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How a change in tone and voice shaped Meredith's Shape magazine's evolution

Meredith's Shape magazine spent the last year thinking over and creating its own evolution. Shape, which is published 10 times a year, reaches a rate base of 2.5 million and an audience of 14 million across platforms, focuses on healthy living for the 21st century woman. The magazine, which was launched in 1981, underwent a redesign which touched on every aspect of the brand – from its content, to design, fonts, advertisers and voice. The new look debuted April 17 on newsstands with the May issue which featured actress Kate Mara on the cover.

A fresh new look

The redesigned Shape has an expanded and more diverse mix of content, including features on influencers and real women. It approaches women's lifestyle in a healthy, holistic way, incorporating in beauty and style, nutrition, health and relationships that can be personalised for their readers' individual lives. It also has an updated, modern feel to it, with sleek fonts and a sophisticated aesthetic.

“It was just time to evolve,” explained editor-in-chief Elizabeth Goodman Artis. “I had just hired a new creative director, Noah Dreier, from Glamour, and he came in with a bunch of ideas about how to redesign the magazine. I also hired a lifestyle director, Brooke Danielson, who came with great ideas. We started talking about what we could do better.” 

 

Elizabeth Goodman Artis ()

Elizabeth Goodman Artis

 

The redesign process started as a completely creative endeavor, Goodman Artis said. “Once we started to formulate what the plan was and I had the architecture of what I wanted to do with this down, we shared it with our sales and marketing team, who really connected with it and saw opportunities,” she said. From there, the process was collaborative across the Shape brand, from editorial, to marketing and sales.

“It's been one of the most rewarding things I've experienced in my career,” Goodman Artis said. “We started conceptualising this last summer, but we wanted to take our time and get it right. We were creative yet methodical.”

 

Shape magazine Kate Mara ()

 

“It's been really wonderful to see how much people are connecting with the ideas”

In the three months and three issues since the redesign was launched, the response from advertisers and readers has been positive, the editor explained. “We have had an amazingly positive response from the advertising community,” she said. “The sales calls I've been on, they get it, they're engaged, whether it's an agency or a client, it's been really wonderful to see how much people are connecting with the ideas, the philosophy, the look of this evolved Shape.”

Readers have also told Goodman Artis, on her personal Instagram account, how much they love the new look and feel. “We've gotten amazing responses,” she said. “One woman told me it brought her to tears because she feels we understand what women want today. We have had letters and emails, that have been applauding us.” 

The advertiser response has been to jump on board. Goodman Artis explained that Shape had almost two dozen new advertisers in the beauty, retail/fashion, beverages, pharma, household, food and supplements categories.

 

Shape Mindy ()

 

“They like the way we're talking to women”

Goodman Artis noted the results of Shape's first consumer study were overwhelmingly positive. The study asked readers to provide feedback about the new look and feel of the May issue of Shape, and the Starch results suggested that readers really liked the content and advice across all categories.

Shape's new edit sections received top ratings from readers, and drove them to take action.  “Readers are connecting with the new look, and they love the new voice and the new tonality,” she said. “They like the way we're talking to women now.”

Indeed, one of the big things Goodman Artis wanted to do with this redesign was to change the way the brand spoke to women. Prior to the redesign, the middle of the magazine had sections like “Eat Right” and “Look Great,” and “Get Fit,” which were fine, but too direct and almost a command to perform, she explained. “They feel judgmental, and I wanted to change that dynamic,” Goodman Artis said.

Instead, they used the verb to be in their section titles – Be Waterproof focuses on beauty, Be Food Curious is a different way of talking about food than “Eat Right,” instead “Be Food Curious,” is inviting the reader to be in the moment, to experience the content and make it their own,” she said. “We don't want to dictate, we want to support and we want to give our readers the kind of information they can take and make useful for themselves, that they're excited about. 

Changing the tonality of the magazine's voice was an important first step in the evolution, as it changed the magazine in a subtle way. “The way we talk to each other, the words we use, really dictate our emotions and how we feel, so I wanted to use language that felt fresh and new and modern to draw the reader in.”

Shape magazine's cover lines also changed – evolving from the “get flat abs” or “lose five pounds in five minutes” classic women's magazine newsstand-driven way – to something else entirely.

“As the industry has changed and as we evolved, I didn't want to write those kinds of cover lines anymore,” Goodman Artis explained. “I don’t want to reduce women to body parts. That's important to me. I want to be honest with them. It's about the whole person, it's not about your abs, butt, thighs, arms, it's about you.”

From there, that idea cascaded through the entire magazine. 

Visually, the redesigned Shape magazine is lighter. Its pages embody healthy living, from mouth-watering recipes to mental wellness. Even the ad pages have visuals of healthy skin and outdoor activities like paddle boarding. The use of light in the visuals is also something to note - from a play of light and shadow on the stunning Kate Mara cover, glinting off edible flowers in the May issue, or bouncing off a classic car in the background in the June issue. The new Shape is bold and playful with colour, embracing a multicolour stripe along the bottom of a sneaker or a rainbow of Dior eyeliners.

Shape magazine's content underwent a redesign as well, with a more conversational tone to its features, and added context around healthy living beyond calorie burning and spandex. Shape's redesigned content moves away from a directive telling readers what to do, to instead inviting them to experience with information that is customizable. “Everybody has different goals, everybody has a different life experience, and what I wanted to do is create content that our readers can take and customize to their lives.”

Goodman Artis and her team also added more perspectives, with real women, influencers and those in business. She wanted to get their points of view, their stories, their experiences, wanted to know what those women were doing to feel happy and healthy and whole, she said.

“I felt like we were missing those voices,” the editor said. “We added columns in each section for each. For example, in our beauty section which we call 'Be Waterproof,' there is a column called 'What Makes You Pretty Happy.'”

 

Shape Evangeline ()

 

Shape's next chapter

Forward from July, Goodman Artis said the Shape team is still tinkering with the redesign, adding more columns and looking for fresh talent. “We're continuing to evolve and wait for reader reaction, and continue to try to get new business prospects. And get everyone excited about it as much as we possibly can.”

 

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