News / Publication

Creative director Patrick Li on T: The New York Times Style Magazine’s conversational new redesign


Yesterday, those who picked up a copy of The New York Times will have noticed an approachable, welcoming and conversational revamp of its style supplement, T: The New York Times Style Magazine. The redesign, led by creative director Patrick Li and the magazine’s new editor Hanya Yanagihara, is a reflection of contemporary culture that sees the magazine bending the rules of being a supplement to a larger editorial.

The redesign is vast both creatively and in terms of editorial content, introducing a series of regular new features. The introduction of Hanya Yanagihara, a revered writer who rose to literary fame following the success of her second novel A Little Life in 2015, sees the magazine become more packed with editorial content than its more visually-led predecessor. “We talk about the magazine as a reflection of our culture,” creative director Patrick tells It’s Nice That. “Of course, Deborah [Needleman, the publication’s previous editor] spoke about that but in a different way. It was very aesthetically driven but Hanya’s vision incorporates a lot more of a response to the times and she wants it to be more engaging. The challenge is to still make a luxury product, but also to be aware of what’s happening around us. We talk about the role of artists, designers, and the creative industry as a reflection of what we’re experiencing today and I think that there is a truth to reflecting that in the work.”

Due to the editorial factor of the magazine increasing, typographic refreshes are a main factor of the redesign with Patrick taking time to consider how a page can still remain breathable. “The typography changed considerably, we went from this really elegant serif typeface, Schnyder, to two new typefaces which have a density or a compactness.” The visual direction of these new typefaces is inspired by found references of 70s news magazines as “there’s something very informational about them, and the type size may be small but they’re very bold,” the creative director points out. Patrick commissioned foundry Commercial Type to develop the new fonts, a type foundry he has worked with during his time at The New York Times since 2011.

To begin the process of creating two new typefaces for the magazine Patrick explains that the teams shared “a visual world around what we were imagining and how we might see it be used,” he says. “But basically I guess it’s really a combination of a conversation and sharing visuals on the mood and the place we imagine using it. It’s different for each one and the points of departure weren’t the same from the previous typefaces I’ve done with them.” The first new typeface implemented is Kippenberger, a font inspired by artist Martin Kippenberger’s books, catalogues and the work of Jim Dine. The second is rooted in more traditional graphic design influences titled Fact, and grew out of research into Herb Lubalin at Cooper Union (The Herb Lubalin Study Centre of Design and Typography) and further research on gothic black letter type at the British Library.

Typography additionally plays a lively part in T Magazine’s cover design, switching the placement of its recognisable logo, a three dimensional shaded capital T. Where other magazines stick to the tradition of a headline or logotype sitting comfortable in its usual place, T Magazine has decided to regularly switch it up. “On the cover the logo won’t be in the upper left hand corner anymore. I mean, we’re a magazine that comes with a newspaper and reaches millions of people, but we don’t need to play by the same rules because it’s not on the newsstand,” Patrick explains. The logo will of course find its place on each cover of the supplement but, for instance, where this issue’s T sits below the headline, the following issue will see it sit somewhere else. “It’s going to move around and acknowledge the fact that we’re not tied to the newsstand restrictions.”

The magazine’s redesign is full of playful but logical details such as this. While its previous template was not broken, Patrick admits that with Hanya’s alternate outlook to the previous editor, “it just required a refresh”. One of its most obvious moves in terms of changing direction is its choice of cover story for the relaunch issue. Despite being released among the global thralls of various fashion weeks, the team decided to put feminist artist Judy Chicago on the cover rather than a more clear fashion focused choice. This decision opens a door to readers to discover how creativity, whether it be between feminist and fashion, both influences and interrupts one another.

Noting references is also a large factor of the redesign. Hanya does this editorially in an editor’s letter pointing out the books, artists and cultural moments that have brought this change. In terms of regular features Patrick explains that a new section of the magazine described as “the well opener” is fully dedicated to this. Placed in the middle of the magazine it “divides the front content from the back where we’re revealing inspiration of reference visuals that we’ve compiled during the ideation phase of the content…it’s something that could be considered random, but we celebrate that, each issue will share the backbone of the stories.” Other regulars include Page 76, where an artist interprets what is happening on that page of newly released books. Playing with book reviews in this way, “is one of these new rubrics that is trying to create more specific content for the magazine,” he says. “I mean we have subject matter that many different magazines cover, and we try to think of different ways to approach it.”

With just one issue released so far and gradual online changes happening over the past few weeks, readers can expect T Magazine to continue introducing newer design and editorial factors in future issues. One constant, however, will be its editors’ and creatives’ interpretation of contemporary culture. “We all participate in it and we can be passive or we can be active. I think that Hanya’s goal is to really activate all of our collective involvement,” says Patrick. “Globally, it’s such a strange time and we’re hoping that the content, by association with the look and feel of it, will spur more thought about that. Artists of a creative class can’t deny the importance of their time, whether it’s conscious or not, and it’s about bringing some of those things to the surface.”


T: The New York Times Style Magazine: The Well Opener


T: The New York Times Style Magazine


T: The New York Times Style Magazine


T: The New York Times Style Magazine


T: The New York Times Style Magazine


T: The New York Times Style Magazine


T: The New York Times Style Magazine


T: The New York Times Style Magazine


T: The New York Times Style Magazine: Page 76


T: The New York Times Style Magazine: Page 76