Today, we launch our December issue, built around a single theme: “How to Stop a Civil War.” This issue, an exploration of our dangerous political moment, also represents the debut of a new visual identity for The Atlantic. It is the most dramatic new look for our magazine in its 162-year history, and one that, we hope, reflects boldness, elegance, and urgency. The redesign of the print magazine, as well as the new look of our website, was led by Peter Mendelsund, our creative director. His design work, carried out in collaboration with many teams across our magazine, is also reflected in the new Atlantic app that launched today. I sat down with Peter to talk about the new design, his creative process, and how his work was informed by the history of our magazine.
Jeffrey Goldberg: The first issue of The Atlantic was published in November 1857. How do you, as the creative director of a 162-year-old publication, use history without being burdened by history?
Peter Mendelsund: The interesting thing to me about the first cover in 1857 is how clear the hierarchy of information is. The forthrightness, the omitting of needless information, the seriousness of purpose and mission—I would say those are all components of the design that represent what The Atlantic, as an institution, does well.
Even though our journalistic principles haven’t changed over the years since that first issue, our look has been all over the map, a chaos of signifiers and various styles. There is a 20-year period, between 1929 and 1949, in which we redesigned the magazine five times.