Did you know that Leadership Journal has never had a major redesign? It's gone through "evolutionary upgrades," as editor Marshall Shelley puts it, but this issue introduces a bold, brand-new look.
Encouraged by the positive response to Christianity Today magazine's 2013 redesign, the team at Leadership Journal decided to overhaul its own look. Starting in January, Shelley, marketing director Cory Whitehead, managing editor Drew Dyck, art director Doug Fleener, and executive editor Skye Jethani worked as the redesign team, with input from the rest of the Leadership Journal team, Christianity Today president Harold Smith, and chief publishing officer Terumi Echols. Outside firm Metaleap also guided the team as they were asked to identify Leadership's audience, what they hoped to bring to their readers, and their vision for the future. Readers, contributing editors, and church leaders were also surveyed.
Those results can be seen in Leadership Journal's layout. There are new practical tools, such as Ideas That Work (examples of real churches meeting real needs), Leadership Shorts (book summaries that get to the heart of the message), On the Ground (case studies of leadership dilemmas with responses from experienced leaders), and My Calling (a pastor's personal call to ministry or a time when that call was tested).
Additionally, Shelley explained that they reorganized the content and simplified its presentation so there are fewer sections: Theme, Culture, Practices, and Soul. "We have now streamlined the structure of Leadership," he said. All the content fits into one of the sections. Each section starts with a splash page which introduces—through design—which section the reader is in. Shelley praised Fleener and Metaleap for their work in designing these introductions, among other new elements.
Art director Fleener likened his role to "an editor with a new manuscript." Metaleap presented some ideas and suggestions and he had to make those fit into the magazine's context. However, not everything made it into the final product. "At the end of the day, it's about the reader's experience and not a particular design aesthetic," said Fleener. He added, "It was interesting working with an outside firm; it made me question and reevaluate everything I've done design-wise (for the Journal) in the last few years."
If you're a reader of both Leadership Journal and Christianity Today magazine, you might notice that the two magazines bear a resemblance. Those similarities are intentional. Leadership hired Metaleap, the same firm that Christianity Today used. And Leadership borrowed some CT elements that they liked, such as the masthead tidbits (although Leadership one-upped CT by focusing its tidbits on theme-related issues, such as "community"). The back page concept, too, is similar: While CT has Testimony (tales of conversion), Leadership has My Calling.
The redesign of the magazines also shows that print communication is still important to our readers. "There are thousands of people who prefer to read Leadership Journal in print than online. We want to continue to provide the best print experience we can, even as we continue to work to provide the best online and mobile experience possible," said Shelley. And the online experience will continue to be improved with updates to its website next year.
Regardless of its format, Leadership makes its readers' enjoyment its top priority. "We have streamlined and clarified the structure and it's a more pleasant reading experience for those who want to read the Journal," said Shelley. Some people might read the magazine from front to back; research shows that a third of Leadership readers go from back to front. "Whichever place you start, there is going to be a good, logical, and emotional flow to the magazine."
Elissa Cooper is assistant editor of Christianity Today magazine.