From Laura Angle (VIS) …
Buckle up, you’re in for a wild ride …
By now, I’m sure you’ve been made aware that these most recent posts are a place for students who have already made it through the course to offer any insight and feedback that could be helpful as you all begin to craft a publication of your own. While there truly is an endless amount of advice to be offered, here are the top three things that I absolutely wish I had listened to throughout this entire process.
- IT TRULY IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT. One of the things that makes publications so beautiful is their unified visual vision that spans over pages and pages of information. No matter the page count or number of elements on each spread, every component feels like it has a purpose and belongs. With that said, this level of cohesive unity comes with planning and revision, something that cannot be whipped up the night before. Prof. Strong sets you up for success by purposely breaking down each guiding component into an assignment, but actually taking that time to think about how you want to represent each aspect in relation to the final vision is an entirely different task all together and will relieve so much stress when crunch time comes.
- VISUAL SELECTION IS KEY! Utilizing visuals in your publication is a no brainer. (In fact, it is a requirement for this course). But the kinds of visuals and the way in which you use them is really where the design begins to kick in, and making smart decisions about what you choose to incorporate and how will make all the difference. It is true that sometimes a visual will guide the final design, but it is also extremely important to think about how you want to unite an image and text, and what kind of visual will do that most effectively. If you already know you want to place a headline on top of a photo, look for a photo with a relatively calm background. The more contrasting color in a photo or illustration, the harder it is to see the text, which will take away from your overall design. Or if you’ve found an image your really want to use in a specific way, maybe then go through and rework the type placement, so no components are competing and everything is working together to create a visually compelling story.
- TEST PRINT EVERYTHING. Looking at a page through a screen is a very different experience than physically holding it in your hands. Sometimes there are sizing issues or color inconsistencies that you really only pick up on when looking at the piece at the actual size it is intended to be viewed. While it may seem like an unnecessary part of the process, it will absolutely only help you better refine your final design and should definitely be something you push yourself to continue to revisit as the publication continues to shift and grow.
With that said, this semester will undoubtedly be one chock-full of learning, and you should definitely try and soak up as much information as you can because Prof. Strong is a POWERHOUSE of knowledge concerning anything and everything print and typographic design related. For me, almost every class left me with a new piece of information I had not known before, but overall my three major takeaways are as follows.
- GRIDS ARE KEY. I’ve always been a fan of the grid, because it allows you to keep consistency and maintain order, but never have I ever been more thankful for a complex grid than in this class. With so many elements needing cohesive placement, my grid structure was my saving grace and I will never diminish its value again.
- INFOGRAPHICS MAKE A DIFFERENCE. I feel like in most design, people think about visuals as photos and illustrations, but infographics are also an extremely useful way to convey information in a fun and relevant manner and should not be forgotten!
- IT IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT. Like all design, the final outcome will truly be a reflection of the effort you put into it, so work hard and work smart. The final piece will be worth it.
With all this new knowledge, I know you guys will go on to make killer publications. Cherish the process while it lasts and good luck!
From Nabiha Asim (MNO) …
Dear future class,
You are about to begin your prototype publication. This is going to be a long yet rewarding journey so get ready to dive right in. You don’t have a lot of time to get this done. Even though 15 weeks sounds like a lot, you’ll quickly notice you’re running out of time. Believe it or not, some of us during our final prototype presentation said the final product would be better if we had more time. With that said, I have some pieces of advice and some lessons I learned that I hope will help bring out the best in your prototype.
Advice for you
- Go in for help. This is my biggest regret so don’t let this be you. Often times, you don’t get enough out of class critiques, so office hours will be a good time to get thorough feedback. Office hours have plenty of benefits. You may learn whether you’ve been using grids the right way, or you may learn why Indesign won’t do what you want it to do, and overall your publication will come out looking stronger.
- Come up with a strong concept. After you’ve decided on a topic, it’s important that you create a thoughtful mission statement. Your publication should serve a purpose to the reader. This will guide the stories you choose to put in and the style of the publication.
- Don’t procrastinate. Design takes a lot of time, so when you do something last minute, it’ll show. Leave yourself time to work on your prototype outside of class. There are opportunities to work in class, but it’ll require a hefty amount of time to create something professional you can be proud of.
What I learned
- Design is tedious. After speaking to an art director from Rolling Stone magazine for my grad presentation, I learned that design is work. You may need to go through multiple drafts, rounds of feedback, and different concepts to get to the point of what you’re trying to convey. Think about the story that is being told and how you can convey that through design.
