We started by looking back at some of the most successful iterations of the magazine, with a particular focus on the inaugural design by legendary creative director Robert Valentine. He used type and white space in a refreshing and modern way, and we decided to use similar design principles as a starting point for this redesign.
The magazine's content has evolved quite a bit over the years. The range of stories is more diverse, as are the frameworks they are wrapped in. There are multiple entry points and multiple reading pauses: subheads, sub-subheads, decks, decks to subheads, lead-ins, bullets, annotations, and tips. The new design had to accommodate this broad editorial palette while maintaining a minimalist aesthetic. We made the decision early to strip out extraneous graphic devices, and rely on a carefully curated group of typefaces to carry the visual interest of the magazine, along with sumptuous illustration and photography.
Real Simple has four sections that establish The editorial and visual voice of the magazine are establish in the front- and back-of-book sections described below.
"The Realist" opens the book, and is full of quick tips to make the reader's life easier. This section didn't change much from a content standpoint, so our primary focus was to add more entry points to the stories, and to audit the existing art approach ... keeping the elements that meshed with our new framework, and adding new art solutions as needed. We spent a lot of time dialing in just the right voice to open the magazine. Shown below are section pages designed by the Real Simple art directors (top) followed by some of our early page explorations.
"The Guide," dense and information-rich, is the heart of Real Simple. Every month it features in-depth information on beauty tips and products; fashion; health and exercise; and home- and family-related topics. It is very dense, with lists, graphs, charts, read-through stories ... a veritable treasure trove of helpful information. We decided to open the section with a mood-board style mini-TOC to provide a visual preface for the action-packed pages that follow. Shown below are pages from the section designed by the Real Simple art directors, followed by some of our early page explorations.
"Food" anchors the back of the book with useful information and how-tos. It is essentially an entire section dedicated to recipes, supplemented with information about food storage and preparation; and cooking techniques. We realized that the section was more engaging as an integrated package, so developed a framework with related content interwoven across the pages rather than divided into subsections. We also revisited how the photography was shot, going from busy tabletop vignettes to clean sets that direct attention to the food. Shown below are "Food" pages designed by the Real Simple art directors, followed by some of our early page explorations.
Each of the sections has a distinct voice that sets them apart from one another. The consistent type treatments and the underlying two-grid system (developed to use their photo assets to best advantage) tie them together. We developed an extensive template library for the four sections to serve as a starting point for the designers working within this new identity. Following is a selection of pages from that template library.