Tagged: lmu

UMag inbox, pre-Nor’easter edition

Weather forecasters—I am looking at you, Jim Cantore—are getting all excited about the possibility of a big-ass whammeroo of a storm hitting the I-95 corridor Wednesday night and Thursday. Just in time to put the whammy on our efforts to get Johns Hopkins Magazine out the door to the printer on Friday. Yo, weather gods, we’re in the middle of something here . . .

An examination of my teetering stack of alumni magazines turned up some nifty covers. UCLA was in a blue mood:


Dickinson fully embraced white space:


The more you look at the cover of Carolinian (out of the University of South Carolina) the more remarkable it gets. Put this one next to the recent Notre Dame cover and try to imagine the work that went into executing the portraits in the cover images:


Finally, we’ve got this guy, on the cover of LMU out of Loyola Marymount. I love this guy.


The Carolinian story on cover artist Kirkland Smith is nicely written and worth reading—and you have to see Smith’s Steve Jobs portrait—but unless I’m missing something you can’t access the magazine’s content online if you’re not a member of the alumni association. (Also, I would credit the writer of the piece, but the story is without a byline, which puzzles me.)

The LMU cover boy is alumnus Van Partible, who created the Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Johnny Bravo. There’s a fun bit of video of the cover photo shoot, which conveys the disappointing fact that in the cover image he is wearing a wig. I so wanted that to be his real hair.

UMag inbox: Lots of pictures

swatcoverA couple of terrific covers in my inbox. The first is from Swarthmore, a photo of Jackie Morgen, founder of the Swat Circus at the college, by Laurence Kesterson. The “cover story” is about seven inches in the front of the book, which strikes me as odd. I’m still not quite on board with the thinking that the cover story need not be a feature. But the counter-argument is that your cover works if it gets people to pick up and open the magazine, and this one works in that regard. (Sherri Kimmel edits the magazine.)

tuftscoverThe second cover, which I really love, comes courtesy of Tufts. For those of you who can’t place the school, Tufts is in Boston. In the wake of the bombing of this year’s Boston Marathon, editor David Brittan ran a tribute to Tufts marathoners, including former student Bobbi Gibb, who in 1966 defied a ban on female runners in the marathon, snuck into the field disguised as a man, and as far as anyone knows became the first woman to complete the race, running the 26.2 miles in 3:21. Photographer Kathleen Dooher was assigned the job of creating a striking cover image of a Gibb, and man oh man did she succeed.

Dartmouth Medicine has updated its design package. Editor is Amos Esty; design by Bates Creative. Below are covers from before and after. (Click on all of these if you want to see them honkin’ big.)

dmcover1   dmcover2


ricecoverWhile we’re asking various magazines “have you done something different with your hair?” I have to note a redesign I love, at Rice. It was executed by the magazine’s newish (as of November 2012) art director Erick Delgado. I’d point you to an electronic version or PDF edition so you could admire more of it, but the magazine does not seem to be online. Lynn Gosnell edits.

vettatsFinally, LMU out of Loyola Marymount has a great six-page spread on memorial tattoos. Written by editor Joseph Wakelee-Lynch, “Ink Tank” describes and samples the Memorial Ink project by Andrew Ranson. Ranson finds veterans who bear tattoos that memorialize comrades who were killed in action, then interviews them and photographs their memorials. The magazine’s website has created a gallery of the Jon Rou photos that accompanied the story.

Guest blogger Claude Skelton on editorial illustration

My long-time friend and Baltimore colleague Claude Skelton has written some of the most-read blog posts in UMagazinology‘s brief lifespan. Today he offers some thoughts on illustration.

A good illustration can do what a photograph can’t. For communicating difficult and abstract concepts, drawn art says more with a single image than a collection of photographs can. Illustration can be technical, serious, quirky, or silly, depending on the tone of the piece. A really good conceptual illustrator can interpret a story in ways that surprise and delight, and in the best cases, introduce a whole new spin. Take a look at these Bloomberg Businessweek covers, for example. Could a photograph demand as much immediate attention or communicate so effectively? Not likely. [Throughout the post, you can click on the images to view them larger.]

Bloomberg Businessweek cover credits: Bernanke: David Parkins (after Milton Glaser); King of Vegas Real Estate Scams: Barry Falls; Coke in Africa: Nick White; Crisis in Japan: Noma Barr; creative director: Richard Turley.

So how do you find and work with illustrators to get innovative, thoughtful results? First, familiarize yourself with the talent that’s out there. Look for great work. Don’t limit yourself to local or regional illustrators (another advantage of illustration is that artists don’t need to be on location; almost all work electronically). Use the best, most professional illustrators you can afford. Amateur or mediocre illustration reflects badly on your magazine and ultimately on your institution. Look at sites such as drawger.com, illoz.com, picturemechanics.com, or theispot.com, all of which can connect you to individual artists or artist’s reps. Another approach is to notice illustrations that grab your attention in publications you read; start a reference file with names and samples as you find art that impresses you.

As you plan a story lineup, consider illustration as part of the mix. If you’re profiling a professor or an alum, the natural default solution is to commission a photograph. An illustrated portrait, like this drawing of a disabled war veteran from Dartmouth Magazine, can add style and substance to an otherwise run-of-the-mill profile. If the work or activity of the profiled person is more to the point, illustrating that idea or topic is an effective approach. The full page image below, from Cambridge Alumni Magazine, illustrates a complex essay by a neuroscientist on movement and the brain—a far more intriguing and informative solution than a portrait of the author.

Illustration and text combine in a pop-inspired spread (above) by Design Army, Washington DC, from Kogod Now, the American University Kogod School of Business’ magazine. The article, on targeted food marketing to minority populations, is original, eye-catching, and unexpected in the context of a business school publication.

