MEDIA: The Economist - An Expert's View. Wider use of colour marks The Economist's first full redesign in 14 years, Dominic Mills says

Last week, 14 years after the last one, The Economist underwent a

full redesign. To some, the word 'full' may be a bit over the top.

Unless you are, say, a typographer, many of the changes will escape you.

The excitement should be containable.



The cover, for example, doesn't look much different. In fact, the logo

is changed slightly and there is a new typeface (Officina, for those of

an anal disposition). Inside, the body copy has been tweaked slightly

for reasons, we are told, of legibility. Frankly, I didn't think there

was much wrong with it before. The typographical changes, such as they

are, are hard to detect.



The most noticeable change, the significance of which is hard to

underestimate, is the introduction of colour throughout. For those of us

who grew up with the huge and forbidding slabs of grey that were the

inside pages, this is progress indeed. The fact that it has come some

ten or 15 years after the rest of the world took colour to its heart is

entirely to the point. What makes The Economist special to its readers

is its almost Calvinist disdain for anything that might be described as

gimmicky or modern.



Long-standing readers will be happy to hear that, the introduction of

colour notwithstanding, standards have not entirely slipped. The

magazine's rigorous commitment to journalistic anonymity remains. For

example, in a rare personal touch, an editor's letter introduces readers

to the changes.



But nothing so personal as a name, just a sign-off from 'The

Editor'.



Other changes are equally low-key. There's a double-page spread for the

contents, a standalone cartoon and a better navigational system in the

form of colour straps and summaries.



So what is the point? The answer, I guess, is to make the magazine more

accessible, although the inexorable increase in its circulation suggests

'inaccessibility' hasn't harmed it too much. But it's true that the new

look may well encourage trial from the casual or impulse reader who

would have been turned off before.



A few gripes. Relaunching magazines always pray for a dramatic cover.

The timing of the election announcement must have seemed like kismet.

How else do we explain last week's over-the-top cover casting Blair as

Henry V and the line 'Britain's election drama' to describe the most

undramatic election since, well, 1997. Second, the cartoon on page four,

featuring Ariel Sharon and the Peace Dove, is terrible. If it's funny,

the joke's passed me by. Third, amid all the new colour, the classified

jobs section (starting on page 19) is a depressing roadblock of black

and white. Move it, please, or sell it in colour.



Publisher Economist Newspaper

Frequency Weekly

Price pounds 2.70

Average global circulation 723,000

UK circulation 125,000

Full-page ad rate pounds 49,500

Advertisers include Deutsche Bank, Four Seasons Hotels, BT Cellnet,

Lufthansa, Saab, Vodafone



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