When the seventh issue of Boat Magazine dropped through our door a couple of weeks ago we interested to see that it had undergone a redesign. For the Lima issue, London studio She Was Only had refreshed the look and feel with a new masthead, a new approach to layouts and some nice new visual tricks. We spoke to the studio’s Craig Scott about their involvement in the globetrotting magazine.
How did you come to take over the design of Boat magazine? What was the brief you were given?
After six issues the editorial team felt like it was time to readdress what the magazine was and where it sat on the shelf. It started off as a portfolio piece for their creative studio not as an intentionally commercial proposition, and with the magazine relocating its HQ to Los Angeles (from London) the editor Erin Spens felt that now was good time to revisit how its design.
Chris, one of the partners at She Was Only has had a working relationship with Boat Magazine since its third issue in London and subsequently joined them on location as a contributor in both Athens and Kyoto (fourth and fifth issue).
When Erin asked us to refresh the magazine we jumped at the chance but having this prior knowledge meant that we were never working from a totally clean slate.
What would you characterise as the main changes you made as a studio?
One of the biggest changes we made to the magazine was its masthead. We aimed to create something that was not only recognisable, but confident as a brand mark. The previous masthead was more discreet in a luggage tag lock up. Our brand refresh elevated the masthead, making it a more ownable and distinguishable asset, which works both off and on the cover.
Inside the magazine, we introduced cleaner layouts, allowing the content to stand out. We created a sophisticated typographic palette inspired by classic literary journals, which we think reflects the quality of the journalism. We utilised large titles to celebrate the stories and bring the contributors to the forefront.
Tell us about the painted type treatments introducing the articles; how did they come about?
The brushed type treatment that punctuates the magazine was influenced by hand-painted signage commonly found in Peru. We wanted them to be large, impactful, and introduce character without interfering with the articles, so used them independently as title pages. By staggering these throughout, we also varied the pace and flow of the publication.
The challenge with Boat is that each issue focuses on a different city; how do you respond to that as a designer? What might change to reflect that and what will stray consistent?
There is the obvious temptation to run wild and totally change up the design of each issue to reflect the city but we feel that this might be a bit short-sighted. Some cities have obvious colour palettes, type choices and visual cues that we could draw upon and some just don’t. We wanted to create a system that is flexible, clean and recognisable but also allows for a little bit of expression.
One consistent thread though is that wherever Boat visits, it brings or sources local contributors of a very high calibre, ranging from Pulitzer prize writers to award-winning photographers. By treating their content with respect and applying cleaner editorial layouts we not only showcase their work but more importantly, champion the content. This is where the character of the city really comes through and why the magazine has such a loyal fanbase.
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