Last July witnessed the debut of LMU, from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The school’s previous magazine, Vistas, had not been redesigned since 1999, and when the Loyola publications crew, led by editor Joseph Wakelee-Lynch, decided they were past due for an overhaul, they elected to completely start over: The first issue of LMU is listed as Vol. 1, No. 1.
Wakelee-Lynch engaged designers D.J. Stout and Daniella Floeter at Pentagram to retool not only the print magazine but the website and the monthly electronic alumni newsletter. He says Vistas had become what felt like a half-university, half-alumni magazine, in that it strove for serious journalistic content in its feature well, but also had, in each issue, campaign and alumni news sections that were boring and probably unread. His editorial board concurred, and from the university he got the resources to engage in the 14-month process of not just redesigning the book, but rethinking it cover to cover.
Wakelee-Lynch says that in figuring out what they wanted LMU to become, they were guided by admiration for Portland and Notre Dame, as well as the need to embrace digital media. “We were aware of monumental changes in communications and technology and that readers and consumers were adapting to electronic communication innovations. We were aware that university magazine readers still want their print magazines, and more and more of them also like getting information electronically. They want both. Our redesign process gave us the opportunity to produce a magazine and website that would be complementary and maximize the technologies available to us.” He sings Pentagram’s praise: “One thing that I came to appreciate the most about Pentagram, and particularly D.J. Stout, is that along with [bringing] a wealth of creative ideas, he and they are very good listeners. They came to campus for several days early in the process and listened extensively to our staff and key stakeholder groups.”
As an unrepentant printnista, I turned to the new paper product first, giving the premier issue a good long look. The magazine uses an unconventional 11.5 x 9 trim size. The cover and feature well both look great, as you’d expect from Pentragram. (The cover photograph is of the LMU surf club. Johns Hopkins doesn’t have one of those, perhaps because here The Beach refers to a large expanse of grass in front of the library where undergraduate males ogle sunbathing undergraduate females.) The cover is uncluttered, distinctive, and bold. The feature spreads make good use of some fine photography (so does the back cover), and the magazine wisely commissioned editorial cartoonist Mike Smith to illustrate the four-page Q&A with . . . Mike Smith. (The story’s deck describes Smith as “an opinionated malcontent.” I think I’ll put that on my next business card.) For my taste, the news section in the front of the book is overstuffed with a gazillion storylets, but I like the full-page photo that displays what associate professor of English John Reilly has on the shelves opposite his desk in his faculty office, including a trophy won in a spa fitness contest.
Those of us struggling to figure out how to integrate print and digital should pay attention to the LMU website. Says Wakelee-Lynch: “We use the website to tell parts of stories that cannot be told in print as well as original stories that have no print referent. We use video, slideshows, opportunities for interaction to participate immediately in conversations generated by content. The website is not designed to duplicate at one’s computer the reading experience that one has when reading a print magazine. Instead it’s designed to tell stories and provide information in ways that maximize the strengths of Internet communications.” The website leads not with the magazine’s contents, but with video tied to the magazine’s stories, which is a smart move. Navigating to the stories is easy, and the stories look great on a computer screen, especially the large photos. The features are not all that long, an advantage online because the reader doesn’t have to keep scrolling through one screen after another to read the whole story.
Turn to the first feature in the print magazine, a piece about the 1950 LMU football team titled “No One Left Behind,” and you’ll see in the upper left corner of the first page a discrete box informing you that on the website you’ll find video of the 1950 homecoming parade (which is worth watching just for the marching band’s uniforms and the crowning of the homecoming queen). There’s also a scrapbook compiled by one of the football players. Elsewhere on the site is a slide show of Mike Smith’s work, tied to the magazine’s feature spread, and a video of the aforementioned surf club, which makes me wonder why I went to school in Ohio. (Less surfing, unless you count riding cafeteria trays down an icy, brick-paved hill in the winter.) There’s video of the photo shoot of water polo goalie Andy Stevens, who graces the opening of the magazine’s sports spread. The photos, by staff photographer Jon Rou, are pure beefcake, but probably because I’m a guy, and a nerd, what I found most fascinating was not Mr. Stevens but how the photographer’s camera was tethered to a computer, which immediately downloaded each shot, which went to the laptop of some other guy in the studio, who scrolled through and selected photos that he then sent to the computer of art director Maureen Pacino, who, on the spot, began positioning them in the layout. When I began in this business, we waxed and pasted up columns of type by hand. Hard to believe the pace of change.
Also interesting, I think, is the website’s left-hand column, a long string of feeds to online creative work by alumni: videos, photographs, writing, paintings, blogs. It’s a terrific idea and I’m mad that LMU thought of it before I did.
No part of this project—Pentagram, the new print format, the website video, the photography—comes cheap, of course, and Loyola Marymount had to cut an issue to afford everything. That’s a trade I’d hate to make, but at least LMU readers are getting a better publication out of it.
While they were at it, LMU created an iPad app as well. I’ll be posting more about uMags on iPads just as soon as I get my hands on one of those babies. Meanwhile, check out LMU.