Tagged: denison

Great minds think alike, Pt. 2

If you recall, a few weeks ago I lamented Notre Dame Magazine arriving in my mailbox with this coloring book cover:

coverimage

The basis of my lament was that Johns Hopkins Magazine, which I edit, was in the midst of a theme issue on fun—stop that chortling right now—and our art director, Pam Li, had been mocking up a similar concept:

jhm

Okay. Now you’re brought up to date. Which brings me to this, new in my mailbox from Denison:

cover_300x366

Open this one up and you find six more pages of Denison scenes for your coloring pleasure. Who’s next?

Oh, just so you know, after she abandoned the coloring book idea, Pam Li cooked up something way different for the Johns Hopkins Magazine summer issue. A click on the image will make the cover lines legible.

JHMag_Summ2016_cov1

 

Editors Forum Bulletin #3

Day 2 off to a roaring start. The Emory University crew—Mary Loftus, editor of Emory Medicine, Paige Parvin, editor of Emory Magazine, Maria Lameiras, associate editor at Emory, and Peta Westmaas, lead designer for Health Sciences Emory University—discussed what happened last summer when a person infected with Ebola entered the United States for the first time for treatment at Emory. Loftus had to tear up her planned Fall ’14 issue (actually, she mostly moved it to Spring ’15) and fill 20 pages with something high quality and meaningful about a situation of monstrous complexity and external media attention. The two magazines did tremendous, exemplary work in a situation that was volatile, emotionally charged, and sometimes absurd—for quite some time the magazine could not use the names of the (eventually) three patients brought to Emory because that would violate HIPAA rules; meanwhile, the patients’ names were in every American newspaper reporting on the crisis.

Not only did Emory get out two fine print issues, they worked with Adobe to craft an excellent iPad special publication devoted to Ebola and what transpired at Emory. (I am madly typing all of this in the hotel bar at lunch between sessions; I’ll link to some of this stuff in a later post when I’m back in Baltimore.)

Next I attended two of the better breakout sessions I’ve found in several years. First was Michael Freedman, editorial director at the Stanford School of Business, who discussed a startling decision made at Stanford Business. Like so many of us in our various editorial shops, Stanford Business had for years been concentrating on their thrice-yearly print edition, with digital stuff—web, email newsletter, etc.—coming second. Freedman, tamping down his emotional attachment to print, turned that thinking on end. Now, Stanford Business posts all editorial content online first, and subsequently collects stories that already have had a digital life, redoes the art, and publishes them again in the print magazine. Actually, he described the flow as website => social media push => email newsletter => print. They do not print the stories that generate the most web traffic; they select those pieces that will make a good print magazine. I plan more on this later, if I can get Freedman to agree to answer some questions after we’ve all gone home.

Up the stairs and down the hall I found Maureen Harmon, editor of Denison, and Patrick Kirchner, visual editor of LNP Media Group and Harmon’s partner in Dog Ear Consultants. Harmon and Kirchner are two of the smartest people in university magazines, and this was the “Dozen Don’ts” session I took note of the other day. I’d like to post more about some of this at a later date, too, but for now (another session in 20 minutes), here’s their dozen:

— Don’t think of yourselves as alumni magazine editors; think of yourselves as magazine editors who make magazines that have to work the same way as any newsstand publication.

— Don’t force things. Kill anything in the magazine that has grown stale.

— Don’t let the back of the book die from inattention. It may be the best-read section of your magazine.

— Don’t underestimate the importance and uses of typography.

— Don’t do 3,000-word profiles…at least, the bad ones that are just 3,000-word resumes. A great long profile is a thing of beauty that belongs in any magazine, but be sure the story justifies the length.

— Don’t always go for the “bold environmental portrait.” They’re often not bold and too often all look alike.

— Don’t operate in a silo. Get out of your office for advice, ideas, and feedback, and get off campus for stories.

— Don’t allow internal audiences to dictate reader needs.

— Don’t overwrite. Sometimes short is best.

— Don’t underestimate the power of sidebars.

— Don’t assign stories without considering “why would someone read this?”

— Don’t be stuffy. Have a little wit.

— Don’t be shy about being provocative when the situation merits.

Okay…check my phone, bathroom, coffee, the first afternoon session. Gotta run.

UMag inbox

I am tempted to call Denison Magazine the best alumni magazine in North America. I hesitate only because the field varies so widely, making comparisons too dodgy to stand up to much scrutiny. Denison, Harvard, The Penn Stater, and CAM all are excellent alumni magazines, but serve such different reader constituencies and different institutions that stating one is better than the other ends up being pretty silly. But I will say this. We now receive about 200 alumni magazines here at the UMagazinology Galactic Compound and Undisclosed Location, and for the past year, the one I consistently look forward to the most is the one put out by Maureen Harmon and her talented crew.

The Fall 2012 edition does not disappoint. As everyone should know by now, Denison does this great thing with its cover “story,” making it a graphic feature that starts on the cover, continues on the inside front cover and the first five pages of the magazine, and uses the back cover, too.  This time, the magazine recognizes that the theme for campus programming this academic year is “creativity and courage.” The magazine hired illustrator Peter Arkle to draw the ensuing six-page spread. (As always, click to enlarge the images.) The result was a sort of creative artist’s notebook recording dozens of examples of courage and creativity, everything from the serious—Desmond Tutu, Manal al-Sharif, ancient Athenians dreaming up democracy, Pussy Riot standing up to Putin—and the not-so-serious—“A woman adds red pepper to her grandmother’s spaghetti sauce recipe.”

