Cooking Light’s New Layout

A representative from Cooking Light magazine contacted me to see if I would be interested in exploring their new magazine layout starting in the September issue. Once I confirmed that I did not have to subscribe- always suspicious am I- I agreed.

I do not subscribe to magazines. I used to but I find I do not have the time for them anymore. My CL and Southern Living newsstand purchases, wonderful indulgences that they are, only happen when I have a flight to catch, which is rare these days. As a former subscriber and knowing Cooking Light’s excellent reputation for quality and charm, I kind of looked forward to getting my hands on an issue again. Here are my thoughts.

1. Beautiful photos of the finished recipes.
2. Easy to find table of contents highlighting the features.
3. Excellent recipe index in the FRONT of the magazine organized according to course and includes a key for “Quick and Easy,” “Make Ahead,” “Freezable,” and “Kid Friendly” Recipes.
4. Easy to navigate. Contained only 3 card stock type inserts making flipping through a breeze. A pet peeve of mine is a magazine full of inserts, making flipping through impossible.
5. New binding. Not stapled anymore so when I rip out a page the whole thing does not fall apart.
6. I liked the new segment “New Uses for Everyday Ingredients”- great ideas.

1. The new color scheme. The colors are cool and stark. I loved the old CL’s color scheme of sages, orange and rusts, taupe’s and beige’s, and deep reds, so much more cozy.
2. Years ago when I subscribed to CL, I could not wait to see what new food trend they would highlight. Now CL seems to be following the trend instead of setting the trend that they once did. A wise man once said there is nothing new under the sun leaving all of us food writers clamoring for a revelation, sometimes even inspiration.
3. Maybe it is called clip art, I don’t know, but the little stop watches letting me know a recipe is quick and pages to look like notebook pages for the “Cooking Class” feature are things in which I am not interested. Sophistication has be lost in the revamp.
4. It felt as though the magazine was trying too hard, the warmth was lost, seeming more geared toward attracting cooks who do not have the time for the CL recipes of old. I guess that was the point, they didn’t. I felt the old CL slowed things down for me, making me want to linger over their dishes, while I cooked and ate them. The new layout made me feel rushed in an already rushed world.

With the recent demise of Gourmet, I am sure all the food magazines have scrambled back to the think tank, they are competing with something of a giant- the internet. I used to rely heavily on CL when cooking for my clients back in my catering days and to me CL wasn’t broke so it was too bad Ms. Culpepper sought to fix it, although she did give her readers what they wanted- more quick and easy recipes- trading warmth and grace for stark and rushed. My only hope is that Time Inc. does not “fix” Southern Living.

What do you think of the new design?


  1. EAT!
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 7:16 AM | Permalink

    The jury is still out for me. I am not sure if I like it or not. Like you, there are some parts I like and some I do not. The magazine previously went into depth more with their articles. Now it seems like each topic is covered on only one page.

    I am not of a short attention span. I like to relax and enjoy a good magazine. Not jump from topic to topic.

    I do still like that it includes exericse, recipes, etc. and is different from other cooking magazines.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 10:38 AM | Permalink

    I have not seen the new layout so I can't give my opion but I had a large stack of the old CL that I kept for years and I still use some of the recipes. I handed some down to you Robin and I know you also tried a lot of them. Ma

  3. That Girl
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 10:47 AM | Permalink

    I'm with you and EAT! – I can't decide if I like the new layout or not.

  4. redforever
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 11:06 AM | Permalink

    Here is the main problem I have with most magazines, food or whatever. They seem to follow the trend of fashion. By that I mean there seems to be a 20 year repeat cycle. In other words, what was old is now new again with perhaps some wee little twist that is all for naught.

    So it might be almost the same recipe with maybe sun dried tomatoes substituted for fresh tomatoes. Or oven roasted veggies substituted for fresh veggies.

    Whoop-dee-doo, not a big deal for me.

    I still buy some food magazines but not as frequently. In particular, I rarely buy the compilation types that Cooking Light puts out. So say, something like "Cooking Light's Favorite Chicken Recipes". They seem to put one out every year, but 95% of the recipes they include are the same.

  5. Penny
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 1:52 PM | Permalink

    The magazine industry is undergoing a panic mentality in my opinion. Southern Living has changed its format just recently and seems to be concentrating more on design than cooking. I like both so it is not a great problem. But what I hate is the lose of Gourmet and the old CL. Gourmet's writers were excellent and you could relax with it and transport yourself to new places and ideas. This quick and easy mentality is not for me.

  6. velva
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 2:05 PM | Permalink

    I still have an obession with my cooking magazines. Your review on CL was excellent.

  7. unconfidentialcook
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 2:06 PM | Permalink

    You are a natural editor!

  8. redforever
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 2:35 PM | Permalink

    Robin, you said “The new layout made me feel rushed in an already rushed world.”

    And EAT said “I am not of a short attention span. I like to relax and enjoy a good magazine. Not jump from topic to topic.”

