New Scientist research

As this is the magazine I will be designing my editorial illustration for, I felt it would be best to get myself a copy, and see what I could take from this. Clarification had given by the tutor stating we did not have to rigidly follow the style of New Scientist, which greatly aids creativity, but I still wanted a foundation from which I could build and to ensure I understood what the audience were used to expecting from their magazine.

First of all I wanted some information about the magazine. So I managed to find the 2012 media pack that had been issued. It can be accessed here, and I thought it would be interesting to state the aim of the magazine below:

“New Scientist keeps its readers up to date with the worlds of technology, health and public policy – providing scientists a view beyond their niche of expertise.”

Audience Demographics: It then goes onto say how the audience is made up of “scientific professionals” that “come from a wide range of displicines and skills”, with a couple of pie charts to show the gender ratio of readers (53% female, 47% male) and how 65% of readers have a Ph.D/M.D, 19% have a Bachelor’s degree and 16% have a Masters degree.

What can be taken from this? Well I would say that readers of New Scientist are highly intelligent, with a professional career in the science industry, who take an interest in widening their knowledge in life. This will mean that the articles featured can be wide ranging, as the audience will be used to reading about completely different topics in sequence, and by taking an interest in areas they do not specialise in, I believe they are willing to take more time to understand what they are reading as long as it is communicated effectively. Having a good intellect will also help them to understand concepts that may have to be watered down with another audience.

Dimensions: I have measured this, and they are 203 x 266mm, so any design that is completed will benefit from being a portrait rather than being landscape.

Reading the New Scientist (6th October 2012) – My thoughts:

A very apt copy I felt, with the special report that was carried out on memory, so relevant to the psychology of someone. As this was the subject on the cover, I will start here. Seeing the editorial image produced for the cover of the magazine and the start of the report showed how important it was to gain interest for the magazine and that is the style I think I will be heading in, as if my illustration will feature on the front cover as well. I felt the face constructed out of pages was extremely clever and and a successful way of showing memory in a visual format, as it is not something that I feel can be easily expressed in imagery, whereas with this project the face is visible, it is the conveying of that psychology that is the important feature. I was also pleased to see it was a perfect example of editorial imagery. The example spread above is the closest thing to the layout I will be producing an illustration for.

Here is another example of editorial imagery within this magazine. The ‘Instant Expert’ feature needs a cover page, that gives an inclination to the topic to be discussed over the next few pages. This does not especially need to explain anything in particular to the audience because there is a clear title and I could see from reading it, all the information is clearly gone through on the next page. Therefore there is the opportunity for some art to be used.

The style of New Scientist I think can be summed up very well in the adverts for itself that are shown in the magazine as they are very simply constructed and are thought provoking, which earlier research has shown to be the ethos of this magazine. The feeling I got as a first time reader was how the articles were easy to read, informative, and to the point, with minimal excessive fuss, which I think is a quality that would need to be expressed in my design, it should be easily understandable or have a way of easily reading the information to ‘get’ the design and the article.

I could see why there was not a particular design style we had to follow for our designs in the brief, because looking through a lot of this issue, there was no visible design structure I found inspiring. However, I did think this spread was interesting, made good use of a grey background, with green detailing, and allowed the photographs to look their best.

 I was pleased to see some cartoons present within New Scientist, as I felt this added some visual integrity to an ocean of type and the qualities I could see here is how quickly you knew what the text would be about instead of reading the title. I personally enjoy the style of these sketches, as they are very basic and cartoon like, as you would expect to read in a newspaper for example, the most familiar to me and my favourite being Matt for the Daily Telegraph.

Being a magazine dedicated to educating the professionals that read it, it is no wonder that there is information that needs to be conveyed to the audience. The best way of conveying the main facts within an article is to produce information graphics to help the reader and this is what has been done, and done well I think. Colour coding and emboldening key facts is used to make the priority information stand out as well as the use of imagery to visually quantify what the audience is looking at, I believe this is another area in which my editorial illustration could cover if I can think of a design to do that.

What have I learnt from this research? Well, aside from becoming familiar with New Scientist, and what its audience expect from it, here are a few points I am thinking about to take into further research:

  • More detailed illustrations work better in editorial formats to lead into an article, smaller cartoons work best to illustrate a small block of text, say in a letters page.
  • There is no real specific design style, aiding creativity of the illustration, allowing it to have a greater chance of achieving the aim of informing the audience.
  • Artistic or informative? While these two factors can coexist, the decision needs to be made whether the illustration is very informative on its own, or whether it is more artistic, letting the rest of the spread describe it fully. This is where it would be more helpful to have an understanding of the article being written, perhaps a draft copy (I wouldn’t expect a final copy with the deadlines magazines work to) to allow the piece to tie in closely with the thought process.