A for Atlantic
And then there’s the single-letter logo, the most striking aspect of the redesign. The magazine’s last full redesign happened in 2009, and during that time the team had pulled an old wordmark, which was then redrawn. “It was a very deliberate and direct gesture to history,” says Munday.
With the current redesign, Mendelsund and Munday took a bolder step. The single A was “the first thing we tried, and there was a brief moment of excitement between the two of us,” says Medelsund. They then “closed the document, tried … over a hundred different logos and compositions of the cover as a starting point, and made our way back there.”
You might notice that unlike the previous italicized wordmark, the A is now in roman, or normal, type. The upright letter conveys more authority, Mendelsund says. “Italics are typically not meant to work as a main graphical components but rather call attention in a body of text that is upright.”
As for the typeface, “we started with a condensed capital A that pointed toward an old version of The Atlantic logo drawn by Boston Type Foundry in the mid-19th century,” Munday explains. At first, it wasn’t quite right, so they made some adjustments. “We needed something that felt weightier or slightly more bespoke.” The design team added a notch to the top of the A and adjusted the feet. They then hired typographer Jeremy Mickel for final refinement.
That process also led to the creation of a new custom Atlantic condensed typeface, a full alphabet based on the original Boston Type Foundry sample used for the A, which will now be used throughout the magazine’s feature well.
As with many rebrands today, the A also fulfills the role of representing the brand succinctly in shrinking media spaces. “At first, when Peter and Oliver started talking about this, I was intrigued and a bit shocked at how different that would be,” says Goldberg. “But Peter pulled out his phone and went to our app, and it turns out that we’re using it as a mark already. The argument had a powerful logic to it—we want to associate The Atlantic with the simplest, most beautiful mark possible, and it turns out we were already leaning on that A in a lot of ways.”
Literary fans might also appreciate the A’s serendipitous nod to the magazine’s roots, Goldberg adds. One of the magazine’s earliest writers was Nathaniel Hawthorne, who served as a civil war correspondent and arguably is most famously known as the author of “The Scarlet Letter.”
Overall, Goldberg believes the redesign represents a marriage of “elegance and urgency,” he says. “One of the things I was worried about was that it would feel too stately, too still, but this feels like a magazine that’s on top of the main issues of the day, while using art in interesting and contemporary ways to help the stories make their point.”