Letter from the Editor

From the Editor

Notes on the redesign of Technology Review. What have we done?

  • This letter appeared in the January 2005 issue.
  • by Jason Pontin
  • January 1, 2005

This month, Technology Review introduces a new design, our first since 1998. Maybe no one besides editors and art directors is very interested in the details of magazine design: I will postpone a description of our new clothes until the end of this column. But a redesign is also an opportunity for the editors to reconsider the contents of their publication. Technology Review will be a different magazine –and our readers and advertisers may be interested in learning what we have changed and why we changed it.

Here’s one thing that will not change: our subject matter. Since Technology Review’s founding in 1899, we have described emerging technologies and explained their impact. But with this redesign, we hope to do more.

We will write more. Our frequency, which has been 10 times a year, will increase to 12, and we will publish at least 20 more pages of journalism every issue.

This story is part of our January 2005 Issue
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Our scope will expand. In other words, we will define technological “impact” more expansively. This month, you will see a few new sections. They include “Briefcase,” case studies that examine how individual organizations succeed or fail in using new technologies; “Reviews,” which seize upon a book, article, or report, the release of a product, or the occasion of an event to address some controversy; and “Synopses,” which describe recent, important technological innovations or scientific articles and explain why they matter. Finally, at the very front of the magazine there is a kind of executive summary of our best articles called “readme.” Each “readme” ends with a call to action: we tell you what you should do.

Our articles, which are good now, will be better. We want our stories to be more thoughtful and analytical. We hope our style is clear, simple, and economical. We will avoid jargon and terms of trade. Among our biggest changes is whom we will publish. The journalists who write for us will be the very best: writers who are both experts in their fields and possessed of insight, observation, and wit. A good example is Sherwin Nuland, the author of next month’s cover story, who has written a critical profile of Aubrey de Grey, a promoter of antiaging science at the University of Cambridge in England. Dr. Nuland is a professor of surgery at Yale, but he has also written for the New Yorker and won the 1994 National Book Award for How We Die. A word about our columnists: every month, we will invite a different technology celebrity to sound off in “Megaphone.”  In “Megascope,” Ed Tenner will write more soberly about the less obvious consequences of new technologies.

I hope that these remarks suggest our broader goal: we want Technology Review to be the best technology magazine in the world, and the one publication that everyone interested in technology must read.

And what of the design itself? We owe our new look to Roger Black and Jackie Goldberg of Danilo Black. Roger Black is perhaps the most famous living magazine designer, responsible for the designs of iconic publications as varied as Rolling Stone, Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, Reader’s Digest, and Foreign Affairs, as well as the logos of Time and Newsweek. Very briefly, the design’s main elements are:

A new typeface for our text called walbaum, a lesser-known Germanic cousin of the classic 18th-century fonts Bodoni and Didot; a new typeface of our own for headlines called Techbaum; and a new typeface for all navigational information called Akzidenz Grotesk.

Simplified navigational cues throughout the magazine: whenever you open Technology Review, you should know where you are, what the section is for, and what any individual story is about.

A new emphasis on charts and information graphics to represent econometric and scientific data. We know that you, our readers, were mostly trained as engineers, scientists, business managers, and financiers: you are accustomed to assimilating information as data, and you’d like to see the numbers upon which we base our analyses.

Bill Emmott, the editor of the Economist, in announcing his own magazine’s redesign, once wrote, “Good design, like good writing, should blend into the background; it should be the servant of editors and readers alike, not their master.” I could not say it better myself and will not try. Please write to me at jason.pontin@technologyreview.com, and tell me what you like or do not like about our design and new sections.

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