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Knowing Londoners inside out

You would have had to have spent the last 10 years living in a cave, or on a remote island, not to have heard talk about the ‘death of print’. There’s been a lot of it.

But is it true? I don’t think so. At least not yet.

I made a visit to a digital printer recently and learned that the print they offer has never been so popular, evidenced by the fact that their order book is full. I believe them. It helps, of course, that their work is top-rate and practically indistinguishable from good quality litho but it seems to suggest that, for them at least, print is clinging on. More significantly, a recent report from WARC, the media industry’s online insights resource, found that although print’s wider audience is waning, magazines and newspapers in particular are still highly trusted by consumers. And while it is true that a great many of us view them on tablets another survey, by Deloitte, has established that 88% of magazine readers still want hard-copy versions.

I began my career when print reigned supreme in the hearts, minds and boardrooms of clients and marketers, so I confess a real fondness for it. In fact before qualifying as a designer, I began my working life as an apprentice printer so I have an understanding of the process. Yet I still marvel at how the disparate elements of ink, water, paper and metal all come together to create things of beauty.

And this brings me to a fine example of print which I have been admiring for some time. 
”Completely London” is a dyed-in-the-wool, perfect-bound, 84-page magazine. But it’s such a lovely example, for so many reasons, that I couldn’t resist the opportunity of taking a closer look to see how it fits the ‘inside out’ theory.

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The magazine is published triannually by estate agency Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, as a way of differentiating themselves in London’s property market which is full of publications that all have a generic look and feel about them. The title derives from the KFH brand proposition, and forms an integral part of the firm’s strategy of customer engagement.

So what’s inside? To put it simply, great content. Completely London contains a treasure trove of beautifully-written and engaging articles from a professional team of writers. It’s eclectic too. For example; a story on a chichi west-end apartment can very easily be followed by another about the street cleaners who work in the dead of night. That, in turn, could be juxtaposed against an interview with urban bee-keepers, the owners of a micro-museum or an article on the most brain-bursting pub quiz nights. You can even discover which caffs do the best Londoners’ breakfasts.

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But there’s something else too. It’s a fundamental part of the design which is invisible to the reader; it’s the grid, or framework, the magazine is built upon. That’s what connects the content to the ‘look’ or, to put it another way, what links the inside to the outside. It does this by imposing order on the text and images to give rhythm to the articles. In other words, the grid is the foundation of the design. And, just like with property, it’s hidden well below the surface.

In terms of layout, a huge amount of care has been taken when choosing the images, their size and proportion. They’re all nicely balanced and perfectly colour-matched which gives each article a real sense of unity. And there are some nice design touches too to keep obsessive people like me, who follow the minutiae of layout and typographic detail, interested.

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On top of that there’s an excellent mix of visuals from skilled photographers and talented illustrators whose styles range from complex digitally-generated montages to traditional pen and ink, lino-cut and watercolour. So not only is it expertly produced, it’s something of a showcase for talented people too.

But it’s not just a ‘nice-to’have’ publication. Yes, it clearly does have coffee-table appeal but there’s a hard-nosed philosophy behind it. Completely London is designed to raise the KFH profile in the property market and advertise the properties on its list. Yet even that is carried out in a measured, thoughtful and clever way as the property pages are carefully paced at intervals throughout the publication; often in connection with a particular feature. For example, a story on some of the unique cultural aspects of Tooting or the hidden charms of Blackheath will be punctuated by a list of KFH properties for sale or rent in those areas.

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In an article for Marketing Week, Paul Masters, KFH’s Marketing Director explained: “For the magazine, our brief to August Media (the agency) was unusual in that it explicitly set out what it shouldn’t be; ie heavy with property listings, predictable restaurant reviews and the latest, coolest bar to open.”

That inverse brief gave the agency the scope to create a publication that hadn’t been seen before in the property world. When asked what readers think he added: “It’s been extremely well-received. The winning formula for us has been the fact that our magazine is interesting and informative; focusing on the more unusual aspects of London life rather than trying to overtly sell property. We’re also not afraid to deal with edgier subjects either, as we don’t want to present an unreal sugar-coated view of London.”

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So it seems that KFH are, refreshingly, living up to their brand proposition by being relevant by their customers (and if you want to read more on relevancy there’s an excellent article on the subject here at the Marketing Microscope). The philosophy seems to be bearing fruit as the magazine attracts some interesting advertisers. You can be absolutely certain that the likes of Boss, Toni & Guy, Ligne Roset and Rimmel would not take space if the readership didn’t match their target audiences or if the magazine ran counter to their brands. So there’s some clever brand alignment going on too.

To my mind Completely London is a perfect example of the purpose of design; what I call ‘inside out design’. Why? Because the ‘inside’ (the beautifully written content) is brought to life on the ‘outside’ and the look and feel is so appealing, and powerful, that the reader can’t help but be drawn in.

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This is what a readership survey carried out in October last year discovered:

• Almost two-thirds of readers think the magazine is excellent or like it a lot
• 86% of people think that it is better than other property magazines
• 98% read more than half the magazine
• 92% of respondents spend more than 20 minutes reading the magazine
• 82% of readers visited websites featured in the magazine
• More than one in three readers searched for properties at www.kfh.co.uk
• More than a third encouraged friends and family to read the magazine
• More than half of readers pick up the magazine more than once
• 69% keep the magazine for more than a week; only 4% keep it for a day or less

I really do think it’s an excellent piece of marketing for any organisation, let alone an estate agency who, to be honest, I wouldn’t automatically associate with something as good as this. Not surprisingly, it’s picked up a host of publishing awards.

BlackheathIf I have a tiny niggle (and it’s more of an observation than anything else) I would love to see imagery from the magazine used more overtly on the company’s website. That, to me, would really tie their online and offline presences together.

So if you’re thinking about living in London, or are already there and are moving from one part to another, you can find out about Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward at kfh.co.uk.

Or to read ‘Elements’, the latest edition of Completely London, go to kfh.co.uk/completely-london/magazine/elements/

I think you’ll find it fascinating.

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