Everyone knew former Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes was going to shake things up at The New Republic, but nobody expected a redesign of the classic DC title to be quite so... sans-serif.
The New Republic — your favorite political reporter's favorite political magazine — was in a slump financially when Hughes bought it from Marty Peretz in March. Hughes was the ideal benefactor for the magazine, at least in so far as he brought along money to burn. The magazine could grow, uninterrupted by corporate pressure. So he opened up an office in New York and hired former editor Franklin Foer to turn it around.
The next step was a redesign, and so far it's... something. Take a look for yourself. This is (was) the current The New Republic logo:
You will notice we didn't say, "the new The New Republic," because there is no "The" anymore. Or, at least, it's there, but hidden. And the whole thing is in sans-serif fonts, which is already raising more than a few eyebrows.
Before we get to the dramatic reactions to the dramatic change, let's be clear: The New Republic's logo has been shifting for years. This is what the original The New Republic logo looked like when it was founded in 1914 (taken from a 1937 issue):
The logo was spruced up, just a little, for the 1980s when Michael Kinsley and Hendrik Hertzberg exchanged editing duties:
And it was changed again in the 1990s when Andrew Sullivan was running the magazine:
There was also this hilarious logo complete with an old-timey western feel the mag used during the 90s under Chuck Lane:
It's also not the first time it was sans-serif, either. They ditched serifs in the mid-2000s, too. We forgave them, though, because everyone made horrible fashion decisions in the mid-2000s and media people weren't addicted to Twitter:
TNR trotted out Dick Barnett, their creative director, to give an interview to
a very respected media or design critic their tumblr to make sure everyone stayed calm through the de-serifing. Of course, it would have been nice if the interview didn't play out so much like a press release, but, anyway, here it is, with emphasis added for the most shameless self-promotion:
When Dirk Barnett joined our team at The New Republic a few months ago, he brought with him a vast experience designing for major publications, an impressive breadth of design knowledge and history, and a keen eye for fresh, original concepts. Our new logo—the creation of Dirk and his team—is a work of art unto itself. We sat down with Dirk this week and asked him a few questions about his design process and the creation of the new New Republic.
Interviewer: This is a big, bold logo. What made you decide to create such a forceful design?
Dirk Barnett: When Frank and Chris first brought me on board, there was a lot of conversation about balancing what The New Republic has been, and what it can be. While there were many logo iterations that delved into a more serif-based, elegant approach, in the end we decided to break out of The New Republic's heritage and create something fresh and new. We have one shot at stopping people at Hudson News, or the iTunes store, or in their Google Chrome browser, so we wanted a logo that stands tall, and demands a presence, without being too in-your-face. Given who we are and our 98-year history, there is definitely a level of authority and elegance you want to maintain, but also a need to bring it forward to hold the interest of our current readers, while attracting new ones.
So Barnett's big idea for a new logo is to completely ignore the history of a magazine on the eve of its centennial year in print, then design a logo almost indistinguishable from every other sans-serif magazine logo? Well, at least it was already reminding us of the logo at The Daily, Rupert Murdoch's iPad-only newspaper that... failed miserably. Though, Poltico's Dylan Byers notes the font is the same used by other riveting reads, like The Hollywood Reporter and Golf Digest.
The reaction has not been overwhelmingly positive, but it's not all bad, either. Indeed, the logo critiques seem to have divided into the following groups:
Dismissive 'They're Still Publishing' People
In other news, The New Republic still exists. RT @ledbetreuters: I'm surprised at howfew weighed in about the new New Republic logo.— Tom Gara (@tomgara) January 8, 2013
I'm surprised at how few world leaders have weighed in thus far about the new New Republic logo.— James Ledbetter (@ledbetreuters) January 8, 2013
Those Who Mourn the Serif
Even the Sans-Serif New Republic— Sasha Issenberg (@sissenberg) January 8, 2013
The New Republic's new logo is... sans serif: on.tnr.com/REdbob— Kyle Chayka (@chaykak) January 8, 2013
Those Who Mock the New Logo's 80s Vibes
Hey guys I just found out about this great 80s new wave band called The New Republic tnr.com/sites/default/…— Armin Rosen (@ArminRosen) January 8, 2013
Those Who Mourn The 'The'
Dear New Republic Logo, why keep the "the" at all? Yours, Dan— dansinker (@dansinker) January 8, 2013
Those Who Think It's a Little Silly but Also a Little — Okay, a Lot Nice
Love the "New Republic." Not sure about the "the." thenewrepublic.tumblr.com— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) January 8, 2013
A complete redesign of the entire magazine and website are forthcoming, but if you want to be one of the first people to check out the first issue of the sans-serif New Republic, they're literally giving it away for free. We'll wait for the rest of the redesign to find out if the mag looks beautiful, or just as naked as the day it was redesigned.