How to redesign DG
Our art director Christian Tate takes us behind the scenes of his latest redesign of Delayed Gratification magazine
7th October 2022
Vorsprung durch text size
Since the very first issue of DG in 2010 I’ve been regularly tinkering with the design as the magazine’s content has evolved. We’re always aiming for the next issue to be the best one yet, and, like the painting of the Forth Bridge, it seems to be a never-ending task (though ironically, the painting of the Forth Bridge was eventually completed in December 2011, a year after DG’s first issue, thanks to advances in paint technology).
We have also made several design leaps forward along the way – for instance choosing clearer, more readable fonts for issue 6, and totally restructuring the format of the magazine with issue 30 when we moved our daily News in Brief stories to the Almanac section at the start of each month – and radically introducing page numbers for the first time! There’s also been a very niche design discussion about ligatures in our logo covered previously on the DG blog here
We made another big leap with our latest issue, number 46 and finally addressed something that our readers regularly comment on – the size of the text on the page. We crammed a lot of text into our first issue, with more features, fewer pictures and a tiny text size of 7.5 points to accommodate everything. We sneaked things up to 8.5 points with issue 6 where we also introduced a new serif font, Miller – a highly readable modern ‘scotch-roman’ typeface popular with US newspapers – paired with ‘Basic Sans’, a clean and clear contemporary sans serif with a variety of different weights, great for infographics. We tweaked the text size once more in issue 42 to 8.75 points but it was clear what we really needed to was take the whole magazine apart and rebuild it again based not on how many words we needed to squeeze onto a page, but rather what was most readable. So issue 46 debuts a 9.25 point-sized body font, in a magazine that has been reengineered from the ground up for readability.
There are other innovations too. Under the bonnet there are time-saving Indesign scripts that automatically format text to the appropriate style, while more obviously for the reader our new headlines are less weighty, giving a bit more breathing space before each feature. We’ve also tweaked our colour palette for the first time since issue 6 to increase the contrast and readability of coloured text in April, May and June – since issue 1 there has been a different colour for each month of the year to aid navigation.
Initially DG’s colour palette was based on seasonal hues with cold grey and blue for winter months, fresh greens for spring, warm orange and red for summer, and, less attractively, dull murky browns for the autumnal months. With issue 6 we adjusted those unsatisfactory autumnal colours to pink, purple and mauve, creating a colourful spectrum across the year which has now become a firm part of DG’s identity.
A beautiful end
One thing that we have never changed is the fact that we have no paid advertising in DG – and thus our inside front and back covers, which can be prime advertising real estate for other magazines, are up for grabs. I’ve always considered DG to be a bit of a book in terms of design and it is with this thought that we introduced in issue 6 the idea of having an endpaper design on those pages.
An endpaper in practical terms is what helps a book’s cover bind to the inside pages, and they are often decorated with patterns or illustrations or effects. I love the idea of echoing the endpaper by placing something beautiful to bookend the magazine, and our first and final pages have evolved to incorporate DG’s spectrum of colours – each loosely based on the idea of a complex labyrinth of events being brought together and ordered cross the twelve months of the year. I call the three versions the lattice, the web and this latest version is the lightwave – I hope this incarnation is our most beautiful yet.
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