New Work: ‘Consumer Reports’
Today Consumer Reports launches a redesign developed by Luke Hayman in collaboration with the magazine’s editor Kim Kleman, creative director George Arthur and art director Tim LaPalme.
Each month Consumer Reports reviews hundreds of products across all categories, from packaged foods like peanut butter to big ticket items like SUVs, from household goods like laundry detergent to electronics like televisions and laptops. Headquartered in Yonkers, New York, the magazine is independent and not-for-profit, and to remain free of bias, does not accept paid advertising or free samples for testing. It purchases all the products it tests at retail, like consumers do, and conducts its testing at its in-house laboratories.
Remarkably, given the current climate for print media, Consumer Reports is one of the few magazines that is not only healthy but thriving, with a monthly circulation of 4.2 million and newsstand sales that continue to grow. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise in today’s economy, given the magazine’s subject: helping consumers find the best quality products in relation to cost. And as a trusted source for product information over 70 years, the magazine has successfully made the transition from print to online, with the largest paid subscription website base of any magazine in the world. It is perhaps best known for its annual issues devoted to automobiles, which affect millions of car sales every year.
The magazine is an American institution, and in its reach and accessibility, a touchstone of information design. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it? The magazine recognized that its presence was successful—but that it could be improved. And using the testing formulas it has applied to countless products over the years on its own design, it made itself better.
A look at the redesign after the jump.
Hayman worked with the magazine to find ways to maximize the efficacy of its design, to better present its findings and showcase the integrity of the brand in large and small changes. The resulting design is clean and efficient, accessible for the casual reader (or shopper), but with enough flexibility to accommodate the depth of information compiled by the magazine’s thorough research.
The covers have been focused to feature fewer cover lines for the same number of stories. (Half a dozen lines is the new goal, down from as many as 15.) Product images are treated in an iconic manner and organized with backgrounds of clean white space and bold graphic shapes. In the masthead, the logotype has moved from two lines to one to allow for more space for the cover story and to make simpler compositions. The distinctive red “O” of the Consumer Reports logotype, echoed in the graphics of the magazine’s signature product ratings charts, has been changed from a three-dimensional orb to a flat shape that overlaps with the other letters to save space.
Inside the magazine, the table of contents fills the first, full spread—a coveted position that in other magazines is traditionally turned over to advertising. The designers worked on a reorganization of the magazine’s sections, with an emphasis on signposting and navigation. These include Up Front, a news and notes section of short items on product trends and advances and spurious advertising claims; regular columns (Health, Money, Safety); and features on specific product types. The magazine’s hallmark product testing is now found in a section called Lab Tests. A consistent palette of colors has been selected for sections. Throughout, the font family Fedra was chosen for its functionality and is used for headlines and text.
As has been the magazine’s tradition, to keep its presentation of products as realistic as possible in terms of the consumer experience, products and packaging are represented by photography that is simple and direct, without stylization. Packaged goods appear in their boxes or cartons; appliances appear as they would on the showroom floor. In the Test Labs section, photography of product testing has been reintroduced with images that have a journalistic quality that documents the process. Illustrations continue to be used, but are more prominent than in the past and are playful and intelligent in a way that complements the straightforward nature of the product photography.
One of the most basic, and subtle, changes has been to the information charts in the product testing sections. Products are more clearly separated and rated by type, and designations have been simplified. The “Quick Pick” label has been eliminated and incorporated into the product overviews; “Best Buys” have been streamlined to a simple checkmark. The typeface Amplitude has been used for its greater legibility at a narrow, small size (thanks to better inktraps) that allow more information to be condensed into the charts.
Project team: Luke Hayman, Rami Moghadam.