crystal-clear language--so that you know exactly where you are in the magazine and what the page is about." - Ann Pittman, Executive Editor

"With a major assist by Area of Practice, Rachel and her team did a bang-up job of delivering on the visual promise of what the world's best healthy food media brand should be: inclusive, engaging, modern, empowering, and above all else, fun. We're thrilled with the new look and feel of Cooking Light, the way it unlocks more aha moments to surprise and delight our readers for years to come."
- Hunter Lewis, Editor-in-Chief

Design Firm: Area of Practice - Cybele Grandjean & Kevin Brainard
Creative Director: Rachel Lasserre
Contributing Art Director: Robin Rosenthal
Senior Designers: Nicole Gerrity, Hagen Stegall
Assistant Designer: Jen Skarda
Photo Editor: Mackenzie Craig
Editor-in-Chief: Hunter Lewis

  • Robert Supina

    An excellent redesign!

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