Canadian Magazine Industry News
14 February 2011,     TORONTO
Retail News gets overhauled by Underline Studio
It may seem like Business 101, but knowing the medium in which you'll be designing was the deciding factor that resulted in Toronto-based Underline Studio winning the RFP to redesign the Canadian Gift & Tableware Association-published Retail News magazine. “In final discussions one of our members asked representatives from the final three contending design firms what magazines they read and Underline Studio was the only one of the three with an answer. The staff at the other firms didn’t read magazines,” says Retail News editor Erica Kirkland.


With its zest for magazines it’s no surprise Underline Studio often works with the medium. “We are great lovers of magazine design,” says Underline Studio creative director and founding partner Claire Dawson. “We have worked with magazines including University Affairs and Prefix Photo.”

The redesign of Retail News began in October, 2010 and included every aspect of the magazine, from its size — which changed from 8.25 X 10.87 in. to 9 X 10.75 in. — to the way it uses advertising and everything in between. “The publisher said to the editor if you could do anything do anything in the magazine what would you do and they gave her free reign to do it,” says Dawson.


The gift shop-owning audience of Retail News is very design and fashion savvy, says Dawson, so one of the main goals behind the magazine’s new look was to give the book more of a consumer magazine feel through better quality photography and subtle design changes. “The design was really inspired by books like Domino, Real Simple and Martha Stewart Magazine,” she says. “Before the redesign the book had more of a traditional trade magazine feel. We took a look at the departments and made changes to the headers and page numbers so that the sections have [metaphorically speaking] their own voice independent of the magazine’s features, in which we used a lot of full-bleed illustration and photography.” 

Past ways of working with advertising in the book were “thrown out the window” in the new design, says Kirkland. “We no longer allow partial ads on editorial pages, only on the page opposite the masthead,” she says. “That was a big shift for us.”

The magazine also made the decision to begin sticking to ad deadlines and not allow discounting, says Kirkland. “We are sticking to the rule that if you don’t have the ad in by the deadline it’s not going in,” she says. “That’s a traditionally counterintuitive thing to do in trade publishing but we have seen our market share soar because of it. I think there is room in any market for two magazines but you can’t rely on discounting to be your edge, it doesn’t work.”

The first issue of the redesigned Retail News was sent to subscribers in January, says Dawson. Underline Studio will continue to design the bimonthly magazine on a contractual basis.

— Val Maloney
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