Anatomy of a Rapid Response

Responsive, timely customer service does not just happen. At its best, it’s organic, symbiotic, with client and provider forming the strands of a business double helix—the DNA of a partnership.

And sometimes great service—and results—is born of situations that test your flexibility, challenge your agility, and make you reach down to your core resources.

Take Network Media Partners’ redesign project for its client magazine, Commonwealth, published by the Virginia Association of REALTORS® (VAR), for instance.

As a partner for more than 17 years, VAR knew that they would call on the Network design team when it came time to redesign their flagship member magazine. With tweaks and updates throughout the years, the time had come to commit time and budget to a full-fledged redesign.

“Our relationship with VAR speaks to the core value at Network: the power of carefully nurtured partnerships,” said Jen Smith, Creative Director at Network. “Network shares its expertise with our client associations in developing the overall strategy and planning for a variety of communication vehicles. 

“In this case, we worked to define the purpose of the magazine, focused on key editorial pillars and how they align with the client’s mission, and developed a new magazine structure and aesthetic to suit.” 


Network shares its expertise with our client associations in developing the overall strategy and planning for a variety of communication vehicles.


Network’s redesign process is both highly creative and methodical at once. The team has developed a systematic approach to redesign that has proven successful through several projects. The process allows for and requires feedback and collaboration at every step so that the goals of the redesign and the client’s expectations are met or exceeded. From the foundations of typography, color, imagery style and direction, and grid, to the design elements that comprise the overall aesthetic, the design team takes great care in making careful, purposeful selections along the way.

“The process allows for flexibility and room for the creative process to flourish, but keeps the job on point to hit our target goals and launch,” said Smith.

That flexibility and agility would come in handy.

In September 2013, almost two-thirds of the way through the magazine redesign, VAR appointed a new chief executive officer. The new leadership assessed the Association’s strategic communication needs and decided to adjust Commonwealth’s editorial focus from an industry-based news budget to a more membership-based menu of features and resources.

This new editorial focus handed the joint editorial and design team a challenge. And with so much focus on words and images uniting in a solid redesign, did the team just set itself back several steps? With the new change in editorial focus, would all the work to date be useless?

The challenge became an opportunity. While the mid-redesign changes may have tasked Network’s project planning, the new development enabled Network to showcase its quick response abilities.

“We certainly did have to think on our feet,” Smith said. “But because one of the goals of the new design was to be uber-flexible, this new plot twist wasn’t a deal-breaker for the project. We are just as invested in the success of a magazine redesign as the client who hires us, so there was never a question that would we make it work.”

Commonwealth relaunched quarterly with the redesign aesthetic—and new editorial focus—fully intact. Through dealing with the challenges of change in a cooperative, creative way, Network and VAR have built a flexible, responsive relationship.

You might almost say it’s in their genes.

“The process allows for flexibility and room for the creative process to flourish, but keeps the job on point to hit our target goals and launch.”

– Jen Smith, Creative Director