The case for company magazines: why print storytelling still has a lot to say
Specialist, visual & editorial designer
In print’s darkest hour, the magazines published by companies have very little to do with the publishing industry. Here we show you some prime examples, which help us understand why investing in this world is worth it — and how to publish your own company magazine.
To make sure that their sophomore effort would be just as memorable, Netflix changed the live format into an online event. But, most importantly, it created Almanaque Tudum — a 116-page magazine full of exclusive content, interviews with actors, quizzes and other kinds of entertainment formats. It was sent all over Brazil to some 200,000 people.
The really interesting aspect of this brand storytelling activity, beyond the intrinsic beauty of its content and the originality of the product itself (created by designers Leo Porto and Felipe Rocha), was that Netflix — a digital-first company — decided to come up with a physical piece of media to create a strong connection between the brand and its fans.
Netflix’s was but one of the latest cases of company magazine, a trend that seems to be living a (now ten years strong) Renaissance of sorts. Indeed, many companies operating in a range of fields offer ad hoc content to their clients. Usually these magazines are packaged as finely designed objects, with a distinctive and curated style; which is why they usually end up in people’s houses sitting next to coffee table books.
This trend is not too dissimilar to the revival experienced by vinyl in music, where streaming dominates. The charm of vintage, analog objects still goes strong, as the way people actually experience them has no real substitute.
Mondial is the magazine published by Rapha, a Lonon-based brand that makes clothes and accessories for cyclists. Designed by Alex Hunting and Jack Saunders, Mondial expands on the significance of being a cyclist today. It does so using long forms and photo-reportages with an extremely curated design, inspired by old editions of the Gazzetta dello Sport paper.
In 2017 Casper, an American company born three years earlier and specializing in mattresses, decided to publish Woolly, a quarterly magazine that helps readers relax with a mix of personal essays, funny pieces of advice, confessions of yoga instructors, and much more. The magazine comes with each mattress’ box, but can also be bought separately in Casper’s stores.
All of this comes from afar, actually. But let’s not go any further than Bulletin, the oldest banking magazine, founded by Credit Suisse in 1895. It prided itself on being a magazine that “explores the most pressing economic, political and social questions of our time and features global thought leaders, expertise and projects that might change the world”. Or, perhaps, The Furrow, edited by John Deere (starting 1896, with the famous “A Journal for the American Farmer” payoff) and still read by over two million farmers today. The Furrow has the same goal as it had back then: to tell stories that people love reading, and give them knowledge useful to do their job.
The evolution of The Furrow, the John Deere magazine, which boasts over 120 years of history and represents one of the very first examples of content marketing.
maize, our magazine
Well aware of this phenomenon and always interested in all kinds of storytelling, in 2018 we began publishing our own company magazine, maize. The magazine’s goal was — and still is — to make the ideas circulating among the innovators of MAIZE’s international network more tangible for more people. After several issues, maize broadened its horizons and slowly evolved into the product it is today: a magazine that explores the complexities of innovation and the dichotomy between technology and evolution through the lens of human sciences. Each issue is a detailed monograph that explores a central theme through interviews, opinions, brief stories, essays, photographic portfolios and elegant illustrations.
maize speaks to all those interested in philosophical ideas and contemporary discourse, but also whoever is in search of inspiration, new ways to develop a future vision and make decisions, and people who want in on innovation.
maize isn’t just a magazine. It’s the product of a larger effort; it is MAIZE’s cultural factory, dedicated to the evolution of people. With stories, perspectives, and collaborative tools, we help companies become more aware of and ready for the future. maize was born by the desire to leverage our international network and involve our community to create interesting debates: a collaborative effort, to shine a light on the most intriguing aspects of our ever-changing modernity.
So what is a company magazine, exactly?
A company magazine, also known as a corporate magazine (or, traditionally, a house organ) is an editorial product made of content in line with a brand’s “way of thinking”; a space where an organization elaborates, reflects upon, elevates and expands on its own company culture and values. It is not a brochure written up to advertise its products or services; the brand-publisher should indeed never appear directly on the magazine, save for the management/administration/contacts page, which should also include the names of the editor, staff, and contributors.
In short, a company magazine is a brand storytelling asset; a communication channel that creates a story around a specific “world”, tells it to its audience, and thus allows the company to:
- Unify and promote its culture and value, mainly to the outside (clients, partners, and other stakeholders), but also, indirectly, to the inside, strengthening the overall image of the brand among employees.
- Develop an industry voice. Some companies decide to invest in a magazine to better their brand reputation and routinely share content from a specific industry to become thought leaders and legitimize the brand.
- Involve clients, establishing and nurturing a community. Magazines are communication products that, like few others, are useful to channel the zeitgeist of the current times.
From post-its to “ready for print”
Let’s have a look at how to actually make one such magazine then, shall we? The suggested approach tells us that we should start with a co-design phase. Through a shared session, the principles of design thinking can help identify the founding elements of the magazine and define the editorial idea at its core.
The editorial idea is the beating heart of every magazine, as it embodies the vision in which the reader will be able to identify themselves and their values; the anchor to hold on to in the long term — a tight relationship that might indeed last a lifetime. But, to make this happen, every aspect of the magazine needs to reflect the original vision, and then properly convey it to the reader.
Once the editorial idea and the founding aspects of the magazine are defined, the design of the issue zero can begin — that is, a prototype version of the product that comes before the publication of the first actual number. It may be published in limited circulation, but its goal is to test the overall look and feel.
The things being tested are about the magazine’s anatomy: its foliation (the overall number of pages), the main sections, the columns, the formats. It all usually begins with the design of a flat plan, which is a kind of spreadsheet that outlines the entire content list.
Flat plan of maize — The Identity Issue. The different articles are distributed in sequence on the numbered pages, the red lines indicate where the signature change falls (ie a set of pages printed simultaneously on the same press sheet), while the pages containing an “X” symbolize an advertising position.
From the magazine’s structure it is then possible to move to its graphical aspect, in order to define the layout, the fonts, the color palette, etc. in a rulebook. This design phase also leads to the design of the logo, the masthead, and the cover, as well as the final details.
The first real issue picks up from this foundation: the editorial staff chooses the main topics and a content list, then assigned to the various contributors. In parallel with the writing and editing of the pieces, the magazine’s layout is designed following the rules outlined in the design rulebook, which includes asking for the help of photographers and illustrators.
The final phase of a realization of a magazine is then dedicated to the copy editing and fine-tuning of the articles. Both the text and the layout are checked by the editorial staff and the design team to make sure that the product is indeed ready to be printed.
Only then the rotary press is ready to do its job. The final touch of this oh-so-fascinating job.
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