Three years ago, when I took over Texas Monthly from the previous editor in chief, I elected not to mark the occasion with the sort of sweeping changes that often accompany a shift at the top of the masthead. Some new hires were made, some small adjustments here and there, but by and large the design of the magazine remained the same, as did the writers, the regular features, and the style of the covers. New editors almost always rush to put their stamp on a publication as quickly as possible, but this often has to do with the editor’s own desire to shed the baggage of the past and see his ideas on the page. In our case, the magazine was running smoothly (that spring we’d won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence), and the time, I decided, was not yet ripe for a top-to-bottom renovation.
Instead, we focused on less obvious improvements. We deepened our commitment to the kind of long-form literary journalism that put Texas Monthly on the map in the first place. We recognized that, with the news cycle speeding up and becoming more relentless, the value of our brand of storytelling was only increasing. When information is flying by every day, sometimes in no more than 140 characters at a time, an eight-thousand-word article that sits prominently on newsstands, coffee tables, or tablets for one full month plays a unique and vital role. So we worked harder than ever, sentence by sentence, to make these stories—which constitute the heart of any issue of Texas Monthly—not just good but great, well worth a significant investment of our readers’ time. We also rededicated ourselves to civic journalism. This has always been a part of Texas Monthly, but we moved it to center stage, publishing special issues on immigration and drought and hosting numerous roundtable discussions on the state’s most serious problems. Meanwhile, we poured energy and resources into other platforms of our business, launching the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival (coming up on its third sellout year this month), building one of the largest social media audiences in Texas, rolling out two new apps, and creating a daily news destination on the Web, the TM Daily Post.
So we’ve been busy. Now the time has come to knit up all this disparate activity in the next incarnation of Texas Monthly. The issue you hold in your hands (or are reading on one of your devices) is the culmination of a long process of re-imagination. As they say in the industry, the magazine has been redesigned—the pages approached as so many blank slates on which to reinvent the idea of Texas Monthly. From front to back you’ll find new concepts, new looks, and new writers. And naturally, since we’re long past the era when a redesign stopped at the edge of the page, those changes will soon be reflected digitally. With the February 2013 issue, the magazine will celebrate its fortieth anniversary, and we’ll mark the occasion by debuting a completely overhauled website.
The changes have been made thoughtfully and carefully and in the fullness of time. But they are not timid. They are wholesale and they are dramatic. And they require some point-by-point explanation.
The Logo. One of the goals of this redesign was to move forward while looking backward, and the best example of this is the revamped logo. Longtime readers may notice that the large “ball terminals” on the a in “Texas” and the y in “Monthly” look familiar. That’s because they’re vestiges of our very first logo, which was considerably more squat and bulky than the one that replaced it in 1990. The second logo, updated slightly in 2003, remained in use for 22 years. The brand-new logo combines elements of the previous two: the boldness and character of the first with the refinement of the second.
The Type. Reading a print magazine should not be difficult. So though we’ve stayed with Sentinel, our trademark typeface for body copy, we’ve made several changes that should please those readers who sometimes complain about legibility. (I told you I was listening!) Not only has the font size been increased to 9.25, the largest we’ve run in decades, but the vertical spacing between the lines (known as the leading) and the horizontal spacing between the columns have also been increased. This gives the pages more breathing room and makes the experience of looking at them easier and more pleasurable.
Touts. Between the Behind the Lines column that you’re currently reading and the Reporter section, you’ll now find Touts, which takes its name from the shopping and events page that ran from the very first issue in 1973 until 1987. We’ve recast Touts as a lifestyle section, the first full-fledged such section in the magazine’s history. For now, the section comprises five pages, each of them meant to deepen a reader’s understanding and enjoyment of Texas. The opener features a giant three-dimensional T composed of images related to pages within the section. (That T, which you’ll see throughout Touts, as well as the R that brands the Reporter section and the D at the start of the Dining Guide, is from a very unusual typeface called Maelstrom, which has a modern yet Western feel to it that suits us well; it is, to say the least, something you are unlikely to see in any other magazine.) Below the T is a small events calendar— the five things you should do in Texas this month—by Michael Hoinski, who also writes our weekly online column the Drop Everything List. Then comes Essentials, a product page by writer-at-large Kristie Ramirez. The idea behind this page is simple but elegant: every month Kristie will take one of the essential elements of classic Texas style and find several variations on that theme created by homegrown designers.
After Essentials comes the Wanderer, as perfect a pairing of writer and column as I’ve ever seen. The writer is associate editor Jordan Breal, whose enviable job it