Discover’s New Look

If a cross country move and a new staff weren't enough change for Discover, the science magazine unveils a redesign

It’s been a tumultuous year for Discover magazine, after uprooting its offices from New York to Wisconsin, hiring an almost completely new staff, and, at the apex of the commotion, revamping its website. On Thursday the 33-year-old popular science magazine announced yet another big change: a complete redesign of the print magazine.

“The short answer is, yeah, it’s been totally crazy-making—but in a good way,” says editor in chief Stephen C. George, who started in November after two years as executive editor of the Wisconsin-based Reader’s Digest. George has been working on the redesign since his first day in the office, alongside a staff of 15 new editorial and design hires—much smaller than the publication’s New York team—including a newly hired design director, Dan Bishop.

“It’s been kind of like what you do with a magazine startup,” says George, “Just that sea change of relocating the magazine, having to start up with a new staff, and, before you really get a leg up under us: Oh, let’s redesign the magazine.”

So, without further ado—the fancy new Discover:

The overhaul aims to streamline the magazine’s style to match its content, with an “elegant, eye-catching and easy to navigate” design, according to a release. The revamped publication will also include a new tagline—“Science for the Curious”—and an understated new logo that nixes the magazine’s trademark all-caps for a subtler mix of upper and lower case letters for “a more serious yet approachable tone,” according to Bishop.

“We found it was an easier read,” says George, “and it doesn’t look like the identical twin of the Discover card anymore, which is nice.”

The new design shifts Discover’s visual focus—especially infographics and other news-centered maps—in “The Crux,” a new science news section that replaces the magazine’s “Data” section. The new design will also expand “Hot Science,” Discover’s culture and technology section, from a small, front of book placement to an expandable spread in the back of the magazine. “We wanted to give it some room to breathe,” says George. “Whereas some issues we might only have room for a couple of book reviews and a calendar, there’s really more to geek culture than that.” The larger spread will include more regular room for “Citizen Science,” a feature that highlights the work of amateur scientists around the country.

The upgrades go into play in Discover’s September issue, which hits newsstands on August 6.

Discover’s held on to its 550,000 subscribers since the move to Waukesha, WI, a suburb of Milwaukee close to parent company Kalmbach Publishing Co. headquarters. Although offered positions in Wisconsin, the bulk of the pre-move staff chose to remain in New York. Editor Pamela Weintraub continues to work remotely and Corey Powell, formerly the editor in chief, remains a telecommuting editor at large, writing “Out There,” a space and physics blog.

As for the new staff, perhaps the redesign launch signals a lull in what amounts to a pretty manic 10-month training period. “There isn’t a person on staff here who hasn’t been putting in well over the 40-hour workweek,” says George. “It’s not uncommon for me to look over my email and get messages from folks at 11, 1, or 2 in the morning. And I’m answering.”

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Alexis Sobel Fitts is a senior writer at CJR. Follow her on Twitter at @fittsofalexis. Tags: ,