January's issue of Car and Driver magazine sees what many would term a "major" redesign. We've asked Eddie Alterman, the new C/D editor-in-chief, to walk us through some of the layout changes of the newly-redesigned buff book. — Ed.
Cover: This is where we used to put all the new BMW 3-series and Chevrolet Corvette variants. Now, you'll notice a bunch of new and unexpected cars, like the Miata.
* Notice how the cover image itself no longer sucks.
* OCDers such as myself find that the red and blue bars around the "and" now extend that last pica down to the baseline. You'll sleep better tonight knowing that, trust me.
Table of Contents: Whereas Car and Driver's previous table of contents (TOC) used to have all the easy readability of Finnegan's Wake, we tried to make the revised TOC a model of clarity and simplicity.
* All the big features are on the front page.
* All the other departments are on the second page.
* We decided not to describe TOC on the TOC itself, for fear that time-space would collapse upon itself.
Columns: Traditionally, there have been two types of C/D readers: Those who skip the columns, and those who write several hundred letters a month describing their various disappointments with said columns. With this new design, we expect this to remain unchanged.
Upfront: With all the Internets out there, how can a monthly magazine do breaking news with a straight face? It can't, which is why we're not doing it anymore (Praise the Lord! —Ed.). Upfront will instead be a mini-features section with long-range forecasting, infographics, humor pieces and standing elements like Tech. Dept., which breaks down some recent piece of new technology.
* This section opens with a big marquee that carries a mini-TOC over it, giving you a free first hit of all the dope (Dropping the precious slang...you know, for kids! — Ed.) inside.
* Arrows! Arrows!
* The rail-type navigation at the top of the section's pages is an old C/D hallmark, and it's back because it looks cool and it works. With a glance up at the page corner, you always know where you are, even if you already knew you were on the toilet.
Rigidly formatted websites like this here Jalopyneck are great at delivering quick info, scoops, photos, and interaction, but in general even with great photos the web doesn't allow for the visual differentiation of one story from the next, and it struggles to impose a hierarchy on stories. A magazine is different. Great photography and art direction make each print story unique and allow the reader to sink into the page. Smart story pacing lets the reader know what's most important. This redesign plays to those strengths of the printed page, and does what this medium does best: Epic visuals, longer stories and comparison tests, and great packages jam-packed with stuff.
The Charts: We made the comparison-test charts easier to use by putting all the info in one place, rather than scattering the various pieces around like so many chicken parts in a Santeria ritual.
* The bar graphs are back! Long the best part of the entire goddamn magazine, our comparative bar graphs return to the road-test page.
* Also, check out the sweet fake magnifying glass in there. Designing that took Nathan, like, three hours.
Drivelines: What's a car magazine without car reviews? Nothing, that's what. The revised Drivelines section will provide more piquant opinion and more background on the cars we cover.
* The thumbs-up/thumbs-down graphic replaces the "highs/lows," because Recreational Drugs Fortnightly threatened to sue.
Gearbox: At Car and Driver, we test stuff. We don't just paraphrase the press release for the latest auto-fellator - we actually do the hard research. Every month, the Gearbox section will put a category of accessories or tools or other aftermarket hardware through its paces.
What I'd Do Differently:
Wherein we try to get really important people to tell us how they've screwed up. Rarely works.
(You can read Car and Driver by subscribing — it's only, like, $10 a year — or you can buy an issue at a newsstand — it's only, like, $10 per issue. — Ed.)