[Note: Modus Operandi Design recently completed a redesign (above) of National Geographic Traveler. This article detailing the scope of the project was originally published at Folio.com]
Publishers that have brand platforms with multiple consumer-facing assets have been increasingly pulling those products—and the teams that produce them—closer together, uniting them under a common, branded grouping. National Geographic Society recently did this with its Traveler assets, consolidating its books, expeditions, workshops, magazine and digital properties under a new Travel Group.
"We have this vast array of travel assets," says Lynn Cutter, who heads up the new group as executive vice president. "By bringing them together, we have a lot more power."
Keith Bellows, editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler, adds that the new grouping makes better sense for the customer, too. "Travel is also the world's biggest business," he says. "We have so many assets around that and putting a consumer face around it makes strong business and creative sense."
An example of how the new group leverages that combination of business and creative is its use of the content produced by consumer travel writer Chris Elliott. "We have him in the magazine, online and in books. He's pretty much everywhere," says Bellows. "We can iterate his voice across all the different platforms. The magazine would be the 'read it' part and then you could actually do it with our expeditions group. We're starting to connect the dots."
A "Traveler of the Year" editorial franchise has been turned into an annual live event that the group hopes to soon put on the road, taking it to different cities across the country and expanding sponsorship opportunities.
"An article in a magazine can turn into a live event, an expedition itinerary or even a book," says Cutter. "It gives us an opportunity to dimensionalize travel and dig a little deeper and take advantage of all our assets."
Along with the product unification, the 615,000-circulation National Geographic Traveler will undergo a redesign, including an investment in heavier paper stock and an increased trim size.
"Print is still the best random-access device we have," says Bellows. "Consumers really respond to it, especially in travel. By reinvesting in it with better paper and a bigger trim size it allows us to bring the great photography alive again. We need to make this not like the web, we need it to be a leisurely and inviting experience."
The digital assets, including and especially the social media accounts, have also been reigned in and consolidated under the new leadership of vice president of digital travel Andy Coleman. "Everyone had their own handles and worked separately," says Bellows. "Now we can better figure out how the messaging weaves throughout the different products. We've all come together and rebranded under one group. It's a better experience for the consumer, there's less noise and a more succinct experience."