Pentagram redesigns Sight and Sound film magazine “for our times”

Studio partner Marina Willer has reimagined a 1970s logo for the film magazine’s new look, which launches with four cover stars.

Pentagram partner Marina Willer has redesigned Sight and Sound in an attempt to combine the magazine’s heritage with a digital outlook.

The new look is accompanied by a reworking of the title’s editorial content, such as a special archive section which explores features from the magazine’s 90-year history.

Sight and Sound was established in 1932 and is one of the UK’s oldest film publications. It is published by the British Film Institute (BFI).

Though it centres on arthouse film criticism, the title also explores moving-image culture from TV to experimental film and Hollywood blockbusters.

“A nod to the magazine’s amazing heritage”

The redesign launches with the magazine’s September issue, which features four cover stars: directors Chloe Zhao, Steve McQueen, Sofia Coppola and Luca Guadagnino. The cover story for the revamped magazine is ‘The Future of Film’.

Sight and Sound’s new logo is a reworking of a previous design from the 1970s, “a nod to the magazine’s amazing heritage”, Willer says. This references an “era that believed in film’s indisputable place in culture and society”, she adds.

The logo also replaces the previous design’s ampersand with an ‘and’. On the four new covers, it appears in neon shades against black and white photography of the directors.

Inside the magazine, the graphic language is inspired by film clapperboards, Willer explains. “Bold typography and visible grids” have also been used to complement the editorial content, she adds, which provide a “contrast in pace and create layouts with real impact”.

Condensed and semi-condensed versions of typeface Plaak (from type foundry 205TF) have been used for headlines, while Matthew Carter’s Big Caslon has been used for body copy.

Black is featured heavily throughout the magazine, Willer explains, thanks to its close associations with film and cinema. The design team has also developed a complementary colour system, where different colour backgrounds signpost distinct sections.

“Collectable and special”

According to the designer, the new system allows for added “drama”. “The bold juxtaposition of type and images adds drama to the opening spreads, and images can appear as full-bleed, cropped, or cut-out circles,” Willer says. Some spreads also feature headlines which run vertically.

The redesign was a result of considering “the DNA of Sight and Sound and thinking of it as an ecosystem”, she says.

With a focus on curated content, rather than simply covering as many films as possible, the updated look hopes to make the magazine more “collectable and special”, Willer adds.

At the same time it’s complemented with a brand that is more digital-facing, according to the designer, “making it relevant to our times”.

As part of the updated editorial approach, there will be a quarterly collaboration with black cinema publication Black Film Bulletin. Sight and Sound is also introducing three new columnists, including Jonathan Ross.

What do you think of Sight and Sound’s new look? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Tom Austin August 2, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    Just received the “new look” today and…

    …and I’m really sorry: it just looks cheap.

    The new logo? It’s fine. The new page-size? Yeah, OK, if you felt you had to.

    The rest of it? It’s dire. It looks like someone’s done a fanzine (but with amazing contributors) on the cheap but over-enthusiastically:
    – recycled non-gloss paper
    – the all-page colouring of orange-brown, pale green, purple, blue — bad enough for text, but any image just looks overwhelmed
    – the use of VAST single capital letters that literally make no sense until you can hunt down the sentence it’s the first letter for

    If you’re open for adjusting future format (and please, I hope you are), here’s one constructive suggestion that comes to mind. If you feel you have to colour-code the sections: could you not just colour the margins only and keep the content white so we can read it comfortably?

  • Neil Littman August 3, 2021 at 8:21 am

    The first new look issue of Sight & Sound (I am still using the ampersand) landed at my home today. I was already hoping if it would be featured in DW and not only that but already some critical comments. Most newsstand buyers will not have seen a copy yet (Aug 3rd). I have been subscribing to the magazine for over 20 years so have seen some minor tweaks and changes but nothing as radical as this overhaul which in many ways is very welcome. I am also going to address all my points directly to S&S as they have asked for feedback from their members who are a very discerning and critical bunch. My concerns are partly editorial (something not evident from your feature). One of the unique things about S&S is that the film reviews usually begin with a full synopsis of the storyline including the endings and spoilers. This has now been reduced to a short plot summary that reveals nothing. I think this needs to be reinstated. In terms of design, I am prepared to see how the publication develops over the next few months as it will also be influenced by the return (hopefully) of fuller programming as Covid restrictions are lifted. The editors introduction does say that the first four issues of the ‘new look’ are ‘specials’. so will be interested to see what happens after that. Regarding the design, many of the captions are too small for me to read properly especially in artificial light. I like the change of paper stocks at the end and the overall look and feel is refreshing yet at the same time confusing. I think the design will divide the readers but I doubt they will stop subscribing or buying since it is the most authoritative journal about film and tv. At the moment I would just regard it as the ‘Shock of the new’.

  • Anonymous August 3, 2021 at 10:31 am

    Agree totally with the first poster. Looks absolutely awful. Could just be any other cheap looking mag/fanzine or The Face from 1986!..Obviously a content attempt by the current ‘editor’ to muddy the waters of what the magazine even looked like. Thus helping vanish what was and usher in the magazine’s ultimate demise into digital only a year or so from now and thence to total disappearence, as online only mags never last. Probably what he was hired to do.
    It’s an utter disgrace what has been allowed to happen to such an august body. At one time Sight & Sound was a film magazine to be proud of along with Film Comment and Cahiers du Cinema…now it is just Woke Monthly. I stopped reading in a timely manner immediately after the Tenet issue last September. This is just the next stage in the magazine’s planned decline to absolute zero as cinema as it once was has no place in the forthcoming Marxist State. The Horror!

  • Anonymous August 3, 2021 at 10:47 am


  • Peter Hourigan August 3, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    Sadly, a case of a graphic designer making a design PRODUCT forgetting it is meant to be read without being distracting to the eye. I’ve been a subscriber for overseas half a century and the decline in editorial is now matched in this unnecessary graphic overhaul.

  • DMJ August 8, 2021 at 6:08 pm

    Cover and logo look like a 1970s-era rehash.
    Overwrought interior design, poor line art of female writer.
    Shame. Could have been elegant and classy.

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