Tagged: maureen harmon

A Guy Can Dream

Issue_6_Cover_wideThis may be odd for an avid photographer, but I am far more interested in magazine illustration than magazine photography. Probably because of the sameness of so much editorial photography, especially in university magazines that can’t afford the more creative shooters out there. For years I have harbored a dream of an all-illustration magazine — no photographs. It won’t happen at Johns Hopkins Magazine, where the art director would probably walk off the job, and if she didn’t shoot me, any one of a dozen Baltimore photographers would. Even the ones I consider friends.

But thanks to that smart bunch at Dog Ear Consultants, also known as Mo Harmon, Dan Morell, and Patrick Kirchner, I can indulge my illophilic fantasies on the website of Herself, a fashion magazine with no photography. Nada, zilch, bupkus. No pics, only illustrations. I think what they’re doing is fabulous.

I’m not sure which of the dogeared is responsible for the post on Dog Ear’s Dogblog, but the author points toward Herself to make a point:

The magazine as a form has existed for hundreds of years and has been wildly successful. And some magazines have kept that same form for hundreds of years and been wildly successful. Why do we need to reinvent the wheel?

Because there’s value in creating unique products. And not only because, as creative professionals, we’re all special little snowflakes and we need to be seen as such, but because being unique has value to our readership. Your schools have a distinct ethos to them. Your alumni are makers, problem-solvers, healers, or aesthetes. You need to make a magazine with content and structure that speak to those things that make your institution what it is.

But, again, that’s the hardest part. The big ideas aren’t easy. But if you are sitting there thinking, “Great, but there are no new ideas left in magazine publishing—we’re all simply refining the past,” then we’d say, “You can’t smoke those clove cigarettes indoors, bub,” and then we’d have you take a look at this.

And then they link to the fashion mag.

Product_View_1__72456.1405373880.1280.1280Stanford Medicine used to do this thing I always wanted to imitate. They’d dedicate much of their feature well to a theme, with two or three linked stories, and turn the whole package over to a single illustrator to do the art for all the stories. I loved it. The science quarterly Nautilus comes close to my dream, with minimal use of photography.

Someday. When I have my own magazine, maybe.

Thank you

For the first time, the number of subscribers to UMagazinology has topped 1,000. We’re gratified and surprised in equal measure. Thank you for reading.



By the way, we’re not the only blog that speaks to alumni magazine editors. Dog Ear Consultants, better known to the dissipated crowd at the Editors Forum hotel bar as Maureen Harmon, Dan Morell, and Patrick Kirchner, maintain (I know, I know, I was supposed to say “curate”) the excellent Dogblog. I’m a reader, and you should be too.

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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.

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It’s Inbox Monday, and there are several tasty items in the Blogateria. And yes, I am surprised and disappointed by my resorting to such a cheesy opening. We go to press in a couple of weeks and I’m feeling a bit cooked.

Denison Magazine continues its clever innovation of cover stories that play out in the first six pages of the magazine plus the back cover. The June ’12 issue presents “Power Struggles: Why Energy Policy is More Complicated Than You Think” as four true/false questions, starting on the inside front cover with “True/False: Fracking is Bad for Us.” The illustrations by Ward Sutton are tremendous. The above is my favorite, but it was hard to pick one. (Do yourself the favor of clicking on the image to open it big in a separate window.) Part of what I love about what Denison is doing here is it breaks free of the constrained thinking (that has been my thinking until recently) that the cover story has to be the longest or the heaviest or the  most important story in your feature well, or has to be a story in your feature well at all. Every time out, I look forward to what Maureen Harmon and crew have done with the latest issue. They have figured out something unique to our magazines, and I can’t stress enough how rare and difficult an accomplishment that represents.

Zebra fish are hot hot hot. The newest issues of Notre Dame Magazine and Pitt Med both have stories on zebra fish research. My mother kept zebra fish, in and among the guppies and angel fish and Siamese fighting fish. Little did I know she was conducting research on macular degeneration and Parkinson’s. Ma, I underestimated you.

I shy from giving praise to publications produced by Johns Hopkins University, lest anyone begin to think that was the secret purpose of UMagazinology. But I’m making an exception for the new issue of Johns Hopkins Engineering, which has this terrific lead by Jim Schnabel, from his cover story on the meeting of biology and robotics:

Listen to the night music of cockroaches. Clickety clickety clackety clackety . . . Listen to their tiny, spiny feet as they careen across the tiles in your kitchen. What do you hear? What can you learn? These hardy primordial creatures zip through cluttered spaces in utter darkness at human-equivalent speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. Yet you never hear them crashing headlong into things, even though the cockroach brain has only an infinitesimal fraction of the computing power of the average mammal’s. How do they manage this supendous feat with such meager neural resoures?


I’ve never been a fan of commencement stories, but North Carolina’s did bring forth a swell cover for Carolina Alumni Review:

I’ve been waiting for years to see someone publish a feature done by a comics artist, half hoping it would be my magazine, though I never pushed the right idea. Well, The University of Chicago Magazine, in its July-August issue, has done it, covering a conference titled “The Comics: Philosophy and Practice” in the only sensible way: As a four-page comic by alum Jessica Abel.

Finally, around here we’ve joked for years about the Johns Hopkins Magazine swimsuit issue. Now, damn them, the folks at Occidental have done it. Sort of.

That’s Occidental College’s president, Jonathan Veitch, who seems to have a robust sense of humor.

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Baylor Line, magazine of the Baylor Alumni Association (Todd Copeland, editor), takes good advantage of the wonderful photography of Baylor alumna Martha Swope. For 40 years, Swope shot dancers and actors with uncommon skill and instinct, and Baylor Line devotes its cover and eight pages to images of Leonard Bernstein, Mikhail Baryshnikov, a very young Sarah Jessica Parker in the lead role of Annie, and Betty Buckley.

A couple of issues of Bonaventure Magazine (Beth Eberth edits), from St. Bonaventure University in New York, found their way to my mailbox, and the Spring/Summer 2010 edition features on its cover rollergirl Jennifer Eskin. When I perused the Fall 2010 issue of Denison, I found an alumni note on Amy Spears (right) who, it so happens, also is a rollergirl. That’s two alumni rollergirls—one more and we officially have a trend.

While I’m on the subject of Denison, it has a tremendous cover story by Steve Nery about American combat veterans who suffer from PTSD, “Home is Where the Heartbreak Is.” On the cover and the magazine’s first eight pages are wrenching photographs by Erin Trieb of vets back from Afghanistan, the funeral of a soldier who committed suicide shortly after his return to the States, and the grieving fiancee of a soldier who, the day after his return from the Afghan war, beat her up and later died of what was first thought to be suicide, but later determined to be pneumonia. To me, this is university magazine work at its best. Editor at Denison is Maureen Harmon.