I became the first in-house designer of Optimum Nutrition's 34 year history, and was tasked with a cover-to-cover redesign.
Since 1987 ION has produced a magazine, called Optimum Nutrition, to fulfil its charity remit of “educating and advancing knowledge in nutrition”. Originally released as a monthly issue, it quickly became a quarterly.
From the start it had always been edited and produced externally, with this changing in the Summer of 2015 with the arrival of a new, in-house, editor - and I was given the honour of being the magazine’s first in-house designer.
Previously, the magazine had always stood separate in it’s own corporate structure (meaning it reflected the whims of numerous designers and production offices) and was not a priority in marketing terms.
As well as this, competing publications were also launched, resulting in sales declining and by 2014 it had less than 100 print subscribers, and a significant percentage of the free distribution were being discarded.
Output mediumPrint, Digital
I had to help revitalise the magazine by increasing subscriptions, single-issue sales, it’s reach, and place Optimum Nutrition confidently at the forefront of nutrition news.
With the editorial team I led and implemented the cover-to-cover redesign of the magazine, it’s transition to new digital platforms, and it’s new marketing strategy.
Small steps to a big goal
Before any design took place I carried out research, surveys of our subscriber base/readers, competitor analysis, and understanding internal constraints to balance progressive design against time/cost available to ION.
I found the audience is predominantly aged 40-70, has various professional and educational backgrounds, and prefers a mixture of short and long form articles.
I also found that to ask £5.99 for a single issue they would want the magazine to stand out from its competitors and to be bespoke in look and feel.
We decided the best way to achieve our goals would be to create a bespoke, industry-leading magazine using a “staggered” approach over 20 issues. This would make each issue exciting and progressively move it forwards, while at the same time being considerate of not “shocking” or “putting off” current readers.
Previous style and the competition
We found the old design style had become bloated and stale, with a shift towards skeuomorphism and excessive ornamentation. For example, bullet point symbols formed of the “seed” in the ION logo, graduated composite imagery as backgrounds, multiple font colours in sentences, etc.
We also found a mixture of layout and typographic styles being used, which further increased confusion. Lastly we found some of the stock imagery was inappropriate for a professional publication. For example, nude women, caricatured illnesses, etc.
Competitors had also increased in the time since the magazine’s inception.
We decided on a few progressive changes to help our goal:
Change inner pages from glossy, heavyweight GSM, paper to lighter weight, recycled, matte paper for an “airy”, less “dense” feeling
Tweak masthead logo to fit in smaller space
Decrease reliance on composite images
Place article references in footnote rather than have its own section
Change font family and size for better legibility and to increase word count on page
Consistent typography styles across all pages for layout items (headings, standfirsts, box outs, etc)
Consistent fonts across all pages
Use colour around text strategically and sparingly so it stands out more when used
Greater emphasis on horizontal rather than vertical images, so reader eye easily moves across page (broadsheet newspaper style)
Produce images that mesh with the article rather than compliment it
Reduce the visual clutter on the page by:
Removing background effects
Using three column grid consistently and across magazine
Increasing column size and gutter
Decrease top and bottom margins and increase outer and inner edge margin
Do not use text wrap around images
When using stock photography, manipulate the image to make it bespoke
I successfully implemented the process and by our deadline ION had a nutrition magazine that stood out against competitors. Sales and the subscriber base increased throughout this period as expected, and for certain periods greatly exceeded these expectations.
It also became a great marketing asset at trade shows, conferences, speaker events, etc – often running out of stock, and many times being responsible for customers to become ION students in some capacity later on.
Starting from less than 100 print and no digital subscribers, as of November 2021, it has 762 print and 4,759 digital subscribers.
This is an increase of over 950% and 4,759% respectively.
It has sold an additional 1,200 direct print copies, and the distribution is around 15,000. The redesign also resulted in the magazine being turned into a publication in USA for 3 years.
The print magazine is located across the UK in supermarkets, spas, 4 and 5 star hotels, and various City of London locations. It is also available digitally and the subscriber base is now worldwide.