How To Redesign A Magazine

Editor-in-chief Dave Bradley shares a glimpse inside the process of revamping SFX magazine

Yes – that’s a picture of me and Matt Smith. You’ll see it when you open the latest edition of SFX magazine (on sale tomorrow).

When you see the mag on the newsstand, be sure to pick it up – it has an exclusive sound effect cover and the TARDIS noise belts out for a few seconds when you open it. The image on the cover is also from an exclusive photo shoot we conducted with the stars of this spring’s Doctor Who series – it was there that I got to meet the Eleventh Doctor.

But as well as all the cool Who stuff, issue 208 of SFX is special for another reason. It’s where we unveil the brand new look for the magazine. Although the logo remains the same, and your favourite reads are intact, the look, feel and structure of the mag have been tweaked quite a lot.

We first revealed our intention to redesign SFX back in the autumn of 2010. The reasons?

1/ It’s been nearly six years since the last refresh of the magazine. It’s important that SFX stays fresh and contemporary, so the time was ripe to see what needed polishing up.

2/ SFX is at the top of its game. One of the few magazines to post a circulation rise in the last 12 months, it remains a market leader with the highest number of subscribers in its history. This is the perfect time to make changes. We believe that successful magazines should lead not react.

3/ We’ve been popular for 15 years because we adapt with the times and respond to what our readers want. We’re never complacent. It’s wise to stop occasionally and take stock of where the genre is and what our readers expect from a sci-fi mag. A redesign is a perfect time to examine what we do and see if we can do better.

The team and I have been working on the redesign for months, discussing new feature ideas, scouring the forum and Facebook for reader comments about our existing content, researching the market… and experimenting with different layouts and structures to see what works. We’re also investing in SFX , from the Weekender to iPhone apps, from improved paper quality to more content on the website – we know you expect SFX to always be bigger and better.

The process was inspiring and I want to thank our Imperious Leaders at Future Publishing for supporting us during that period and giving us the resources to play with SFX like this. We covered corkboards and meeting room tables with page print outs, different versions of section headers and feature idea sheets. Brainstorming sessions with all the editorial team members gave way to smaller meetings with the company’s creative directors and publishers. They loved what we were doing. A final month of late nights saw most of our original ideas come to pass. A few things didn’t survive the process and the graphic for the start of the Red Alert section went through about a thousand iterations, but we got there in the end.

There’s no mistaking the new look throughout the magazine, especially in sections like Rated and Red Alert: watch out for new graphical quirks, new fonts, new page templates designed to make use of our wider pages. But what will strike you most, I hope, is that all the core things that you love about SFX are still there. David Langford still has a column, the review section is still at the heart of the mag, we still interview authors, Spoiler Zone still analyses TV episodes and we still refuse to get rid of Couch Potato. What can I say? We like eating pizza and calling it work.

But there are shiny new regulars too. A monthly Blastermind quiz tests your knowledge of sci-fi trivia. New fright guru Penny Dreadful brings you news from the horror world. We have a brilliant new columnist in the form of Bonnie Burton . There are more interviews than before, with new Q&A sections in Red Alert and even Spoiler Zone. We’ve introduced a page where we visit readers’ houses and check out their sci-fi collections . There’s more, but I want you to experience it for yourself.

It’s been a fun and fascinating few months and the result is a magazine packed with genuine exclusives – not just the cool Doctor Who stuff, but also a report from the day we had Sir Terry Pratchett visit our offices and our big feature on the upcoming Game Of Thrones TV show. Our reviews section is bigger than ever too. As always, join us on the forum to let us know your thoughts once you’ve read it.

Be seeing you,

UPDATE: Due to circumstances beyond our control, this issue will hit newsstands a day later than predicted. Look out for it tomorrow, Thursday 7 April 2011. Subscribers will get their copies this week as well. Thanks for your patience and sorry to keep you waiting just a little longer!

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