Townhouse Notes: On Our New Look
Along with the typical optimism and jitters that accompany each new academic year, which for many historians starts in September, we hope you notice the revamped look and feel of Perspectives on History. It’s somewhat like a high school student showing off a brand-new outfit on the first day of school, except that it reflects our commitment to representing the AHA membership.
Although we are historians, we emphatically refuse to pine for the past. Our redesign has a contemporary feel in its cleanness and openness. Without diving too deeply into our choices of fonts and colors, these modern elements reflect a clear-eyed engagement with the world around us. But their simplicity is deceptive, as they enhance articles and images reflecting the complexity of the past. Like the discipline of history, Perspectives holds nostalgia suspect but harbors no shame in love for the past.
Highly attentive AHA followers will also note that the magazine’s new design meshes carefully with the rebranding of the Association, which began last winter with the incorporation of our new logo into aspects of our printed materials and the relaunch of historians.org. We now represent our members and the discipline by enfolding an abstract timeline within the letters of “American Historical Association.” Introducing the AHA’s new branding back in May, executive director Jim Grossman wrote, “Everything has a history. The . . . evocation of a timeline highlights those histories, and the imperative of contextualization as an aspect of historical thinking.” The new logo of the magazine also echoes the timeline, which we think will remind readers that Perspectives truly is a part of the AHA. We hope you share our vision of a magazine of the highest caliber, written almost entirely by and for professional historians.
Our last aesthetic upgrade came in 2010, when we graduated to glossy stock and a four-color process on the inside pages. (In layperson’s terms, that means our paper got shinier and we printed every page in full color.) Other changes included a thick, bright red rule (or line) across the top of each page, with section headers in a plump red font to match. We became more flexible in our magazine cover design, including varying the colors of our logo from issue to issue.
But in the past couple of years, it became clear that it was again time to evolve, to put the magazine in step with the mission of the AHA. In a blog post, we addressed the reasons for this as well in analyzing the Association’s branding: “As we commit ourselves to tackling the challenges facing history education at all levels and more urgently recognize the importance of bringing historical perspectives to civic life, we need a clear statement of who we are and what we do.”
We were fortunate to be able to turn to the Washington, DC, design firm eighty2degrees, which accomplished the AHA’s rebranding with aplomb and breathed life into our 2018 annual meeting visual identity. We extend credit and gratitude to Ambica Prakash, Mike Englert, and their team for such marvelous work.
As editor, I also believe the design reflects the sorcery AHA staff members regularly work to bring our constituents a polished product. Like all professional magic, most of it happens out of sight. I will resist the temptation to say they slay all day—it’s too colloquial—but our masthead is full of stars. I look up to them every day.
Allison Miller is Editor of Perspectives on History.
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