A fresh, new design for The Christian Science Monitor Weekly

Easier to read, more space for photos, and a clean, contemporary design – the refreshed Monitor Weekly begins with the combined April 22 & 29 issue. We take an inside look with three of its designers. 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff

If you are a subscriber to The Christian Science Monitor Weekly, you’re in for a great, new experience in print. If you are not a Weekly subscriber, now’s the time to discover this engaging magazine that delivers on our promise to go beyond the headlines to deliver ideas driving global progress.

We haven’t changed the editorial content of the Weekly – we’ve just made it a lot easier to read, thanks to a cleaner design, clearly defined sections, and better use of photos. You’ll also find the print magazine and our digital product, the Monitor Daily and CSMonitor.com, will share the same color schemes and fonts. You’ll feel right at home in both products.

The Weekly team has been retooling the magazine page by page, section by section, getting feedback from readers and then retooling again. To get a look at our refreshed Monitor Weekly, download the PDF of the magazine and if you like what you see, we’ve made it simple to expand your current Monitor subscription to include home delivery of the Weekly.

I had the opportunity to sit down with three of the key designers recently, and I asked Jacob Turcotte, Karen Norris, and Julie Fallon what’s been refreshed in the Monitor Weekly. 

Karen Norris: I think what readers are going to notice right away is that it's organized very differently. We have broken the magazine into three sections: a news section, a “perspectives” section, and an arts and culture section. The news section is the first half of the magazine. Another change is that our Heart of the News section will become Humanity Behind the Headlines.

Jacob Turcotte: We felt like we had really taken a major step forward with the Monitor Daily in 2017 and we wanted to make sure that that kind of modern feel and ease of use, the focus on accessibility for readers, and a sense of humanity made it into the Weekly edition.

One thing I noticed right away is with the table of contents page; there’s a lot more white space. Why so?

Karen: We tried to do that throughout the whole magazine and that's part of the design – the new look and feel is to really create a cohesive, clean, and more contemporary design that reflects the content.

Jacob: 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. We wanted to reflect that in the new design.

Julie Fallon: I also think that by cleaning it up, we really helped with the readability. It's much easier to read page by page, just cleaning it up and giving it that nice, modern look.

So readers won’t feel unsettled by this?

Jacob: Any current reader is going to be able to find their bearings pretty quickly, and hopefully they'll find this to be a more usable and clearer expression of Monitor journalism. It will be easier to read with bigger images.

Karen: When we set out on this “refresh” it was literally just looking at how we could improve the look and feel of it. As we started to really pull things apart and look at them, we realized the only way of doing this is to completely deconstruct the magazine, and that's what we did. We were in one of our conference rooms. Julie printed out all pages. We had them all up on the wall and we just started looking at them in a whole new light and rearranging them. Then things started making sense, where certain pages would fall.

The cover story now starts in the center spread. What’s the rationale behind that?

Jacob: We wanted the cover story to be the finale of the news section. It’s the biggest section of the book, but we felt like the cover story serves as a really nice finale before we get into essays, editorials, and features. A really nice part about the center spread is that because of the way the magazine is bound, it naturally opens to the cover story.

Will readers see changes in the way photos are spread throughout the magazine?

Karen: Absolutely. 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. It’s a really lovely set of visual bookends. And filtered through the magazine, for instance in Humanity Behind the Headlines, the photos are enlarged. So visually there's a lot going on.

Julie: What we also learned from user testing is that people were always saying to us they wanted bigger visuals. So that was an easy guiding point.

What about editorial content. Any changes there?

Karen: The only thing that we did was bring over another element which is included in the Monitor Daily. It’s such a great element: Why We Wrote This. These will be included in all the Humanities Behind the Headlines stories and we hope to continue more of those throughout our longer stories, such as the cover story, and some of our science stories.

There’s been a conscious effort to integrate the look of the Monitor digital product – the Daily – and the website into the look of the magazine. What was the reason for that?

Karen: Branding. You know when people see our Monitor yellow and other elements, they know exactly where they are and what they're going to get. It’s a wonderful way of creating distinction not only in content but in the look.

Jacob: We think about the Weekly and the Daily as complementary halves of the same product.

What kind of feedback did you get from readers as you went through the process of refreshing the Weekly?

Jacob: We went through four rounds of user testing, we talked to familiar readers and unfamiliar readers, and we learned a lot about how we had been doing things that we didn't expect to learn. We continued to refine the Monitor Weekly as a whole by printing full prototypes and gauging people's understanding of what they were seeing and what we were trying to do with our special editorial approach to the news.

Karen: One major result of our user testing was our realization that readers were not understanding the purpose of our Heart of the News section – a major section. They thought they were going to get current up-to-date news; they were very confused by it. So we changed that to Humanity Behind the Headlines. That was a huge discovery.

After the new, refreshed version comes out, will you continue to gather feedback and make changes accordingly?

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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