‘Back to basics’ approach for men’s magazine market

With sales in the UK men’s magazine sector continuing to drop away, many key players have redesigned to promote simplicity and hark back to the glory days of the titles.

ABC circulation figures released last week show that Bauer title FHM saw a 15.2 per cent drop in year-on-year circulation in the second half of 2009, with an average circulation of 231 235. Rival Loaded, published by IPC, saw a 20.9 per cent fall, selling an average of 71 251 copies.

oaded’s IPC stablemate, weekly title Nuts, saw a 24.4 per cent fall, with an average circulation of 176 835.

FHM was the most recent of these titles to redesign, with former John Brown executive creative director Jeremy Leslie creating the new look, for the March issue. Leslie describes it as ’back to basics’ and referencing the glory years of FHM.

Leslie’s redesign, which is the first work he has carried out under the Mag Culture banner, highlights FHM’s traditional red and black colour palette and primarily uses the Knockout font, with Verlag also used. Leslie’s redesign has also seen increased separation between regular sections Access, Filter and Upgrade.

New FHM editor Colin Kennedy, a former editor of film title Empire, says the new design has ’more of everything. Words and pictures. Old and new. Funny and sexy. Accessible and aspirational’.

FHM’s monthly rival Loaded relaunched with its January issue at the end of last year, with a redesign led by in-house art director Blue Buxton. Buxton, like Leslie, says he referenced previous incarnations of the title with his design. He says, ’For the influence I looked back to the Loaded of five or six years ago. I stripped out lots of layers and brought in a lot of big, bold fonts, which is the way Loaded used to look.’

Buxton says the magazine, which had not been redesigned for about five years, had begun to look ’fussy’ and needed updating. Gloriola and Archer fonts are used, while the front section, like FHM, uses lots of bold reds, whites and blacks.

Weekly men’s title Nuts, also published by IPC, redesigned for its 26 January issue. Like Loaded, this redesign, the first structural change since the magazine’s launch in 2004, was carried out in-house, this time by art director Simon Freeborough. He says, ’On a weekly title obviously you want to keep things fresh – I did a lot of work on the templates to get the structure right.’ Freeborough adds, ’We wanted to make the regular articles nice and tight, so that we could be a little wild with the features.’

He says that as both he and Nuts editor Dominic Smith come from a monthly magazine background – at FHM – they are more used to ’pushing the envelope’ in terms of design.

Freeborough says he pulled design influences from titles including Wired and Monocle, adding, ’I wanted the design to look effortless and a bit transparent, so that the reader could just enjoy the magazine.’ Adrian Frutiger-designed fonts are now used throughout, tying the copy in with the logo, which is also based on a Frutiger font.

Freeborough says of his target audience, ’I wanted the 16-year-olds who read it to feel older, and the 26-year-olds not to feel like naughty schoolchildren.’

Average Magazine Circulation

Shortlist 513 148
Sport 306 435
Men’s Health 250 577
FHM 231 235
Nuts 176 835
GQ 120 057
Zoo 102 043
Stuff 95 695
BBC Focus 71 783
Loaded 71 251

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