Redesign of The Week magazine cover and a better contest layout
The Week is a great newsmagazine that digests articles from other media in a variety of subjects. It is a joy to read. Bothered by some poor design across the flag at the top, I sketched some layouts and proposed the one below.

Assessment of the current layout
• The thick & thin serif font used for the subheads doesn't hold up well when set in reverse.
• The double lines of varying thickness are busy, clutter the top and distract from the picture and the headlines.
• The font and layout are a bit too boring, normal, standard, and run-of-the-mill - all inappropriate for a new concept in weekly newsmagazines.


Strengths of the new look
The text type
• The Helvetica font (without serifs and thin strokes) for the article teasers holds up well in reverse.
• the Week is set in a more familiar serif font - more comfortable to the viewer. The more personal lowercase t in the softens the lead-in to the word Week, as if taken out of a sentence.
• Combining both of the subheads All you need . . . and The best of . . . into one statement is clearer and easier to read.
• The issue date is prominent for later referencing or verifying currency of the issue.
• An appropriate order of information: logo flag, issue date, mission statement, article teasers, and at the bottom, volume and issue info (not very important to the reader) and finished off with the web address.
The layout composition
• One strong vertical band - a fresh approach to magazine flags - fitting for the Week.
• The strong sense of order is established by the flush right alignment of the text type, all text set in one font (except for the logo flag set in a second font).
• Both fonts, Times and Helvetica, are popular, legible, recognizable, and comfortable fonts for viewers.
• The band is on the left of the cover but the type is set flush to the right - symbolic leaning to both the left and the right (balanced journalism?)
• In newsstand racks the top is exposed and sometimes, if arrayed overlapping, only the left side is exposed - the new layout keeps the Week always in view.
• The smaller logo flag is appropriate for the content - the Week is about stuff that matters - not an arrogant flag title that yells at the reader (don't cover image, headlines, and article teasers sell the magazine?)
• Readers will easily adapt and accept the new look:
     • Home subscribers need only a slight reference to confirm the magazine title in their mailbox.
     • Newsstand regular buyers will easily recognize the unique format and concise flag logo.
     • New readers will be drawn to the cover picture and headlines first, then the flag of the magazine - a more appropriate order.
• The layout can be easily adapted for the Week website.

The new look breaks the mold of magazine cover design just as the Week broke the mold of magazine content.

The design of the letter I sent to the editors.

Dates
Designed: August 1-3, 2004
Submitted: August 3, 2004

Improved layout for iPad stories - less wasted space, less scrolling


Improved layout for The Week Contest

This is a regular feature in the magazine, The Week. Its a good magazine, but this page can be laid out to be comprehended more clearly.
In the example of the existing layout on the left, there are 3 bits of info: This week's question, Last week's contest, and How to enter (this week's question). The entry instructions (listed third) refer to this week's question (listed first) - the sequence of the info is This week, Last week, This week.

Design lesson
Design problems should be assessed and solved while looking through the eyes of the user, reader, audience, target market. Most bad design is a result of a designer creating solutions without researching and considering the target audience of the piece. I suspect more magazine readers are interested in reading the funny entries to Last week's contest than are interested in entering This week's question. Therefore, the design should recognize that and lay out the information to accommodate that audience - by putting the winning entries first (or bolder, in a box, in color - something that allows the reader to access the information that is most important to him/her). Simply group like information together in proximity. How to enter should follow This week's question, as shown above on the right.

Update epilog
I sent a link to this essay to The Week but did not receive a response. Months later, I sent a link to the creator of the contest:

She responded almost immediately:
      hey -- i like it! i'm going to forward it to our editor, bill falk. thanks! L
         Great. Thanks. I look forward to checking the magazine for improvements.
      well, who knows. i did send it along to the editor. let's see what happens next! L
The editor has yet to make the change.

Dates
Sketched improvements: October 12, 2009
Submitted comment to The Week: October 26, 2009
Submitted comment to puzzle creator: December 16, 2009
Response from creator: December 17, 2009

www.jamesrobertwatson.com/theweek.html