National Geographic / Photograph by Aitor Lara
National Geographic’s August 2019 magazine will focus on human migration and will feature a unique design concept. The headlines on each of the main stories will run off the page, reflecting the issue’s theme that there are no borders, that everything is fluid and that people migrate.
We are living in a time when borders fail us. We wanted to reflect that notion in the headlining of our special issue on human migration, having the type move through the pages, rather than obeying traditional rules as to where it can—and can’t—be. It is a signal to our readers that something is changing here.
Emmet Smith, Creative Director, National Geographic Magazine
National Geographic / Photograph by Alexia Webster
Marianne Seregi, the magazine’s design director, shared with National Geographic the concept behind the design.
As you were reading stories about mass migrations of humans, what made you feel that adding a different design element to accompany these stories was necessary?
Marianne: Good editorial design is not just aesthetically pleasing; it should also convey the mood and the meaning of the content. In Paul Salopek’s story "Walking with Migrants," we learn that "the United Nations estimates that more than a billion people—one in seven humans alive today—are voting with their feet, migrating within their countries or across international borders. Millions are fleeing violence: war, persecution, criminality, political chaos. Many more, suffocated by poverty, are seeking economic relief beyond their horizons."
Migration is ultimately a story about movement, and the forces that push men and women from their homes and the promises that pull them forward. We designed the issue to reflect that push-and-pull.
National Geographic / Photograph by John Stanmeyer
This edition of the magazine includes an article titled, “We Are All Migrants.” How is the migration theme enhanced through the design element of taking away borders?
Marianne: In this package, we removed our traditional borders, allowing the headlines to flow off of the page in one area and flow back onto it in another area. The goal here was to convey the flow of migrants in and out of countries all over the world. For this design, we drew inspiration from all of our reporting, but I was specifically struck by the words of photographer Turjoy Chowdhury, who when discussing his portraits of Rohingya babies, born with no legal citizenship, stated: “A borderless world: this is what the project is all about.”
National Geographic / Photograph by Turjoy Chowdhury
Why did you select the stories you did to feature these design changes? What does the story about early Europeans being a melting pot of immigrant bloodlines share with the story about Rohingya babies being born with no legal citizenship in the world’s largest refugee camp?
Marianne: We used this design approach on every feature story within the migration package. In "Who Were the First Europeans?" we learn about three waves of migration that helped make Europe what it is today. As author Andrew Curry writes, "In an era of debate over migration and borders, the science shows that Europe is a continent of immigrants and always has been."
In "Refugees from the Start," we meet Rohingya infants whose parents fled Myanmar for Bangladesh. These babies were migrants even in the womb. Though these stories are about different time periods and different parts of the world, they show that humankind has always been on the move. They examine both why individuals would leave their homes and how they make a new life in a new place.
How are you hoping to impact your readers and shift the narrative of refugees and migration stories through this design change?
Marianne: Ultimately it is the journalism that will impact the readers. The stories and the photographs themselves. My job is to stick the landing, to present our words and images in a way that supports and reflects all of the reporting. I look forward to readers experiencing this borderless, movement-inspired design as they learn more about the movement of humanity.