American City Business Journals (ACBJ) is the Charlotte-based publisher of local business news in over 40 cities across the U.S. I was the García Media art director collaborating with ACBJ to retool their weekly print editions for the contemporary media environment. We sought to create a printed product that could “connect the dots” for readers, providing analysis to buttress the news ACBJ breaks online 24/7.
Every Business Journal has now re-launched with the new design. In the Society for News Design's “Best of News Design” competition, ACBJ’s weeklies won seven awards in total compared to two in the past five years. The awards included overall redesign awards for the Silicon Valley Business Journal and Albany Business Review and a section redesign award for Albany’s “List” package.
After establishing that one model would be created for all 40 ACBJ markets, Project Architect Mario R. García and I developed multiple prototypes that explored distinct ideas of what a modern local business weekly could be.
Our first models, developed during the course of the initial project team meeting, presented two approaches for our test market, Silicon Valley.
The front page of “Model A” emphasized clear organization. It did not feature any “jumps” because story summaries and a self-contained brief opinion piece would be more useful to a reader looking for an overview.
“Model B” was more traditional in its hierarchy and included more text on the page. Comparing Models A and B crystallized for the project team that Model A presented the type of enthusiastic storytelling that ACBJ wanted to pursue.
Model A sparked lively conversations within the project team, helmed by ACBJ’s CEO Whit Shaw and Chief Content Officer Emory Thomas, about the role of print today and in the near future. Mario and I created a new prototype to examine what an elegant, analysis-focused business newspaper might look like.
Although the “lean back” concept was intriguing, the project team concluded that it did not sufficiently represent the newsiness crucial to the best Business Journal reporting. Seeking to combine elements of Model A with the “lean back” concept, we produced what would become known as the “Flipboard” model after the iPad app that makes use of large regions of images in a prominent grid.
We undertook additional revisions to develop the Flipboard model further with the assistance of ACBJ’s new creative director Jon Wile. In particular, we worked to establish a strong Business Journal visual language, with a more consistent typographic hierarchy and a pared-down color palette. The final design debuted with the re-launch issue of the Silicon Valley Business Journal in January 2013.
Since then, ACBJ has brought the new design to every Business Journal nationwide.
A critical part of our work with ACBJ was developing an identity system for all of the Business Journals. Previously, each Business Journal had a unique logo without any connection to the others. Over the course of the project, we created a logo system that could be applied to all 40 titles. We used white “pinstripes” that were memorable enough to become a metonym for the entire initiative, now commonly referred to as “Project Pinstripe” throughout ACBJ.
We designed this identity system to be flexible, with easy application to digital products. ACBJ’s web design team was able to incorporate the logo system into the header across the websites and apps.
The Pinstripe logo now appears almost everywhere—from coffee cups to building signs to the paws of the Milwaukee Bucks’ mascot.
While we developed front page possibilities, we paid equal attention to the inside pages. Through extensive team discussions, we identified three page types crucial to the Business Journals: centerpieces, reporter pages and “Lists.”