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
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
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