You may notice that today’s Spectator looks a little different. We have updated our design, introducing some new features and bringing back some old ones. I suspect that a good number of our readers will not really notice the new design as such - just, I hope, that the magazine looks better. As ConservativeHome says, why tamper with a winning formula? I know that many CoffeeHousers would not dream of paying for dead-tree publications, but for those who are interested in these things I thought I’d run through what we have done, and the thinking behind it.
The problem really hit me last Christmas, when a friend of mine bought a subscription for his father. I wrote his father a letter - basically, a user’s guide to The Spectator. Where to find Taki (usually tucked away under motoring or gardening); the fact that our books section - contrary to its modest show in the magazine - is actually the best in London, if not the world; and so on. When I’d finished, I thought: this can’t do. It’s time we gave our best assets a better show. But this is not intended to be a rethinking or reinvention of the magazine. Since the Charles Moore redesign of 1988, various stylistic points had accumulated over the years. It was time for a spring clean.
The cover page (below) brings back the two-deck masthead (used pre-2003) which we think gives it a bit of majesty. The shadow is dropped, and the spacing between the letters rethought. We’ve added “Est 1828” as we’re the longest continually-published magazine in the English speaking world, and proud of it.
Open the magazine, and it’s straight into the leading item (or two). No change at all here. But then, the contents. As you can see below, it’s one of the biggest changes. One of our problems was that people thought The Spectator was just about politics. It’s impossible to get that impression with the new contents spread.
Portrait of the Week is a feature I brought back a while ago: it’s a triumph of juxtaposition. The Diary (by Tom Hollander this week, a beautiful result) and James Forsyth’s politics column look the same: we dropped the slightly 80s shadow font we used to have for a more elegant alternative.
We randomly place cartoons - and run the gags without censorship. This is rarer than you might think in Fleet St which is (in my view) ridiculously worried about upsetting readers who are mature enough to take a joke. I have a letter on my wall sent by a reader, saying “Dear Sirs: I found the cartoon captioned “Nice tits” to be sexist, politically incorrect and offensive. Please renew my subscription.” Some people buy us just for the cartoons, so we’ve been careful not to cut down on them.
People come to The Spectator when a soundbite is not enough - but there is a growing appetite for shorter pieces. The Spectator has always had chunkier, smaller pieces (diary, Charles Moore’s notes) but we have introduced four smaller pieces for those with less time to read us. We now have a one-column review in both the books and arts sections, on items that would not otherwise have squeezed in. They’re tiny, but brevity adds variety.
Then, Barometer. It’s a weekly column of facts and figures, and if we’re doing our job properly they’ll be the type that you’ll read out to the person next to you on a Sunday afternoon. Our first example of it is below. For example, did you know that, when polled, 27 percent of Americans think David Cameron is a film director, 14 percent think foreign head of state and 11 percent think he’s a football player? That kind of trivia. Fun, but makes a point (how Cameron has a long way to go before he wins Blair-style recognition in the US).
For the many readers who start reading the Speccie from the back, we have given arts and books its new opening page which signals a change of pace. Taki and Jeremy Clarke, who were previously kinda buried underneath motoring or gardening, also start on their own page: a new "Life" section. Jason Ford has drawn illustrations for Taki, Jeremy, Melissa Kite, Dot Wordsworth and Ancient & Modern. Morten Morland has drawn caricatures for our columnists.
If you like what you see, then thank Kuchar Swara. He's one of Britain's most promising young designers, and has - I think - really understood the tone and voice of The Spectator, and, crucially, that it did not have to change too much. For the things you don't like, well that's what editors are for. Good or bad, I would love to hear the thoughts of any Speccie readers. It is, after all, your magazine.