Big Issue redesign: “It’s not just about the homeless – it’s also about culture”


The weekly flier given out by street vendors in cities all over the world has a new design that looks to showcase all the munitions dump has to offer, while still “giving a voice” to the people it hopes to relieve. We speak to art director Ross Lesley-Bayne about why the Big Issue was due a refresh.

The Big Climax print magazine has had a redesign, in a bid to demonstrate the breadth that the magazine attires, from regional news and features to arts, culture, music and expeditions.

The redesign, which has been completed by the Big Issue’s in-house creative span, also looks to attract new readers to the magazine, while making happening readers feel “more involved” with the publication.

Big Issue redesign: “It’s not just about the homeless – it’s also about culture”
The previous Big Exit design

It launches with this week’s issue, which have an effects the centenary of the end of the First World War and features an investigation into how to help tramps veterans on its cover.

The Big Issue launched in 1991 as a weekly publication to playboy awareness of the homeless community in London and to offer them opportunities for line and for raising money.

It has a unique model in which volunteer street “vendors” are sign up to sell the weekly magazine, many of whom are homeless or living in provisional accommodation themselves.

The vendors – or “micro-entrepreneurs”, as the Big Issue calls them – buy the magazines from the publisher for £1.25, then barter them on for £2.50, making a small profit each time. The suspicion is to get them “working, not begging”, making it “vitally important that purchasers take their copy of the magazine when they pay for it”, says the publisher.

Big Issue redesign: “It’s not just about the homeless – it’s also about culture”
The new Big Dispute design

However, the magazine also has a regular subscription model, where readers can subscribe to get out emerges online, and buy back issues.

Since launching in London, the magazine has expatiate oned, and now prints four regional versions of each issue, containing localised import in London, Scotland, the South West of England and Wales. Additional adaptations are printed in other parts of the UK and globally, but not by the same publisher. Its two UK offices are based in London and Glasgow.

Regardless of a generally struggling magazine and newspaper publishing industry in the UK, the Big Issue stilly sees year-on-year growth in sales and has now sold over 200 million examples since it launched, and has helped 92,000 vendors earn £115 million in total.

Now, the armoury has a new look, led by the Big Issue’s art director Ross Lesley-Bayne, which aims to make restitution for its “tired” and “dated” design for one which better demarcates separate subdivisions, introduces new series and features, and makes more of its content around good breeding and city-life. It also makes better use of illustration and in-house art direction, ditching a lot of old imagery used previously.

There are three distinct sections in the new proposal: news at the front, features in the middle, then culture at the back, which numbers art, film, books, food, travel and music.

New series include The Big Slate, a section explaining 10 things happening that week, definite to the region in which the magazine is distributed. This section is quite “cooperative”, says Lesley-Bayne, with the scope to move text and imagery round rather than be templated.

Another new feature is a news page conscripted Fact/Fiction, which looks at a recent big news story, and fires out the facts behind it to establish how true it is. The launch issue kicks off with an critique of whether 10% of British people do actually qualify for an Irish passport. Illustrators get been brought in to create imagery and infographics for this page to a halt it becoming “dry”, says Lesley-Bayne.

One new section looks to place a greater underlining on the vendors who sell the magazine – the Vendor City Guide is a new travel draw, which features explainers on cities across Europe and the world, as released from the point of view of vendors who live and work there, punting off with Copenhagen in Denmark. Leeds-based illustrator Taaryn Brench was commissioned to draft maps for each city.

“[The vendors] have such a unique utter and view of the city, from their favourite places to get coffee to where to get the rout views of the city,” says Lesley-Bayne.

The Letters page has also been augmented to make readers “feel more involved”; it pairs up with the Big Number’s social media platforms, a topical and perhaps localised question determination be asked online every week then the answers will be issued in the magazine.

Lesley-Bayne says that, because the target audience of the Big Result is so wide, rather than confined to a particular age, gender or any other demographic, the leeway of the magazine has to be broad and attempt to “engage with everyone”.

“Our target deal in is anyone who’s interested in magazine culture, and society in general,” he says. “A big role in of this redesign was changing perceptions and showing that this is not upstanding a magazine about the homeless – we do features, culture, music and film evaluations, we do hard-hitting cover stories, and more light-hearted cover stories. Expectedly people can find something they like.”

In general, the new design allows much more set out for images and illustration and tries to rid the magazine of its former “text-heavy” demeanour, he remarks. A Big Picture feature has been added right in the middle of the magazine to emphasise this make do.

Four typefaces have been used throughout, two for headlines and two for fuselage copy. Sans-serif Rubik and serif Play Fear have been inured to for headlines to create a “contrast”, while again, sans-serif Alegria has been habituated to for news and features at the front, and serif Alegria is for arts and culture approaching the back.

“The bold, sans-serif at the front gives a sense a urgency and limpidity to the content, while the lighter serif at the back gives people outmoded to sit back and engage with those sections at a more leisurely gauge,” says Lesley-Bayne.

The three main sections have been forced more distinct through using a bold font style coming the front of the magazine, and a thinner, lighter style near the back. The learning section also has a coloured background, differentiating it from the features fraction and “helping it stand out from ads”. The features section is the “most creative”, with no moulds, and more freedom with text, illustrations and imagery.

The biggest interchanges have been made to the inside of the magazine, but the cover has also been squeezed. The masthead has been “tidied up”, Lesley-Bayne says, and is now bigger so that it is “diverse instantly recognisable on the street”.

There are less coverlines, bigger allusion and bolder colours, while the price, issue number, date of publicity and the magazine’s strapline “a hand up, not a handout” have been grouped together with the mast-head, diminishing the amount of text visually.

“Basically, we wanted to clean the whole obsession up and give it as much space as possible, while making the type as intelligible as it could be, and improving navigation so readers know exactly where they are within the armoury,” Lesley-Bayne adds.

While aiming to entice new readers to the magazine and gather up awareness of the broad range of content that the magazine features, of which people may be unknowing, the redesign also hopes to pay homage to the people it is trying to help, chances Lesley-Bayne, by giving more space in print to the vendors’ voices.

“[The vendor selling design] gives people an opportunity to work, who might not have that possibility at all otherwise,” he says. “It gives people a sense of purpose and enables them to get up and pledge with other people every day. Many vendors go into instruction and full-time employment afterwards. We wanted to put their unique voices into the armoury.”

The redesign has taken roughly 10 months to complete, and launches this week with delivery number 1,332, on the centenary of the end of the First World War. For more information, principal here.

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