Maclean’s meets the moment: Our new magazine look, explained

’In an age of distraction, a beautifully designed print magazine is a thing unto itself, a physical artifact that leans into a mandate of beauty and knowledge,’ writes Alison Uncles, editor-in-chief

This editorial appears in the redesigned September 2021 issue of Maclean’s magazine.

When we began the process to redesign our print magazine exactly a year ago, we consulted some of the best editors in the world, from The Atlantic and Vanity Fair to The New Yorker. We surveyed readers. We studied our archives. We laboured over the question: what makes a compelling, relevant current affairs magazine, circa now?

Today, we present our answer.

A pandemic, layered onto populism and protectionism and toxic politics, has re-energized readers; they want to learn, to define positions, to understand an increasingly complex world while also yearning for fun, joy and wonder.

COVER: A true story of human smuggling gone wrong

In an age of distraction, a beautifully designed print magazine is a thing unto itself, a physical artifact (we see you, NFTs!) that leans into a mandate of beauty and knowledge; ours will deliver current affairs and insight, long-form journalism and dispatches from Canada’s best writers on a range of topics from politics and public affairs to trends in technology, the arts, design and pop culture.

Our new look, masterminded by designer Una Janicijevic and Executive Editor Stephen Gregory, together with Anna Minzhulina and Lauren Cattermole, puts an increased emphasis on gorgeous photography and design while remaining true to our reputation as a readers’ magazine. Herein: tens of thousands of words, glorious all, on better-quality paper, and even more pages.

Our playful Bearings and Ideas sections survey the country’s happenings and soar with analysis and reportage, while our longer features in the middle of the book deliver different genres of stories every month, including profiles and explanatory journalism, adventure yarns, deep dives into advances in science, forensic studies of legal cases and inspiring accounts of human trial and triumph. There are grace notes sprinkled throughout this magazine; we hope they delight.

In creating this new Maclean’s, we sought also to be true to the history of this iconic, 116-year-old magazine. I am the 19th editor-in-chief of Maclean’s; we have covered 33 federal elections; undergone untold number of redesigns (four different cover conceits in 1909 alone; see Peter C. Newman’s 1971 change); and published writing by Lucy Maud Montgomery, poetry by Robert Service and cover art by the Group of Seven when its members were up-and-comers. We have broken stories that changed the country and continue to do so; we publish the biggest modern writers in Canada, including Esi Edugyan, Don Gillmor, Waubgeshig Rice and Ian Williams.

While ambition and change drive our success, the heavy load of our reputation is made light by the simple vision of our founder, John Bayne Maclean. In his 1950 obituary in this magazine, his fellow editors wrote:

“Perhaps somewhere in this issue of the magazine that bears his name there will be a sentence or a phrase that will cause some young man or woman to believe that Canada is a better or more interesting place than he or she had realized, or that something is amiss in Canada that he or she must try to fix. Perhaps in time some small new better thing will come of that small new stirring of awareness.”

Today we are sparkling and young. And we are old. And we are proud to deliver this beautiful magazine to your door.

Perhaps, a small new stirring grows; perhaps, a small new better thing.