How’s Your Design Looking These Days?

By Paul Heney
ASBPE Cleveland Chapter Treasurer

As I recently posted on the ASBPE Cleveland blog, it’s critical that b2b editors don’t lose sight of how important design is to our magazines. It’s an easy thing to forget in these increasingly crazy days of shorter deadlines, publishers shouting about reduced ad revenues, smaller staffs, increased competition, the move to online, etc., etc.

In that spirit, I mention that recently, winners were announced in the first ever TABPI Design Challenge, a competition that was developed to showcase some of the amazing talent that we have in our little world of b2b publications. The Challenge is also important in that it strives to get design professionals in our industry engaged in discussions about best practices.

This first challenge described an art director for the fictional Concrete Times magazine caught in a proverbial crossfire. The magazine’s publisher demands that the focus of the April 2008 cover showcase the magazine’s 40th anniversary. On the other hand, the editor-in-chief is more concerned with the main feature story, focusing on the first ever “Top 100 Leaders” ranking. That should be the focus. Of course, there is practically no art budget to speak of. So, what do you do? TABPI asked B2B design professionals across the globe to weigh in with their solutions to this dilemma by submitting their own cover proposal.

The results of the Challenge are quite interesting. You can see the overall winner, along with five honorable mentions at Design Challenge. There are also comments from the judges on both the positives and negatives that each solution brings. Take a look at the winners, forward the link to your art director or designer, and start a discussion as to how your team would have handled this issue. Which of the submitted solutions do you feel worked best? Would any of them have worked or not worked specifically for your magazine’s audience?

Talking about design with your art director shouldn’t be forgotten in these days of increased competition and shorter deadlines. Don’t forget how crucial design is to a successful b2b magazine property.

You can also check out the Tabbie Awards to see past winners going back to 2004. That is another fascinating way to start some design discussions with your art director. Browse through the jpegs and pdfs of the winning cover and layout designs, and chances are you’ll begin to brew some great ideas of your own.

Heney is president of Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI), based in Cleveland; senior editor with Penton Media’s Hydraulics & Pneumatics; and former national president of ASBPE (1999-2003).

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