When we began the process of redesigning The Indiana Hospital Association's (IHA) Harmony magazine, it seemed a rather daunting task — we're talking about a publication with a near 100 year history! How do you begin to rethink a publication that has already been innovated on and revamped several times during those years?
Start with Objectives
Our intention behind the redesign was to “modernize” the publication — elevate it from an association newsletter to a more magazine-like format — and to place more focus on members. The design for each issue needed to feel “custom”, yet IHA also needed a more cohesive design ‘system’ that allowed for the efficient production of future issues.
We quickly realized that for the first issue, we actually had two projects in hand: redesigning the publication and producing the inaugural issue of this era’s newest redesign. Which basically means we had one timeline and two significant projects.
We opted to approach the work using parallel tracks — I was focused on strategy and content, while one of our designers, Sarah, focused on design and layout. Doing so meant we had to be intentional about creating specific, scheduled integration and check-in points along the way — to stay in constant contact.
While I was working on content conventions and framework, Sarah was simultaneously designing visual elements and layout styles. If I determined we needed a new section or story label, she needed to understand how it might affect her designs. If she was not able to fit all of a story's content on its page(s), the client and I needed to determine whether to edit the story or make room.
It was a fluid process that required a lot of communication and trust.
The quick pace and fluidness forced us both to trust our instincts, while being responsive and intentional—all while focusing on GSD (that’s ‘getting stuff done’ if you didn't already know).
As part of our ‘modernization’, we also were asked to develop an online version of the magazine — and found the juxtaposition of working in both print and digital at the same time to be interesting. Aspects of content and design were much less forgiving in print, while digital added its own set of unique concerns and challenges — browsing and navigating, archiving past issues, additional "web only" content, etc.
Now on our second edition, we were able to build on what we learned in the first issue and streamline processes for producing the magazine in its quarterly rhythm.
Having already determined much of the magazine's visual language on the first issue, we were able to create a more efficient design/review rhythm with the client — focusing on content and design virtually simultaneously.
Additionally, we chose to use one of our favorite tools, Gather Content, this time around. We often use it on web projects... but no one said that we couldn't use it for a print publication, right? It was awesome. We were able to collect, edit, review, discuss and approve all of the issue's content, as a team, with multiple writers, editors and stakeholders -- in one (simple to use) place.
At the end of the day, we not only helped reimagine a historic publication, we explored new ways in working collaboratively and iteratively.