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American magazine

The Challenge:
In summer 2011, the staff of American embarked on a year-long redesign and reimagination of the magazine. More than two decades after the magazine’s last update, its design was dated, the editorial process required streamlining, and the publication as a whole needed to be reorganized. The magazine, which is the university’s primary vehicle to connect with more than 100,000 alumni, also needed to incorporate AU’s brand campaign and reflect AU’s identity as a magnet for active citizens and a place where students learn from leaders. American publishes three times per year with a circulation of 118,000.

The Solution:
UCM hired a Washington, DC, design consultant to review the magazine and make recommendations. He interviewed stakeholders across the university and reviewed CASE readership data before submitting his final recommendations. UCM decided to conduct the redesign entirely in-house. Our team worked on the redesign for more than a year, while continuing to produce the magazine and undergoing a significant departmental reorganization. Ultimately, they created a publication that is modern, clean, and reflective of AU’s identity.

The new and improved American magazine launched in December 2012. It featured 15 new departments, all determined to be sustainable for at least two years and consistent in their look and placement from one issue to the next.

Since the redesign, UCM has received more letters to the editor, complimentary emails, and story pitches than in the history of the publication. Departments like “Eagle Tales” and “Final Exam,” which solicit a response from alumni, have proved to be popular and increased our engagement with alumni. “This I Know” and “10,000 Hours” demonstrate the expertise of our students, alumni, and faculty, while “Metrocentered” showcases AU’s connections across the city. “Metrocentered” and “POV,” which offers an insider’s view of the city, also have proven popular with alumni, 40 percent of whom reside in the Washington, DC, area.

The redesigned magazine features a three-page development spread that is unique among alumni publications, including an illustration of a donor and a short story describing his or her contribution to AU. The original illustration is then gifted to the donor by AU’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR). The next two pages feature a letter from the vice president of DAR and another series of illustrations, which depict a clear call to action. This section creates a unique opportunity to appeal to alumni and personalize AU’s ask for stewardship and alumni engagement.

We now produce a more thoughtful, sophisticated, and handsome magazine, with fewer staff members. The team is more purposeful and streamlined in editorial planning and aspires to produce a magazine that anyone—even those without an affiliation with AU—can pick up and enjoy.