Repositioning Computer Arts to appeal to pro designers

  • Client: Future
  • Disciplines: Content strategy, editorial, publishing
  • Duration: 3 months

I led a major cross-platform redesign of Computer Arts in 2013, following the launch of Computer Arts Collection, its premium sister title, two years earlier.

From its ’90s origins as a tutorial magazine for hobbyists, my content strategy completed the brand’s transition into a reputable industry title pitched squarely at professional designers and agencies.

CA’s redesign issue cover (centre), flanked by sister titles CA Presents (series of practical handbooks) and CA Collection (premium collectable title). Image credit: Future

Step-by-step tutorials were replaced with peer-to-peer project ‘diaries’ going behind-the-scenes on live client briefs, to reveal how top agencies solve familiar creative challenges.

With a bold new tagline – Design Matters – the repositioned CA delivered thought-provoking opinions, in-depth industry insights and fresh creative inspiration every month. This included a long-running series of exclusive video documentaries, filmed behind-the-scenes at the UK’s top agencies.

Blog: Why your design agency should invest in video

At the height of the digital publishing boom, the redesign featured a fully-bespoke, interactive iPad edition that went on to win Best Art & Design Magazine three years running at the Digital Magazine Awards.

Five special issues of Computer Arts from 2014. Image credit: Future

And to elevate the premium feel of the print edition, innovative covers produced in collaboration with leading print finishing specialist Celloglas brought creative concepts to life in playful and compelling ways, celebrating the unique tactile potential of print.

Four special issues of Computer Arts from 2015. Image credit: Future

These included glow-in-the-dark, heat- and light-reactive inks, scratch-off latex, diffuser foils, textured embossing, playful die-cuts and more.

Watch making-of videos of CA’s special covers on YouTube

The strategic repositioning of Computer Arts proved crucial for the launch of the Brand Impact Awards in 2014, which has gone on to become an unmissable fixture in the professional awards calendar.

I edited CA until 2018. During this period I also launched the UK Studio Rankings – an annual peer reputation survey of the country’s top design agencies – which I continue to manage as an independent consultant.

Contact me to find out more about the survey.

“Nick’s enthusiasm for the re-imagining of Computer Arts was infectious. His unwavering desire to put the needs of the audience at the heart of every decision was truly heartening, and undoubtedly a key reason the project was a huge success.”

Declan Gough – then head of Creative & Design Group, Future

Launching a collectable, high-end design title

  • Client: Future
  • Disciplines: Content strategy, editorial, publishing
  • Duration: 3 months

As launch editor for Computer Arts Collection, I developed a content strategy to appeal to senior design professionals, shifting industry perceptions and moving the CA brand into the competitive set of Creative Review.

The first four issues in Computer Arts Collection volume one (2012). Image credit: Future

This paved the way for the major redesign of Computer Arts in 2013, and ultimately the successful launch of the Brand Impact Awards in 2014.

Packed with insight and inspiration from the global design industry, CA Collection was pitched as the definitive guide to six core topics: graphic design, typography, illustration, branding, photography and advertising.

Each issue included an in-depth report on the latest macro and micro trends affecting each creative discipline, produced exclusively for CA Collection by top creative consultancy FranklinTill.

The first three issues in Computer Arts Collection volume two (2013). Image credit: Future

The lynchpin of the strategy was to treat ‘practical’ content in a totally new way, giving creative professionals unprecedented access to how peers at different agencies solve familiar creative challenges.

In place of step-by-step ‘tutorials’ was an innovative special project section, guest-edited by a different agency every issue. Over 48 pages, the guest-editing agency detailed their creative process from initial idea, through development and into production – including exclusive behind-the-scenes video diaries documenting their progress.

Read other video production case studies

To celebrate the tactile beauty of print, the series showcased a wide range of innovative production techniques – including internal fluoro spot-colours, gatefolds, detachable bound-in prints and fold-out posters.

Promo pack for CA Collection’s launch issue, sent to a hand-picked selection of agencies. Image credit: Future

Launched in 2011, CA Collection comprised two collectable six-part volumes, after which many of the principles behind its content strategy were ultimately incorporated into the 2013 redesign of the parent brand.