B title goes A-list

Say goodbye to b there and b spirit, the European and long-haul versions, respectively, of Brussels Airlines’ inflight magazine. From July these have been replaced with a single, new magazine, b inspired.

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The addition of five story-teaser tabs at the top gives a newsstand feel, a bit Guardian-ish, but more importantly presents passengers with multiple content hits poking up out of the seat pocket. We decided to go with a quirky cover concept that would reflect the vision and branding of the airline itself, and it was agreed that we would offer two covers each month, one for the European network and one for the long-haul routes, using two images from the same story.

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Inside, the idea was to give the new magazine a stronger Belgian identity, so we created a new front section called Belgitude, which is a bunch of newsy shorts on a Belgian theme, plus a column from Antwerp and a profile of a Belgian personality (no, it’s not Jean-Claude Van Damme). Previously the front section of the magazine was rigidly sectioned with pages devoted to hotels, food, ecology etc – we’ve got rid of all this and replaced it with something far looser, a more free-form diary section that is picture led and totally flexible in format, and which we’ve called Perspective.

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Also in perspective is a four-page city guide. The rest of the city guides, which used to jam up the magazine, have migrated online, where readers can find guides to the entire network – which is a good way of driving traffic between the printed magazine and the website. Our regular business writer, Boyd Farrow, has been promoted to a spot mid-book, where he files his dispatches from the global frontline: for our relaunch issue he wonders why we can do anything with technology except make other technology work:

Yet there is one big difference between [Jack] Bauer’s world and ours: spies are never scuppered by their technology. Indeed, whatever their assigned task – producing the “schematics” of any building in the world, say, or disabling any security camera – they can do it instantly in just three keystrokes. They can unclog the photocopier in four.

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For the cover story, author of the bestselling Where Chefs Eat Joe Warwick interviewed Albert Adria of elBulli fame, who has almost single-handedly transformed the once-shabby neighbourhood of El Poble Sec in Barcelona into a serious foodie destination with five of his inimitable restaurants. Deputy editor Maresa Manara visited a vineyard in Tuscany where a group of women are creating some excellent wines in a very macho industry and Graeme Virtue joined some wannabe Jedi warriors in training at a lightsaber school in Belgium.

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Design-wise, art director Marten Sealby wanted to simply things with a cleaner look – so more white space and wider columns, with fewer fonts and less showy headlines. This allows the photography to really shine and we are committed to shooting as many of the features as we can afford.

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The first issue dropped on to our desks today and we are pretty pleased with the result; after a lot of brainstorming, wrangling, hard graft, blood, sweat and tears, we are confident this new magazine will be a hit with Brussels Airlines passengers. (Posted by JaneWright)

Snakes, unfathomable emergencies and invisible nuns

“In one wicked motion, the head whips around, the mouth opens wide ad the teeth sink into the flesh between Steve Daskam’s thumb and index finger. Daskam shrieks and squeezes the back of the snake’s head with his other hand to force the slitherer to withdraw its fangs before the rest of us can quite compute what has happened, our flashlights spinning like circus spotlights trying to focus. Ignoring the oozing blood and what ever stinging pain he endures, Daskam uses his bleeding hand to regrip the hissing 11-foot-Burmese python and shove it into a teal pillowcase. Then he starts to laugh.”

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I defy anybody not to want to continue reading this story, which runs in the May issue of Hemispheres. It’s about diesel mechanic Daskam and his friend, high-school teacher Devin Belliston, and their hobby hunting pythons in the Florida Everglades. Not only is this legal but it’s actually encouraged by the authorities because the reptiles are an invasive species that has been wrecking havoc on the delicate local swampy ecosystem through the strangling and swallowing of small mammals and other indigenous critters. It does what the best stories do, which is to immerse the reader in a whole other totally engrossing world they previously knew nothing about. You can read the rest of the piece by clicking on the pages below.

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There’s another great piece of writing in this issue but of a very different kind in Boyd Farrow’s travel essay ‘Modern Inconveniences’. Boyd used to edit CNBC European Business magazine for Ink where he’s remembered as a pugnacious grouch and it’s great that he hasn’t mellowed any:

“By my reckoning, there has not been a single positive technological innovation in hotels since the introduction of the passenger elevator in the mid 19th-century. All the same, hotels have insisted on introducing a succession of useless gadgets, ranging from the trouser press to the bathroom telephone. A phone in the WC? What kind of emergency are they envisaging?”

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Also this issue, changes in the magazine’s tent-pole cover feature Three Perfect Days.

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Not only has the design been upgraded, the presentation of the story has switched from second-person narrative (“Your destination is the red-dirt hills of southwestern Guam…”) to first-person, which allows this issue’s traveller Chris Wright to fully indulge himself:

“A highlight of the tour is a 17th-century convent that supports itself by making and selling cookies – commerce that’s complicated by the fact that the nuns must never be seen by non-nuns. I wander the hallways in search of a nun-run cookie shop, then come a cross a murky little room with a hole in the wall, inside of which stands a circular wooden contraption. It spins and a box appears. I put 10 euros down and it spins again. “Receipt!” I shout into the hole.”

It’s like the inflight version of The New Yorker. (Posted by AndrewH)