The Kensington Magazine is an institution in the Royal Borough. A free, monthly magazine, it digests and discusses the likes and loves of Kensington, whilst promoting small businesses and local events. It is distributed to over 30,000 homes and businesses in the W8 area, including many of the major players along High Street Kensington and Church Street. Tinder and Sparks have had a relationship with the magazine from before it even was The Kensington Magazine, and this is where we were asked to help.
Originally called The Kensington Community Times, it was still an amazing magazine. The content was excellent and it was well-received and well-loved in the area. However the editor, Lucy Elliot, didn’t feel that the name fitted the proposition – people often thought it was a church magazine – and also that it was time that the cover and masthead reflected the kind of people who would be reading it. The old magazine cover was very static with two bold red stripes running across it and the typography was clear but plain.
It looked like it could be any local magazine and was not the kind of cover that reflected the Royal Borough, one of the most exclusive and expensive places to live on earth. As Lucy explains: “The brief was to come up with a look which represented trust, a hint of conservatism with a modern twist and a strong visual brand.” The magazine had to appeal to brigadiers and financiers, old money and nouveau riche. Not an easy task.
We knew we had to do something strong with typography to make it stand out from the crowd. We also had to make the main cover image sing. The cover was different every month; sometimes it would be Lucy’s own photographs, sometimes a promo shot for a local event and sometimes a showcase for a local artist. This posed it’s own problem as the cover needed to be dynamic whilst still maintaining it’s integrity and identity.
We showed three routes in the end, all of which are shown here. As you can see we felt the tradition and elegance of the area was best represented typographically by a bold and beautiful serif. The second route offset this conservatism with the cursive K which we played with for a long time, but as Lucy explained, it was rejected in the end as it interfered too much with the main image.
The route that was chosen used a gorgeous and expressive serif called Arepo with the words THE and MAGAZINE slotted into the spaces which opened up in it’s extenders and descenders. The main idea behind the cover was simple but smart: The cover itself would change colour depending on the main image being used; Lucy would sample a colour from it, or choose a shade that offset it, in order to give it a coherence and beauty of it’s own. Even the masthead text colour would change to reflect the tones of the main image. Everything else remained the same so it was clearly and definitely a Kensington Magazine cover. From that point on, each issue has become a unique and collectible piece of art, and Lucy is told many people hang on to each issue.
Since the launch in 2010, The Kensington Magazine has gone from strength to strength. It now attracts some amazing advertisers – the lifeblood of the magazine – aswell as high calibre contributors and many plaudits around W8. As Lucy herself says in the interview below: "Reaction from the both the residents and our clients has been amazing."
An interview with Lucy Elliot is reproduced below:
1. The magazine was originally called The Kensington Community Times. Why the need for the name and the branding change?
We realised we had to reconsider our brand since although the magazine was doing very well, a lot of people and businesses assumed that with the current title, it was either a Church or Council related magazine. We also needed to change the ‘look’ of the magazine, particularly the front cover, so that it reflected the conservative nature of the area we represented, but also had a modern look about it too, to attract a younger audience. It was a tricky balance achieving both so that neither sector were alienated.
2: I have to say I agree, I felt the magazine looked a little out of touch and so it was good to be involved in the rebrand. So what was the brief for the job? What was the tone of voice and how did you want people to feel about the magazine?
The brief was to produce a look that stood out from the other magazines on the shelves in Waterstones or Waitrose; something that was smart but still had a ‘local’ and friendly feel about it. It needed to be accessible so that it was relevant to all members of the community. In short the brief was to come up with a design which represented trust, a hint of conservatism with a modern twist and a strong visual brand. Importantly, we did not want something ‘too smart’ since the magazine was not trying to be Vogue or Tatler.
3: Were there any holy cows for the masthead? Were there colours or typefaces that you particularly wanted ignored or included?
We had done quite a bit of research and realised that a lot of homes in the area where decorated in muted colours. In order for residents to be encouraged to retain the magazine for longer than a month, we had to have something which ‘sat’ in their homes comfortably, ie. no garishly fluorescent colours. So we asked you to use a brand colour which reflected something modern but would also ‘go’ well with residential colour schemes. As for the font, this had to be instantly ‘brand recognisable’, conservative and modern at the same time. The font suggested and indeed chosen, achieves this very well.
4: For a long time we flirted with the idea of having a very classic typeface for the main part of the logo, but having a very expressive 'K'. Can you tell me about this and why in the end you rejected this ?
We really liked the original proposal of the ‘expressive’ K with the sweeping diagonal line crossing into the image as we felt it served well with mixing a conservative and contemporary look as well as giving the front page good visual impact. However, once we started playing with images, we realised the diagonal line would cross into the image, interrupting the aesthetics of the front cover, so we decided to concentrate on the font itself with no cut into the image.
5. And so in the first reveal when we showed you the concepts, how did you feel? Were you happy with the direction we took?
Indeed yes, very. We were also surprised that with such little instruction you had managed to encapsulate exactly what we were looking for. We could have chosen all of the designs given. And from there I remember the process being quite straightforward, you chose the route you liked and we showed how it worked with different images and colours and it was signed off, along with the design for your business cards.
6. Since then, how have your readers reacted to the magazine? What about your clients?
Reaction from the both the residents and our clients has been amazing. We have received calls of interest from high end businesses such as Trailfinders, Kuoni, De Beers and The Orient Express. I am sure we would never have received this level of interest with the ‘old look’ style magazine. We are also invited to cover high calibre events such as The Global Party and art exhibitions at Harrods, the Burlington Arcade and New Bond St. In short it has opened many doors for the magazine and has meant that we can go out in front of the businesses and residents of W8 with our head held high knowing that we have something that everyone in the area can feel proud of.
Thanks Lucy and good luck keeping the magazine going from strength to strength.