Weekend Heller: A New New Republic

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Fans of The New Republic may recall its earliest incarnation, when Walter Lippmann wrote his best work and the covers looked like this (although most of us were not alive, I recall seeing it in my grandfather’s home):


The magazine has had its share of makeovers over the past 100+ years, with the most pronounced changes coming in the 2000s. From logos to interiors, The New Republic has certainly had identity crises, as these 1991-2014 designs suggest.


On Aug. 11, The New Republic announced another redesign of the magazine’s print edition, which hits newsstands Aug. 18. “The magazine’s new look is the first step in a holistic redesign of The New Republic,” reads a press release, “including its website later this year. The September/October issue features a distinct style inspired by the magazine’s legacy of quality journalism and in-depth storytelling and provides a richer reader experience, improved legibility, and a more welcoming appearance.” The design was developed by mgmt in Brooklyn.

New Republic cover.jpg

“With this redesign, we created a look that is in keeping with The New Republic’s roots as a publisher of literary nonfiction. The 10 print issues we produce each year ought to be our most timeless work: magazines that reward being picked up now and returned to later,” said Gabriel Snyder, editor-in-chief.

In December 2014, only a month after celebrating its 100th anniversary, The New Republic was shaken when a dozen staff members and a large number of contributing editors left the publication, “angered by an abrupt change of editors and what they saw as a series of management missteps,” reported The New York Times. The departures of the full-time employees, “who represent a significant chunk of the magazine’s 54-member staff, followed the resignations on Thursday of the magazine’s editor, Franklin Foer, and its longtime literary editor, Leon Wieseltier. Some staff members have asked for their work to be removed from the coming issue of the magazine. …”

The magazine’s owner, Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook, had hired a new chief executive, Guy Vidra, against the wishes of Mr. Foer. “The appointment caused a clash between the more literary tradition” of the magazine and the Silicon Valley business approach advocated by Mr. Vidra, who had come from Yahoo! “Mr. Vidra said in a memo to the staff on Thursday that he wanted to reimagine the publication ‘as a vertically integrated digital media company.'”

How to keep print’s virtues alive while moving a legendary magazine into the vortex of digital media is the goal that most publications have today. How to integrate through design is the challenge. Whatever the reasons, change is inevitable and this touches on personnel, content and design.


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