ResearchLIFE is a professional research magazine published twice a year by the Research and International division of the University of Manitoba (U of M). Launched in 2009, ResearchLIFE was created to highlight the research activities of artists, engineers, scholars, scientists and students at the University. Since the time we began working with the University in 2013, we’ve seen the publication grow and become increasingly relevant to national and global audiences.

At the start, the magazine’s publisher wanted to give the magazine a more modern and cohesive look and feel, to reflect the sophistication and diversity of its readers, which included academic researchers, students and other professionals in a broad range of disciplines touched by research carried out at the U of M. The editorial team wanted its magazine to speak clearly and professionally to anyone interested in the University’s research, not just academics.

Our solution was a comprehensive design overhaul, based on several goals. The primary goal was to develop a distinct identity for the 36-page magazine while showcasing local research and its impact nationally and globally. A secondary goal was to transform the magazine from an unbranded, local publication to a highly professional journal capable of providing a creative perspective on research that pushed the boundaries of science and traditional research.

The success of this project rested on a strong tactical approach, combined with a solid working relationship with our client. The mutual trust we developed made it easy for us to creatively explore and achieve an overall cohesiveness and consistency in style, fonts and layout. We were able to rebrand the magazine and position U of M research as modern and relevant. This also increased respect and credibility for the U of M research community, both locally and globally.

Our tactical approach to the magazine’s redesign involved many considerations. We developed a standardized font and colour palette in line with the overall U of M brand. We structured the front and back of each issue to make features more prominent, pulling text excerpts and imagery from the feature articles. We designed the features themselves to stand out by using original photography, custom title typography and compelling illustrations. We set out to establish a clean, contemporary tone with ample white space to aid legibility in the overall design.

To improve clarity and visual appeal, we transformed text and numerical lists into engaging infographics that were easy to scan and understand. The flexible layout grid structure we developed helped showcase the depth of content, from small articles to feature stories, and provided visual consistency throughout the magazine. We also ensured visual consistency and integration among tables of contents, mastheads, sidebar features, news articles and other minor elements. Finally, we redesigned the covers with large full-bleed, research-oriented imagery that would make an impact and resonate with audiences.

The publishers of ResearchLIFE gave our lead designer full editorial control for establishing the entire new style and layout for the magazine. Their confidence in our ability to represent them at an academic and brand level fuelled our ability to visually articulate their identity. In the end, we designed a publication that shows how the breadth, diversity and relevance the U of M’s research goes far beyond labs and studies, and also how creatively research findings can be presented.

By taking a strategic approach to elevating the design and credibility of a research publication, and by nurturing a professional relationship based on mutual trust and respect, we have efficiently completed publications twice a year, since 2013. ResearchLIFE has realized its goal of publishing a well-regarded scientific magazine, which has in turn increased respect and credibility for the U of M research community at home and abroad.

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