I feel a bit like those folks who complained about the new Tropicana orange juice carton.
The editors of my favorite magazine, Harvard Business Review, have completely redesigned the look of the magazine. Editor-in-chief Adi Ignatius writes in his editor’s note, “we are excited to bring you a more modern, accessible magazine.”
He may want to hold off on the “accessible” comment. For me, the magazine has gotten busier – much busier. Bolder text, more graphics, more color. Everywhere from letters to the editor (now called “Interaction”) up front to the recommended reading list in back. I actually put the magazine down the first two times I started to read it. My eyes were boggling from all the colors and graphics.
In particular, the upfront IdeaWatch section (formerly Forethought) is a mess. Longer articles weave among sidebars – some relevant to the article at hand, others completely separate. And I had trouble differentiating. Is “Faith In Firms – as Low as You’d Expect,” on p. 22, part of the article “Can Technology Really Save Us”? No, it’s not. But the sidebar on p. 23, “Gauging the Impact of New Energy Technologies,” is.
This picture with its brilliant coloration and large, cartoonish numbers seems like what Edward Tufte calls “chart junk.” With four pie graphs, two outsized percentage numbers, the picture was utterly confusing to me. It took me a minute or more just trying to figure out what the graphs are trying to say.
And what of this?
If you can make heads or tails of this without referring to “How to Read this Chart” two or three times, I admire you.
Unfortunately, these examples are emblematic of the whole redesign. It’s far too busy for my taste. The great content is still there, it just takes more time and energy to wade through the clutter to reach it.
Perhaps I will grow used to the redesign. For certain my comfort level with the old design hasn’t helped me adapt to the changes. But I won’t ever love it, and I would be surprised if too much time passed before a “re-redesign” to improve readability and reduce the noise level.