When editor in chief Scott Dadich took the reins at Wired in late 2012, magazines were in the midst of a sea change, and Wired was at the forefront. The print magazine was (and is) the flagship product, but the web site had become a go-to source for many of our readers, and we were taking advantage of the interactive opportunities that the digital editions offered. It was a perfect time to rethink what it meant to be Wired. We had the challenging and exciting task of developing a new visual voice that maintained the dynamic and unexpected gestalt historically embraced by the magazine, but housed in a tightly-built system that would allow us to work quickly and to extrapolate the new identity across multiple channels, as well as associated brand materials and subsidiary products.
The first step: The editors re-imagined the front of book content into four sections, each with a distinct purpose that required a bespoke visual identity. These sections would be the foundation, from both an editorial and design standpoint, for the rest of the magazine.
Once the direction of the content was set, we created a design framework in which the basic tenets were constant across the board: The four sections were all built on a seven-column grid with a designated top clear space and some variant on a "metadata" element that housed page furniture. All display type had a same-size head/deck relationship, and all non-display specs (body, captions, and marginalia) were the same. With these parameters established, we set out to discover the unique aspects of the individual departments as described below.
"Alpha" opens the front-of-book power-pack, with a focus on all that is new (not even in beta yet!) in the Wired world. It covers groundbreaking ideas both large and small, from architecture to technology; from beer to spreadsheets. In the "Alpha" mark (concept by Erica Jang), the "L" is replaced by a "1" to suggest the first stages of an idea, and the section identity is inspired by the clean open layouts of a white paper. Shown below is the first page from the "Alpha" section in the Wired style guide, followed by a selection of pages from the 20-page template library.
"Ultra" covers what the Wired team and the readers are obsessed with. The page geometries are based on a composition of containers—circles and rectangles—in which all content is housed. The "Ultra" mark, designed by Carl DeTorres, is based on a circle, which is also a recurring element in all photos and illustrations. This modular system gave us a bold graphic framework that let us maximize the mix of commissioned and pickup art that supported the content. Shown below is the first page from the "Ultra" section in the Wired style guide, followed by a selection of pages from the 20-page template library.
"Q" is the frequently-asked-questions section, and the identity is inspired by how-to manuals. The framework of the "Q" mark (inspired by a mobius strip) was designed by Carl DeTorres, and for each issue we would commission an illustrator or typographer to create a unique version. The content of the section is primarily tactical ... "how is this done?" ... and formats run the gamut from long-reads and Q&As to diagrammatic stories and "bitsy" items with multiple entry points. Shown below is the first page from the "Q" section in the Wired style guide, followed by a selection of pages from the 20-page template library.
"Gadget Lab" is the cool stuff section. The pages are highly visual, with poster-inspired review pages; historic pieces on benchmark products; and cogent industry commentary. The "Gadget Lab" mark, designed by Carl DeTorres, is a playful puzzle-like composition that parallels the "how things work" nature of the section. The page identity is suggestive of a beautiful catalog with a service aspect. Striking photography is the primary visual component, with sketchy or diagrammatic illustrations used in a secondary role. Shown below is the first page from the "Gadget Lab" section in the Wired style guide, followed by representative pages from the template library.