The Playbill cover has a storied history, beginning with a playbill merely being an object specific to each theater. Branding was a geographical or real estate question – branding of playbills was determined by the house in which a show was playing. Over time, Playbill emerged as a unifying force for Broadway and later non-Broadway theater. Most recently, Playbill has grown into its own publication, presenting not just factual information about the show in progress, but also reporting to-the-minute theatrical news online and producing a monthly periodical published in tandem with the production information of a specific show. Their most recent redesign takes their overall aesthetic and makes it just a hint more unified across platforms, and surprisingly much more modern, despite the relative size of the change.
The only major difference in print media is the expansion of show artwork to the borders of the cover page. Rather than coming in a printed frame, the artwork now sits flush with the physical page. The slight change allows, first, slightly more space and scale with which designers can create their artwork. Second, it opens up the experience of the design – only after this change do the confines of the previous design appear so restrictive. Similarly, the design extends to Playbill.com, the central news source for the brand. The sleek, flush design on print aligns closely with its digital appearance, focused on color-blocking and large images. By making this slight adjustment, Playbill unified its aesthetic user experience and undoubtedly improved their print appeal, which is the most frequent interaction they have with the majority of their consumers.