Redesigning Boundless magazine – how we brought members on the journey

Alex Drew , , 16 December 2019

There are no two ways about it: redesigns are an absolute joy for any magazine creative team – an exciting opportunity to fall in love with your brand all over again and raise it up to glorious new heights of editorial prowess.

It’s also true that while many Art Editors are in their element experimenting with fonts, colour palettes and grids all the live-long day, readers are often less keen for you to meddle with their magazine. Familiarity is reassuring, and redesigns and rebrands tend to be viewed by the general public with a healthy degree of scepticism. Isn’t this just change for change’s sake?

As a result, there are risks for both agency and client in a redesign: yes, it may offer a way of reaching out to a new audience, or rejuvenating the brand, but it also could alienate longstanding readers. They’ve invested in a particular look and feel, and grown to trust it. Who are we to interfere?

So, when it came to redesigning the magazine for Boundless members six months ago, we were cautious. Excited, yes – but cautious. We’d been working with Boundless for over two years, and had got to know a lot about this remarkable organisation, whose heritage as the Civil Service Motoring Association dates back to 1923. We knew its 200,000+ members cared passionately about the magazine, and we were also aware that both the magazine and the whole organisation (which rebranded to Boundless in 2016) had gone through a lot of change. Clearly, we needed to tread carefully.

From 1959 to early 2019: CSMA magazine covers have evolved significantly over the years, so further change needed to be handled sensitively

But Boundless were already working on refocusing their brand, bringing their history and public sector credentials into the foreground. We saw an opportunity to blend their new directions with our thinking to create a truly complementary product – one that echoed every brand sentiment. We were also able to tap into the brand’s heritage to deliver a more sophisticated product to the client. Both of these elements would amplify trust and authority for an altogether more mature magazine, one with which the members could truly relate.

We also saw an opportunity to escort the members through this shift by combining the redesign with our first ever member issue – an edition of the magazine dedicated solely to sharing member stories, experiences and recommendations. By putting the member at the very heart of our content, and with a fresh aesthetic, we intended to show the reader how greatly they are valued and how, in return, they can trust Boundless to reflect their interests and passions.

Taking “member-first” literally

But how would the magazine actually look? First and foremost, we were eager to introduce a sharp new font, that would complement the high-quality content and contributors contained within the pages. Our choice, Futura, is actually almost contemporary with Boundless, having been cut in 1927 – but it hasn’t lost its sleekly modern impact.

Next up, was giving the content more room to breathe by introducing additional white space and using it in a more considered way. Both of these changes almost immediately resulted in a more sophisticated feel and better pacing, which lead us on to the next port of call: flatplanning. Changing the running order of the pages to better reflect brand values, for instance, by bringing readers emails and letters right to the front of the magazine to echo Boundless’ “member first” mantra, felt like a necessary shift.

But despite all of the careful consideration, the agonising over every tiny decision, there’s still a chance that your work can miss the mark. Thankfully for us, the feedback from the membership after the first issue was enormously encouraging, with one reader contacting us to say:

“In the 40 years I’ve subscribed to CSMA, this is the best issue ever. I could enthuse about nearly every page – well done and thank you”.

The client too was overjoyed: “The new look brings a sense of authority and maturity, and the whole team worked tirelessly to give the content in the magazine the breathing space it deserves. It also helps with the pace and energy of the magazine, giving each area of the business the right amount of attention.”

Proof indeed, if ever one needed it, that respectfully updating a brand can yield a pleasing outcome for all concerned.


The new Boundless cover design: a reorganised masthead area which celebrates members, and a confident statement of the organisation’s history in the ‘Since 1923’ tab at the bottom


A reader-focused feature: we took member Liz Bedford for a spin in her dream car, a Morgan Plus 4

A drive feature – bold, simple typography and dramatic imagery

PS In December, we were thoroughly chuffed to have our redesign work recognised in the Immediate awards, contested by 85 different consumer and customer magazine brands from across our business, and judged by our peers. The Boundless team won Creative Team of the Year.


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