November 20, 2015
Dog Ear Consultants
Chicago Booth Magazine (University of Chicago Booth School of Business) just wrapped up a year-long redesign project, re-launching in October with its Fall 2015 issue. We talked to editor Judith Crown* about the whys and whats of remaking the magazine.
What was the impetus for the redesign?
The Booth magazine team agreed the magazine could be more distinctive and better reflect the personality of the school: brainiac, irreverent, and showcasing an appetite for conversation, discourse, and debate. The publication could serve as a home for the exchange of ideas and diverse perspectives.
The team previously had conducted two focus groups, interviewing a range of alumni across different graduation years, programs, and professions. Readers liked the Booth wonkiness of the publication but requested a publication that was easier to scan, more fun, and offered ideas that could be applied at work
There was a real editorial restructuring here, too. Can you talk about your thinking behind the organization of the new design?
The editors wanted the magazine to demonstrate the range of faculty, alumni, and student successes and endeavors, interests and opinions. To anchor this, the magazine created regular columns and departments that introduce a multitude of voices. The community is invited to participate, not just as subjects but as contributors.
Chicago Booth Magazine became a platform that opens a forum for faculty, alumni, and students to share their special expertise, whether (in the case of the first issue) it’s the methodology for deciding where to locate a food truck, finding the best place for a business lunch in Singapore, or explaining why it’s important to stay on top of email. Faculty, alumni, and students are the authorities, imparting not just the story of their career success, but opinions, recommendations, and takeaways that can be of value to the broader community—with an unmistakably Booth point of view.
“Faculty, alumni, and students are the authorities, imparting not just the story of their career success, but opinions, recommendations, and takeaways that can be of value to the broader community.”
In a brief note in the magazine, you mention one of the goals here was to prompt engagement. How did you approach that idea?
The editors want alumni to feel that this is a magazine for their community and that anyone can participate and share their views. The opinions, recommendations, and achievements are presented from one insider to another. Taking the idea of engagement a step farther – some of the departments are actual dialogues. For example “Corner Booth” is a conversation between two alumni of different generations. The fall issue features two graduates talking about the prospects for Medellin, Colombia. The “In the Classroom,” feature had a professor take readers inside his marketing strategy course and two students commented on how they applied the marketing principles in their jobs.
The redesigned class notes department is structured to promote more engagement. With stories and photos of alumni in a range of activities – from yacht races to life cycle celebrations – the editors expect more alumni will share stories beyond the usual job promotions and speaking engagements.
You redesigned the website as well. How much did the magazine’s digital presence play into your thinking?
The team wanted the digital magazine to make the most of the medium by offering additional and online exclusive content—primarily videos and interactive graphics. The magazine had complementary videos in the past but they weren’t well displayed. Also, it was important that the content can be easily shared across a number of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Linked In. Finally, it was a priority to design the site to be welcoming, easy to browse and navigate, and showcase text and images to their best advantage.
What has the reaction been like from your readers?
The initial response was enthusiastic and the magazine received letters commenting on particular stories, which didn’t happen in the past.
*Crown led the redesign of Chicago Booth Magazine. She is now principal of Verbatim Partners Inc., which provides editorial and design services to colleges and universities. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org