Few magazines in the world are as revered as National Geographic. For 130 years its breathtaking photography and groundbreaking narratives have helped readers discover the world through its pages. While the brand has evolved with a changing industry—building a thriving television network, books, and kids divisions, travel business, and social media audience (over 100 million Instagram followers and counting)— the magazine itself hadn’t undergone a significant redesign for two decades.
In the fall of 2017, Godfrey Dadich Partners took on the task of reimagining this iconic publication with a design that would embolden every page of the magazine. The firm first worked with key members of National Geographic’s staff to identify the core values that should define the publication: arresting, pioneering, illuminating. This would direct a complete makeover, from the magazine’s nameplate to its typefaces to its grid structure, and those values needed to drive every editorial and art decision.
Two things quickly became apparent. The first was that the notion of exploration—the soul of the publication—has evolved. Today the magazine charts the frontiers of ideas and culture just as often as it ventures out to the furthest reaches of our planet (or beyond). The second was that while many of these new idea-driven topics are conceptual in nature, the magazine’s power lies in its captivating visuals.
Godfrey Dadich’s editorial and design teams collaborated with Susan Goldberg, National Geographic’s editor in chief, and Emmet Smith, the publication’s creative director, to bridge these two demands.
The editorial team created new storyforms and structures to tackle big, bold ideas with a provocative voice. GDP divided the front-of-the-book into three new sections:
Proof tells a visual story.
Embark explores breakthroughs with a point of view that is uncompromising in its defense of science, the facts, and the planet.
Explore illuminates the mysteries and wonders all around us.
In addition, the team introduced new forms in the feature well to provide editors with dynamic ways to tell stories of varying shapes and sizes, and reimagined the back page to celebrate photographic contributions from National Geographic’s devoted readers.
Given the outsized role that photography has always played in the magazine, the design team conceived systems to make the images and visual storytelling even more arresting throughout the magazine.
To refresh the nameplate, the team recruited Tal Leming of Type Supply to make the logotype more confident, while giving some nods to the past (it hadn’t had a significant overhaul since 1959). The result is a new mark that is exquisitely subtle. In addition, GDP worked with Leming to develop two first-of-their-kind typefaces for the magazine: Earle is an Egyptian typeface named for legendary marine biologist Sylvia Earle; Marden is a sans serif named after reporter and photographer Luis Marden.
The reimagination of National Geographic debuted in the May 2018 issue and was introduced with a one-minute promotional video directed and produced by Godfrey Dadich. The redesign retains the core of the magazine’s identity while pushing the idea of exploration in its pages and in readers’ minds. The modern world is still full of mystery and wonder, and we were proud and deeply honored to help ensure National Geographic still leads the charge toward understanding it all. Their ongoing commitment to visual excellence was recognized with a prestigious National Magazine Award for Design in 2021.