The editorial content in the rest of the magazine is first rate, as usual. What a great issue.

Michelle M. Simmons, editor at Dickinson, has had a little work done. On her magazine, I mean. The Fall 2012 issue debuted a redesign by Landesberg Design (which has also done design work for Kenyon and Oberlin print material), and gave me an excuse for more scannerfest. Below, old cover on left, new cover on right.

There’s much to like with the new design. What stands out to me is the typography. Here is the table of contents, for example:

Great feature spread (for a story about getting and holding a job in contemporary journalism, God forbid):

And I really like this one:

While I’m indulging myself with another scannerfest, here’s a nice spread from Berkeley Engineer explaining the use of nanoparticles to deliver drugs directly to tumors. Jason Lee did the illustration. Karen Rhodes edits the magazine.

Finally, there’s some sort of strange gang sign business going on at the University of Kentucky. Thanks to Kentucky Alumni (Kelli Elam, editor) for bringing it to light. Word of caution: In Baltimore, this kind of thing gets you shot.

Attack of the 50-foot numbers!

“It’s not a design gimmick. It’s a design element. So shaddup.”

Oberlin Alumni Magazine:

Johns Hopkins Magazine:

Denison Magazine:

The Florida Engineer:

Sawdust (Stephen F. Austin State University):

The Penn Stater:

Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin:

The University of Chicago Magazine (no extra charge for the diseased intestine photo):

Texas reset: McCombs redesigns and renames

Texas, the biannual magazine of the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, is no more, replaced by a redesigned, rethought publication titled Open, or OPEN if you’re a stickler for following typographic treat-ments.

Editor Cory Leahy reports that the 10-year-old design of Texas—OK, OK, TEXAS—had become inflexible. “As we were pushing our envelope with story ideas and formats, the design wasn’t keeping up,” she says. “It felt stale and limiting. We had done some brainstorming exercises to clarify the magazine’s vision and personality, and the old design didn’t match what we came up with. We also wanted to visually emphasize that the publication seeks to be as much an objective, credible, interesting, and compelling magazine as any it’s competing with on the reader’s night table. In other words, banish any notion that it’s a glorified brochure in its look and feel.”

Leahy had always contracted out the design. For the redesign, she decided the magazine needed new eyes and new thinking. “It was a great opportunity for us to get some new perspective on our challenges. We’d worked with the same art director for a decade, and it was time for a change.” The job went to Austin-based Erin Mayes and Kate Iltis of EmDash LLC—EmDash did the great Denison revamp—who came up with the new name. Says Leahy, “The plan was for the magazine to be called McCombs Today, like our school news site. TEXAS never made sense to me. We’re not the alumni magazine for the entire university, just the business school. When the designers were sharing the initial round of cover concepts, OPEN was their curveball idea. They liked the idea of being ‘open for business’ as a key symbol for success in business. The idea is to have a different kind of ‘open’ sign on [the cover of] each issue. It’s visually interesting, familiar but in a fresh context. Also, our school has only been named McCombs for 10 years, so that as a name doesn’t necessarily have deep impact for most of our alumni.”

A redesign presents opportunity for more than a new suit of clothes. “We rethought everything: department names, story buckets, purpose, personality, story mix, even mission. Because we were creating two new online sites—a school news site, McCombs Today, and a business knowledge/research site, Texas Enterprise—at roughly the same time (oy vey!), we had new opportunities to imagine how content could work across different platforms. For example, we had always included months-old news briefs in the front of the book . . . yawn. With our revamped news site, we felt more confident that those news bits would get more attention online and wouldn’t need to be in the magazine. Instead, the new front-of-book could include things like infographics and big images and service journalism that used to be a challenge to fit in among the briefs.”

As any editor who has gone through this knows, the inaugural issue of a new design tells you a lot. “Overall we’re very happy with the first issue,” Leahy says. “But we’re still struggling a bit with how best to use the new buckets. For instance, the designers added some new callouts (‘Aha! Moment’ and ‘Takeaways’) based on our departments brainstorm. These are meant to provide a nugget that gets underneath the story, perhaps giving a bit of background or a tidbit about the story behind the story. It’s a fantastic idea, but it’s totally new to our way of thinking, so we’re looking forward to our sophomore issue (which has a much longer lead time) to play with these new content types. We also still need to get better at creating some less text-heavy stories, and we’re not convinced the layout of the cover lines is the best it can be. But, again, it’s a wonderful new set of challenges to confront.”

So, Ms. Leahy, with the hindsight of experience, which is worse? Redoing your magazine or redoing your kitchen? “Magazine. While we were incredibly lucky in not having hordes of people/administrators/higher-ups that needed to weigh in, the whole endeavor still felt to me like we were preparing to run naked through campus, leaving ourselves open to pointing, laughing, and ridicule.  This place can be a surprising mix of super stodgy and remarkably progressive.  It’s just hard to know who’s going to exhibit which traits on which day. Happily, the feedback we’ve received has been all positive.”