Just picked up the Feb issue of the Atlantic yesterday and found it had been the subject of pretty extensive overhaul, both in terms of appearance, organization, and some content. I wasn’t aware that the magazine I had been reading and enjoying for several years was flawed such that it needed to be fixed! Flipping through the issue, I found myself searching every page for “changes” I could immediately dislike, whether or not I could exactly remember how that section had appeared differently last month. And I realized deep down that in another month or two I would probably have the barest of recollections that the format had previously been different.
The intro says the changes were made “to return to our roots – to build a magazine that showcases and enhances the written word. Everything has been done with the aim of making the magazine more navigable, more pleasing to the eye, more visually coherent – and therefore easier to read.”
Well, I personally never had any trouble “navigating” the old format. Exactly what is “more pleasing to the eye” is rather subjective, no? If “visually coherent” means obscuring the distinctions between different sections, upon first glance it impresses me that they have succeeded. “Easier to read.” Come now. Do people subscribe to the Atlantic for an “easy read.” Who the hell are they trying to appeal to? Folks who want to celebrate “the written word” but only if it can be read “easily”? That’s an interesting demographic.
Chicagoans may recall that a year or so New City drastically reworked their format, apparently in a calculated effort to make their publication less readable. With the result that I pick up the paper less regularly and, when I do, there are sections I no longer read because of their format. (I subsequently had a letter printed in that publication objecting to the elimination of Ben Katchor’s comic, which they subsequently reinstated. Woohoo!)
Anyone recall an instance when a pubication underwent a major overhaul that really seemed to improve the product? Most such instances strike me a essentially change for change’s sake.