    There in lies the problem for many things in our present society. And I call that “subscribing to the Sesame Street generation”

    These days, any company trying to sell something seems to feel the general population can only concentrate for 30 seconds or a maybe a minute. So they rush and try to grab your immediate attention fearing that you will become bored or that they will lose you.

    Better they keep in mind what attracted their customers in the first place and go from there. I wonder, did Cooking Light do any survey actually asking their subscribers what they would like to see improved, changed, dropped or added?

  9. Robin Sue
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 3:55 PM | Permalink

    Redforever- It seems that they did do some type of market research and are now very happy to give the readers what they asked for, more quick and easy recipes. I do like quick and easy on occasion but go to other sources for those types of recipes and had relied on Cl for the classics lightened up but still keeping so much depth of flavor. Thanks for your input.

  10. Barbara
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 5:13 PM | Permalink

    Your review was spot on. Just the cover photo alone at the beginning of your post highlights the color differences. I much prefer muted too. Never liked in your face much.
    Think you're right about other cooking magazines hoping they can fill Gourmet's shoes. Maybe they shouldn't try.

  11. RecipeGirl
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 5:37 PM | Permalink

    I stopped my subscription long ago, but started it up again. I actually really love the new layout a lot! To me, it's reminiscent of Food and Wine.

  12. Kay
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 6:10 PM | Permalink

    Of course I don't know how it used to be, but if the right magazine is the new and left is the old design, I think I like the old design.

  13. Joan Nova
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 6:20 PM | Permalink

    Robin…Kudos to you. Some people may be swayed to write a positive critique but I felt your review was balanced but very honest. Just what I've come to expect from the Big Red Kitchen 🙂

  14. noble pig
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 6:53 PM | Permalink

    I don't like the starkness either but overall I love the magazine. I susbscribe to lots and lots of magazines, I love them all….even when I get a year behind I still read them…crazy.

  15. Jonna
    Posted October 28, 2009 at 7:14 PM | Permalink

    Hi Robin,

    I just wanted to thank you for visiting my crazy blog!

    Your baking blog also looks wonderful, and I will be back. I really need to make those pretzel Samoas. My youngest daughter and her husband live in Richmond, Virginia….what part are you in?
    Thanks again,

  16. Elra
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 12:37 PM | Permalink

    I never subscribe to this magazine, but judging from your photo, seem the new one has brighter color.

  17. biz319
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 3:14 PM | Permalink

    I am a magazine whore – I currently subscribe to *gasp* 13 cooking related magazines!

    But I get them free from my husband's hotel priority points 😀 They just all come in his name though!

    I don't mind the new CL layout – out of all my magazines CL is probably the one I most read cover to cover – after LaCucina! 😀

  18. Sue
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 3:56 PM | Permalink

    I am a longtime reader and used to subscribe to CL for several years. I dislike the new layout… its very reminiscent of Bon Appetite new layout which I don't care much for either. I understand the need to revamp the magazine but I don't think they did it in a positive way. I still pick up the magazine from the library as it is my favourite food magazine… but its kind of sad to see what they did.

  19. Lori
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 4:31 PM | Permalink

    Yah know I am totally with all your comments. I thought the new design colder as well. I liked the colors of the old magazine so much more. It always said warmth to me and I liked that. I would have to say that this is my number one thing that I do not like.

  20. Ninette
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 6:41 PM | Permalink

    RS, I saw your comment on the pancit at Chaos on the Kitchen and left the following comment for you:

    Robin Sue. I never boil my noodles. Let them soak in hot water for 20 minutes or until al dente. Then you drain them and stir fry them for a couple minutes with a little chicken broth for flavor. They'll do their final softening in the pan without disintegrating or gooping together.

  21. Martha
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 8:04 PM | Permalink

    I don't mind the new design. I've been a subscriber on and off for at least 15 years; I do feel it was time for them to freshen up the book. I also agree that CL is trying to attract people who don't have (or want) the luxury of sitting down and reading a cooking magazine; I think they're trying to appeal to people who are looking for recipes: looking quickly and cooking quickly. That's OK with me if it encourages more people to cook.

  22. Ingrid
    Posted October 29, 2009 at 9:55 PM | Permalink

    I used to subscribe to CL and loved it but honestly….I didn't make much out of it. Often the ingredients were hard to find, too costly, ot there were just too many of them. Intimidated I passed on what were probably some awesome recipes. Since I've started blogging I've made many of their recipes though I just get them off the internet now.

    Thanks for the honest review!

  23. Kimberly
    Posted October 30, 2009 at 5:58 PM | Permalink

    I buy magazines at the stand because of the colors and how it appeals to me. I am totally in their hands. I do not like the new set up and I agree with you.

  24. Ecritic
    Posted November 25, 2009 at 9:59 PM | Permalink

    I hate the new layout and format. It seems to be dumbing down cooking to attract people who don't really cook. Not only do they now have a picture for every recipe, but they repeat the photo up to three times (see December issue). The index at the back was just fine. The idea of comparing store-bought prepared foods, like spaghetti sauce, seems to defeat the purpose of a cooking magazine. And even before the new layout, the recipes have been increasing in calorie content–not very light anymore.

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