When you’re ready to choose an illustrator, think about the tone and emotion you want the story to communicate and find illustrators whose styles best fit what’s in your mind. You’ll need to be confident of the illustrator’s track record and ability to translate an idea into art. And you’ll need to sell a working concept, knowing that the illustrator will be bringing additional thinking and visual interpretation to the table.

This is a very subjective process and should never be attempted by committee. It’s a matter of trust—between publisher and editor, between editor and creative director, between creative director and artist. If approval from “above” is necessary before hiring an illustrator, you’ll be forced to justify your choice with nothing more than your idea and samples from the artist’s portfolio. It could be hard for an administrator to visualize the outcome, therefore the need for trust.

Art directors: it’s usually best to communicate a general concept and supply a draft of the story to illustrators, then wait and see what they come up with before making suggestions or over-directing. It’s your job to inspire creativity, not solve the problem. Trust your illustrator to find a solution that fits the assignment and suits his or her style. It rarely works to force a pre-conceived vision on an artist; be open to surprise and innovation and you’ll almost always get the best results.

A word on stock illustration: it is a less expensive alternative, but generally too generic to properly illustrate a feature story. Spots can liven up a news or class notes section, and stock can be a good substitute for those bland head shots that show up in faculty or alumni profiles—better to illustrate what they do (with symbol or icon) rather than what they look like (do readers care?). If stock isn’t available, original illustration can be cost effective for simple spots, drawing attention to complex, text-heavy pages (see news spread from Auburn Magazine, above).

Illustrated covers can be both challenging and satisfying. You have two big challenges: Finding the right artist for the job, and getting approval of concept, style, and budget. Then it’s working with the illustrator through sketches, revised sketches, more approvals, adjusted deadlines, and the holding of breath before the final artwork arrives. It’s the rare (and lucky) editorial staff or art director that has enough autonomy to move ahead through this process with no roadblocks. It’s the not knowing until it’s finished that can make you uneasy. What if it’s a disaster? What if readers are offended and cancel subscriptions? What if it’s just not quite what you had in mind? What if you hate it? These are the questions and fears that might keep you from taking a risk in the first place. But when that finished, original art finally appears, and your cover sings, it’s so worth it.

To illustrate my point, a few covers that sing (all very different tunes):

Guest blogger Claude Skelton on typography

Designer Claude Skelton has been casting his eye on type. Casting . . . type . . . typecasting . . . all right, look, it has been a tough week trying to get a winter issue out the door and on press, so cut me some slack. Better yet, let me turn this space over to Claude while I look for the martini shaker:

Thanks to all the UMag editors who have kindly included me on their mailing lists. A corner of my office is piling up with your publications—I hope they are fairly representative of what’s out there. In previous posts, I’ve talked about the quality of photography, and I can’t overstate the importance of great images on editorial impact. However, there’s another aspect of good magazine design that is just as important and too often overlooked: typography. Using type well is a skill that can be learned through observation and experience; using type creatively is an art form.

Legibility is not a problem in most university magazines these days. Vast expanses of unbroken nine-point text is becoming a thing of the past as editors and designers understand the importance of “entry points” for readers (subheads, callouts, quotes, captions, sidebars, etc). Font choices for body text are, for the most part, just fine. Maybe it’s a matter of taste, but for my money, classic serif fonts like Garamond, Caslon, and Baskerville (and their derivatives such as Hoefler and Mrs. Eaves) are hard to beat. Speaking as someone who’s been working with type for more than 30 years, these classics are still more attractive and easier to read than most “modern” serif families (actually, there are legibility studies, but I won’t get into that). As a rule of thumb, sans serif text is best used in small amounts or for contrast and, with few exceptions these magazines seem to understand that.

Similarly, many UMags are doing a good job with typography that’s used to organize and distinguish departments. News sections are the most difficult pages to design, requiring juggling of multiple stories, images, sidebars and graphics. Dartmouth, for one, maintains a distinctive look in their “Notebook” and “Alumni News” sections largely due to an appealingly chunky display font that’s also used in the cover nameplate. Along with a carefully balanced mix of contrasting serif and sans-serif text fonts, the overall effect is smart and professional. Auburn Magazine’s news sections and departments are masterfully designed with contrasting fonts, consistent type treatments, and varied column widths—not easy to achieve. Kenyon does some fun things up front—a “hot sheet” of short “things we love about Kenyon,” a box of “in & out” trends, a page of quotes, a few student profiles—all handled with typographic flair that remains faithful to the overall graphic brand of the magazine.

The main problem I’m having with many of the magazines I’m seeing is that too many designers are throwing the magazine’s typographic identity out the window when it comes to feature stories. The prevailing rule seems to be “anything goes” for display type in features. Many designers are attempting to use type to “interpret” the story. Once in a while this approach works (Denison manages to pull it off pretty consistently). Most of the time it doesn’t. Massimo Vignelli said it best: “I can write the word ‘dog’ with any typeface and it doesn’t have to look like a dog. But there are people that [think that] when they write ‘dog’ it should bark.” True, some consumer magazines use typography as art, and when it’s done well it can restore your faith in print all over again—but those publications have world-class creative staffs and budgets to match. There are just as many consumer magazines that have a strong, consistent typographic identity and they manage to use it creatively throughout, even in features. My suggestion to alumni magazine designers is simply to use what you’ve got, but use it creatively. Play with scale, experiment with color, pair type with images, turn it sideways, but don’t stray too far from the integrity and spirit of your magazine’s visual identity. For inspiration, take a look at Cambridge Alumni Magazine (this year’s CASE Sibley Magazine of the Year), Bostonia, LMU Magazine, and Auburn—all produce dynamic, original feature design without sacrificing the brand.

Loyola Marymount hits the reset button

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.