Among Friends: Friends Journal’s Colorful Future
Print readers hold in their hands a collector’s item: the first issue in the color era of Friends Journal. Switching to color is a big change for us, and I know it is for many of our readers as well, so I’d like to explain why we feel this step is so important for the future of Friends Journal and our role in Quakerism.
First, I will acknowledge that Friends Journal has been beautiful in black and white. The Journal’s understated and elegant grayscale design possessed a certain simplicity and restraint that aptly characterized Quakerism. But it would be anachronistic to say that Friends Journal set out to make that kind of statement—the truth is that when Friends Journal first appeared in 1955, printing technology was relatively primitive and color in magazines was rare. The first all-color issue of a major American magazine didn’t arrive until the February 1962 issue of National Geographic. But while other publishers (and yes, even other Quaker publishers and Quaker organizations) moved on to embrace color, Friends Journal remained proudly and stubbornly monochrome.
A 58-year habit is hard to break, but we think it’s time. Along with the trustees of Friends Publishing Corporation and our dedicated and talented staff, I want Friends Journal’s audience to grow, and I want the Journal to communicate Quaker experience to more and more readers in order to connect and deepen spiritual lives. The more we probed Friends and others who weren’t reading Friends Journal, the more we found that non-readers assumed that Friends Journal was boring and old-fashioned because of its austere, gray look. The judge who evaluated the Journal for the 2012 Associated Church Press awards called it “unrelentingly gray,” lauding the content but concluding that the magazine had an uphill climb to overcome the design limitations imposed by our black-and-white production.
The Quaker community has many once-regular Friends Journal subscribers who have let their subscriptions lapse. As we put together issue after issue of timely, important, and spirit-led articles and art, we mourn that many who would benefit from reading the Journal won’t even pick it up, assuming it’s basically the same magazine they put down long ago because it looks the same. I hope you’ll agree that that’s a shame.
One natural question about this step is: can we afford it? A switch from one-color to full-color production will add only 1.5% to our operating budget, and we believe that even with no subscription price increase, the switch will pay for itself within a year thanks to increased income from advertising and new subscriptions. For us, going color is a key step in a sustainable future for our beloved Journal.
The topic of parenting, this issue’s theme, begs for color. I think our vivid cover image sums up the joy, togetherness, and glorious mess that children bring into our lives. The soul of Friends Journal lies in the lived and felt experiences of Friends, from the mundane to the divine. We are pleased to share those experiences with you, now in a colorful new light.
Thanks for being with us at this momentous time. I hope you’ll give us a chance to share how beautifully Quaker lives speak when we tell their stories in color. If you have something to say about our design change, I encourage you to let me know what you think.
Yours in peace,
From the Art Director: Alla Podolsky
Color is a language. It’s a communication device. It creates impressions and adds dimension. Good use of color enhances the message of black-and-white text and works alongside printed words to tell a more compelling story. Color has a life and a purpose beyond being merely decorative.
As the person responsible for the visual message of our joint work here at the Journal, I am both thrilled to be able to add color to my design “vocabulary” and slightly weighed down by the responsibility.
As a magazine, Friends Journal has a rich and deep tradition of a specific and recognizable aesthetic. My job, as I see it, is to continue that tradition while expanding and building upon it with this new tool. I hope you’ll accompany me on this journey.