UpFront: February 2014

A change of scenery

It was August 1987. The Living Daylights, the first Bond film of Timothy Dalton’s tenure, ruled the box office. Bob Seger’s “Shakedown” topped the charts. And Business North Carolina, just shy of 6 years old, suddenly changed the way it looked. In reality, the redesign had been months in the making. The most obvious difference was the cover, with a bold masthead and white border. That was ironic, considering that in the same issue we announced that one of our old cover designs had just won first place in a national competition. But it was time for a change, and the white box became a defining characteristic, like Time’s red frame. The new design also won national awards, but what was fresh and bold became stale and old. So now it’s gone.

This issue introduces our first comprehensive redesign in 26 years. Through the years, the magazine has seen many changes, but the more things changed, the more our basic look stayed the same. Had we, a magazine that celebrates an ever-changing state economy, become a slave to tradition? Were we like the companies we criticize for being stuck in the past? Did our design still work? What you hold in your hands answers this inner turmoil.

It’s one thing to know you should change; it’s another to have the ability to. That changed when we hired James Denk as art director in August and began the process that led to the redesign. We gave you Jim’s bona fides a few months ago (UpFront, November 2013) — among them, stints as creative director of The Charlotte Observer and design director of the Detroit Free Press Sunday magazine — but his résumé doesn’t do justice to his talent. He turns complicated ideas into compelling graphics (check out pages 64 and 65 to see what I mean) and is a gifted illustrator (the cover is but one example of his work in this issue). Two words — clean and elegant — guided him, creating a design that magnifies editorial and art by letting them speak for themselves.

Using his framework, we reimagined two major sections of the magazine. NCtrend used to present two pages of rote statistics, which were a little like bran — important but bland. Now, as you’ll find upon turning this page, it’s an engaging section of profiles, interviews, infographics and, yes, data that provide an attractive foyer for the magazine. Beyond it, starting on page 22, our revamped Statewide still provides all the business news you need from each region, but we’ll lead the section each month with a look at some aspect of a Tar Heel industry, beginning with the burgeoning business of making alcoholic beverages. Jim refurbished our feature well and other parts of the magazine under the watchful eyes of Editor in Chief David Kinney, who hewed to the goals that have guided his nearly 30-year leadership of the magazine, and Design/Production Director Moira Johnson, who has been with us nearly that long and kept us honest and on track. They’re why this incarnation of BNC is as reader-friendly as its forefathers.

I started kindergarten the same month BNC got its white box. Back then, I had trouble writing my name and thought girls were icky. I had to evolve. In 1987, 6.4 million people lived in North Carolina, 3 million fewer than today. Hugh McColl’s NCNB was a year away from acquiring First Republic Bank Corp. of Texas. Pat McCrory was two years from winning a seat on the Charlotte City Council. Our old design had a good run, but it’s time to think outside the white box.  



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scampbell@businessnc.com