Elle – The story of a re-design

Taking the UK edition of a publication largely regarded as the world’s biggest selling fashion magazine and giving it a make-over in just 8 weeks?….

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Elle’s creative director Suzanne Sikes and her collaborative partner creative consultant Mark Leeds sat down for an evening hosted by the Editorial Design Organisation and Central St Martins University of the Arts London to show us how it’s done.


It starts with relocation ….

New York based for five years, Suzanne Sikes honed her craft as the award winning Creative Director for US Marie Claire until a phone call one fateful day from Elle UK Editor-in-chief Lorraine Candy tempted her back to British shores.

On the other side of the Atlantic, creative consultant Mark Leeds with a wealth of re-design expertise (Bloomberg Business Week and FT Weekend magazine to name a few) came recommended for the role and two visions came expertly together as ‘co-creators of ideas in the biggest sense of the word’.


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The Brief ….

to ‘ create a 360 degree Elle Experience: a synergy between print, online and digital’. As the relationship between print and digital continues to play out Elle is pulling both together to take the reader/viewer on a multimedia cultural adventure through the fashion lens of the Elle brand.


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The revitalised March edition ….

sees the magazine structured by way of ‘First look / Shop / Street / Features / Fashion / Beauty / Travel, beautifully closed with a back page entirely devoted to illustration, annotated by the artists themselves. The imagery of each edition will be predominantly shot by a single photographer, carrying their artistic personality through the issue.


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The Elle voice:

‘Edgy, opinionated, fearless, tech savvy, trail blazer’ are the words used to describe the Elle woman on the night, and we couldn’t agree more.  This is a new streamlined, fresh feel of the mag while maintaining the Elle ethos. This voice moves forward by exploring ideas ‘that will not just survive on first issue but grow and adapt’ like going inside the street style concept; getting the inside scoop from street style aficionados on their best restaurants, markets and favourite London hang outs then linking the reader directly to these online.


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The 360 concept ….

With near double the readership online than in print, the idea is to bring magazine and web together, uniting the two to take the Elle brand and experience beyond the page; to go from page to web to tablet and back again, drawing the reader in at each stage. While still a work in progress, this interactive content will allow readers to delve inside the pages; currently providing actionable web links within the magazine to brands and destinations across the web, coupled with the use of the twitter hash tag visual as a header concept and print pinpoints throughout the magazine to additional digital elleuk.com creative content, ‘Elle 360’ is on its way.


The finer details …

The evening takes us on a journey through the re-making of the magazine; how Sikes is influenced by Dutch and Swiss design, and wanted a strong graphic approach with soft photographic input for this re-invention (a decision which is evident and visually appealing.) How changing the typography; the reader’s visual connection to the words, is for Leeds ‘like starting off with a fresh pair of clothes’ and the re-designed Elle tries a few on for size, experimenting and exploring new ideas.


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How layered imagery on one page is contrasted on the next with single shot, portrait-like photograph that is at once both grand and intimate. How the strong blocking and layering is achieved by Leeds’ complex grids and how ultimately it all came together when the paper pages were produced in the flesh and spread out from one end of the room to the other in an Elle paper trail.


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The future ….

‘we are curating the magazine to lead, not follow’ says Sikes, and the future will see Elle UK further evolve with active, creative content that maintains a consistent dialogue with the reader; from interactive travel guides to the ability for readers to buy directly from the pages.


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When asked if she thinks print will still be going ten, fifteen years from now Sikes responds it is important for Elle that print is ‘the hero brand …. we are print in a digital arena’ she says. Of course it is hard to say ultimately and there will always be those who are loyal to the feel, aesthetic and act of engaging with the print edition; ‘tv didn’t kill cinema’ she notes. With so much in store we’re sure Elle UK will continue to grow in all its 360 glory.


The April edition of the re-designed Elle UK is out now


on Twitter @ELLEUK