The essence of the Monitor – refreshed

Here's why we launched a redesigned look to the weekly magazine.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

Perhaps you’ve already noticed something different about your Monitor Weekly. This issue marks the launch of a refreshed design.

Why did we do it? The simple answer is that, increasingly, we’re not thinking of ourselves as a Weekly and a Daily and a website. We think of ourselves as The Christian Science Monitor, and we want all the different ways we publish to reflect that unity. 

We also want to provide the best reader experience, so the designers and Weekly staff conducted extensive user testing, sitting down with not only subscribers but also people unfamiliar with the Monitor. 

What differences will readers see? Designers Julie Fallon, Jake Turcotte, and Karen Norris explain the changes.

Organization. The Weekly is now organized into three sections: news, perspectives, and arts and culture. The cover story, for instance, now starts in the center spread. The idea, Jake says, is that “we wanted the cover story to be the finale of the news section ... before we get into essays, editorials, and features. [And] ... because of the way the magazine is bound, it naturally opens to the cover story.”

The designers also discovered that many readers start reading from the back, so they put some of our most popular features there, such as In Pictures.

Look. The idea was to bring the Weekly and Daily into closer alignment. That meant using the same color palette and also creating more white space. “We wanted the design of the magazine to give the content some space to breathe, to let the design reflect our unique approach to journalism, and to let readers take a step back to think about the ideas behind the news,” Jake says.

One thing the designers also heard loud and clear was how much readers love our photographs. “Julie really worked hard to enlarge the size of the photos ... between Viewfinder, which starts in the beginning of the magazine, and In Pictures, which ends the magazine,” says Karen. 

“It’s a really lovely set of visual bookends. And filtered through the magazine ... the photos are enlarged. So visually there’s a lot going on,” she says.

Content. Not many changes here. Virtually everything that was in the Monitor last week you will find this week. There are two notable differences.

First, the section previously known as “Heart of the News” has been renamed “Humanity Behind the Headlines.” Some readers found the old title confusing; the new title conveys the essence of the section more clearly. And second, stories in the Humanity section will now have an element called “Why We Wrote This,” which is something we pioneered in a previous iteration of the Weekly.

“We hope to continue more of those throughout our longer stories, such as the cover story, and some of our science stories,” Karen says.

The new design is all a part of constantly refreshing the Weekly to make it better fit readers’ needs. Says Julie: “It’s a living thing. It should always be living and evolving, and we’re always getting feedback from readers.”

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

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