Tagged: loyola marymount

Eight questions for Joseph Wakelee-Lynch

Joseph Wakelee-Lynch edits LMU, the graphically striking magazine at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. And if you ask him politely, he’ll answer as many as eight questions.

How long have you been in your job?

I began working as editor at LMU in January 2006.

What has proven to be the most significant thing you had to learn to do that job?

My sister is a nun, and two of my aunts made the same choice with their lives. (In fact, a friend once introduced me this way: “This is my friend, Joe. He comes from a long line of nuns.”) So I can’t help caring about the religious ground on which LMU stands. Understanding how LMU is shaped by the mission of academic rigor and service to others of the three sponsoring religious orders of the university—the Jesuits, the nuns of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange—really has been the most significant thing I’ve had to learn.

What has been your best experience at the magazine?

I was once a drummer in a rock band. The best part was not performing but the experience of playing with the other musicians. At LMU Magazine, the creative process involving Maureen Pacino, creative director, Jon Rou, photographer, and Kelly Fite, graphic designer, energizes me and sparks my most creative ideas. (I’m not their supervisor; we’re peers.) Working in that creative cauldron is the most satisfying part of my job.

What has proven to be your biggest frustration?

I’m not satisfied with the editorial strength of the magazine, in print and online. One big reason is the difficulty in giving the conceptualization stage the attention it deserves. Conceptualization is a process, but it’s intangible. The tangible things that must be done, however, resemble your dog that won’t stop barking till he’s fed. So your dog—which you love and, after all, are responsible for—gets fed. But to do it you spend conceptualization time, which, like money, is a limited resource. I suppose it all comes down to the many limits that restrict conceptualization.

What part of your magazine never quite satisfies you, despite everybody’s best effort?

The front of the magazine, which includes news stories. Those stories need to be framed creatively, just as features do. But because they are event-driven, they come into the process in later editorial stages, when many pressures seem to constrict the attention that we can give them.

What story are you proudest to have published?

In July 2010, we published a feature called “No One Left Behind,” about the university president’s decision in 1950 to refuse to play an away football game because the host university required Loyola to keep its African American players off the field. Most of the team’s players had passed away [by 2010], but with a lot of digging and the help of LMU’s database manager, we found enough alumni who could share their memories. The story appeared in our redesign’s launch issue and illustrated why a commitment to justice is important in education institutions as well as in individuals.

If you could commission a story from any writer in the world, who would it be?

Because I haven’t figured out how to reach Flannery O’Connor, Shusaku Endo, and Heinrich Böll, I’d invite Dennis Covington. A former New York Times reporter, he wrote “Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake-Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia” in 1995. Covington sojourned into the religious backwoods of snake-handling Christians, who believe, based on Mark 16:18, that handling venomous serpents is proof of their faith. The book also becomes a diary of Covington’s journey into his own family history in Appalachia. I’d ask him to take a pilgrimage through Southern Catholicism and send me his journal.

If you weren’t an editor, what would your dream job be?

I’d be interviewing writers as host of a radio interview show. I did that for four years in the ’90s as a volunteer for a college radio station. One of the most satisfying compliments ever paid to me was from a guest who, near the end of our interview, said, “I can’t believe I’m telling you this.”

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.