From the Editors: Style and substance

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Oct 01, 2006


Portia Stewart with her 1-year-old son, Donovan, and her 6-year-old dog, Sebastian.
You've no doubt noticed that this month's issue has a new look—the culmination of months of discussion and dozens of mock-ups. Admittedly, our main focus at Veterinary Medicine has been to continually improve the journal's substance—the timeliness, relevance, and reliability of its peer-reviewed content. The journal's style sometimes took a back seat. But there's no denying that readability and visual appeal are important, especially today when busy practitioners struggle to just keep up with their reading material. Why not make their learning experience more pleasurable?

I remember 10 years ago when the The New England Journal of Medicine introduced some design changes. Basically, they switched to a couple of new fonts, dabbed a bit of orange and maroon here and there, tinkered with some column widths, and placed thin divider rules in the tables—really, just a few tweaks.

Readers were appalled! (I, myself, remember feeling a little lost.) But as I thumb through those back issues now, I realize that most readers who wrote in actually liked the changes; the negative responses were simply the ones that had made an impression on me.

So it was with the feedback we recently received from about 400 of you who got a sneak peek at a prototype of this month's cover of Veterinary Medicine:

"A bit on the bland side."

"I like the old covers better."

"I prefer the anatomical drawings."

"Please put some clothes on that baby!"

"Ugh!"

My worst fears were realized. But forcing myself to continue reading, I discovered many favorable comments as well:

"I like the new look—simple but classic."

"FRESH NEW LOOK...VERY EYE-APPEALING."

"I like the simple, easy-to-read list of articles. "

And my favorite:

"You could send it to me with a blank cover and I'd read it."

Nice to hear, but with time the comments that initially made me wince probably proved most constructive. So with your help, we took another stab at it: We warmed up the previously stark-white background and added some brighter colors to the article titles. And we aren't abandoning the biomedical cover illustrations you love; we just plan to mix them up with photographs now and then. Finally, if you look closely, the baby is wearing a diaper.

As to the redesign changes inside the issue, the fonts are more legible and contemporary, the layouts cleaner, the colors more modern. After all, in its 101-year-history, Veterinary Medicine has continually changed with the times, as our covers demonstrate.

So give the redesign a little time to sink in, and then please let us know what you think. We thank those of you who responded to our cover survey; your thoughtful comments were much appreciated. A special thanks to Alison Fulton, who oversaw the redesign. And finally, thanks to Portia Stewart, our colleague and the editor of Firstline magazine. Our cover models—Portia's son, Donovan, and her American Eskimo, Sebastian—exemplify the behaviorially healthy pet-child relationship behaviorist Dr. Laurie Bergman discusses in this month's cover article.