– rebranding Fen + Field

2020 was a lot of things. Even though we’d only just got started, for our team, two of those things were reflection and motivation. After launching in 2019, Fen + Field’s first issue was published right at the start of the year. There was a lot of soul searching about whether that was the right thing to do. It turned out it was. But that was only the beginning of the journey.

But because of this strange year, we’ve been able to do a lot of looking inward and evaluating the magazine as we go. The jump in creative style from 1 to 2 was massive. We’ve been able to engage with our readership, getting into some pretty nitty-gritty conversations about not just our stories but understanding the beating heart of it too.

Towards the middle of the year, I noticed patterns emerging, and some of the brand elements that we’d been using suddenly seemed off-brand in light of those conversations.

Despite that, we weren’t necessarily thinking of heading into a rebrand. That seems ridiculous less than 24 months in, yes? Tweaks, maybe, like any business but a complete rebrand seemed so unlikely that it never even crossed our minds. Until it did. In a workshop session, we looked at our feedback and evolving dialogues. Suddenly, we knew that a rebrand was in our future and maybe right now was better than in five years.

Where we started

Fen + Field was founded by one person, with one idea. Provide a story-led route into the outdoors, be it through real-world expedition or intentional living at home, that was – and this was the most crucial part – accessible to all.

We needed to explore the wild without exception to who it was available to. I recognised that not everyone who cares about sustainability has the ability – or desire – to climb a mountain, but they still want to know how others are doing that intentionally. Others want to better understand intersectional environmentalism and how we can fight the wilderness whitewash of ‘keep the wild, wild’, negatively impacting indigenous communities, which are not responsible for the climate crisis.

These are big conversations, and yet at the heart of them is simply the modern human self. And that was where we started from; the compromise of human/nature—the reality of modern life and how that looks different for all of us. And yet, one thing endures; nature does not belong to us, but we do belong to nature. How do we communicate that with an identity?

A new journey

Establishing what we wanted for Phase 2 started at the same time as No.3 went into production. Challenging, yes. But then, that’s how 2020 had played out for us anyway. What outdoors has meant to everyone this year has been phenomenal, and as our vision has evolved, we knew we wanted to reposition ourselves, or at least pitch up with no broken tent poles.

Our initial ‘ideal customer’ portrait was right; we were hitting the coffee tables of who we had expected – three types of explorer; Adventurers, Pathfinders, and Homesteaders. What we hadn’t picked up on until the publication of No.2 was the thread that binds them – our declaration as a ‘human/nature magazine’ was more relevant than we had anticipated. Our readers wanted to reflect on their internal relationships with the world as much as they wanted to explore it – and they were dropping into our DMs to tell us that was why they were coming back to our stories. This unity of exploring oneself within the ‘wilderness’ and as the wilderness led us straight to Outside Inside Within – initially our guiding light for the rebrand – and now a new tagline that tells you all you need to know about the magazine.

Once we came across the Old Norse word, ætla, translating as to strive, to intend, to think, to purpose, we felt at home. It summed up the power of each of our readers, and the process of reimaging Fen + Field came to life.

Once we got to that point, the creative direction for the project began to move us away from the wistfulness of Fen + Field into something, well, as disruptive as we intended to be. But remaining accessible to everyone from the outset was also crucial; this rebrand is modern, minimal and clean. It was never that the Fen + Field brand didn’t communicate effectively; rather, our rebrand to ætla clarifies our identity.

What’s changed?

Well, the name, and everything else – almost.

The clarity of direction is coursing through the team now. We’re so grateful that the community stepped up and started those conversations – and made us have them with each other. We recognised that the world had changed in the 24 months since we launched and, well, we’ve changed too. There were times over the first 18 months where the nature of 2020 meant we had to react as we went. It was also the year where our core team of contributors grew, and most importantly, our audience. Now, we want ætla to be an inclusive, safe space to explore the world and the actions we can take – or celebrate – for its protection.

There are a few more changes too, dropping from quarterly to biannual, reducing the number of volumes of our ezine (and including that in the rebranding process too), and adding new elements to the way our community can navigate their relationships with the great outdoors. The essence of the magazine is exactly the same. We’re here to unearth stories about modern humans in a wild world.

And then there’s the submark, based on the rune for æ, and fortuitously, a little like an F. We’re not saying goodbye to Fen + Field because it didn’t work, but because it did, and being able to nod to that first step on this indie magazine adventure is serendipity.

Take a peek inside No.1 here <INSERT LINK>