- Design is thought. As mentioned, design takes a lot of time because it requires proper thinking — a rationale behind your art direction. You can’t just choose to do something because it look pretty. Each photo, placement, typeface, columns, furniture, color, etc., serves a purpose. To get that creative juice flowing, look at examples, sketch things out, ask questions, and keep an open mind.
- Design is a method of communication. What’s special about design is that its sole purpose is to communicate a message. You use layout/design to engage a reader which is a major component of the storytelling itself. Through design, you can make a reader feel some way or think a certain way. You’ll learn to utilize different design principles to create a cohesive layout that is in line with your prototype concept.
From Colton Madore (MNO) …
It’s what you make of it!
The class you are about to take is truly what you make of it. This class is one of the very few classes in Newhouse in which you get to choose a topic or subject that you particularly enjoy or are interested in and watch it come to life. I remember at the beginning of the semester how daunting it seemed that I would have to create a prototype, be constantly critiqued, and not compare my work to others — which isn’t easy for me. With that said, here’s what I’ve learned:
- This is YOUR prototype. Yes, you may get a lot of advice from classmates and Professor Strong, but at the end of the day, you get to decide how your prototype looks, what images you will use, what the color palette is, etc. You definitely want to take other’s advice into consideration, but don’t get lost in it. I often times would find myself changing something that I wasn’t in love with, just because someone else told me to do it. I would eventually change it back, or rework it, and many people were amazed by the work. Also, make sure to pick a subject you love or are interested in, as I mentioned before. I cannot stress this enough!
- Keep up with every single assignment and meet deadlines. To be 100% honest, I heard from many students that they struggled in this class and had numerous late nights or all-nighters. Come to find out, it was because they weren’t meeting deadlines. This class has so many deadlines, but they’re spread out enough to give you breathing room. BUT they can definitely seem like a lot if you don’t meet them. This class is a lot of work, but thanks to the numerous deadlines and how the class is structured it is absolutely 100% doable. I never had a late night or sleepless nights from this class just because I got my work done and fixed things on time. Do not doubt yourself! You can do it!
- Go to office hours. Honestly, just go to Professor Strong’s office hours. She has so much fabulous insight, and she is just such a pleasure to talk to! I can’t count the number of times I would go to her office, and then we would have fun little side conversations about something random. She truly cares about her students. I’m going to miss her so much!
What I’ve learned about Publication Design:
- There’s this thing called the grid — yeah, use it. I took one design course before this class, and I honestly don’t remember using the grid, and, thinking back, I don’t know how I survived! Without the grid, your work can be such a mess. I mean, it still can be with the grid if you don’t use it correctly, but it’s so helpful and makes design look pleasing to the eye.
- Patience is everything. I give so much credit to those who do this for a full-time job. You need to have so much patience. I like to think I’m a patient person, but I’m not. If you’re stuck on something, or you can’t think clearly after a few hours of working, walk away, grab a snack, watch a funny YouTube video and then come back and start again. Trust me, it works.
- Experimenting is necessary. If you think something will look cool or more the right vibe for your publication, test it out! If it doesn’t work, command z, my friend.
Just make sure to have fun in the course, get to know others and their publications, and definitely get to know Professor Strong! Good luck!
From Ellie Coggins (MNO)
A love-hate relationship (but mostly love)
Dear future students,
You are about to embark on a unique journey of a class. For me, this was the first time I’ve spent an entire class working on one single project. When I enrolled, it didn’t seem as if designing a magazine in 15 weeks would be too difficult, but I was totally wrong! I went through so many ups, downs, and changes throughout the process of creating my magazine, Woolf, but now that it’s finished, I’m proud of my work and thankful that I took this roller coaster-ride of a class. Here’s my advice for you as go into your design journey:
- Pick a topic you love. As a former English-lit major, I knew I wanted to do a literary magazine. It came with its own set of challenges, from coming up with editorial content to finding good images, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I not only designed something I’m proud of, but I also designed something I would want to read! It also gave me the chance to write some of my own content since it was something that I am an expert on.
- Stick to your grid. I had heard of this elusive being before, but it wasn’t until this class that I really understood how important the grid is. I thought it would limit me as a designer (and especially as a newbie) but it actually made things so much easier and actually gave me more flexibility, while giving my magazine consistency.
- Don’t be afraid to try something new. Since design was so new to me, at first I was playing it safe, doing things I saw in other magazines or what I felt was “right.” Turns out, trying something new often led to my best discoveries. It was sometimes frustrating when 10 or 20 ideas wouldn’t work, but it was worth it to get to the one.
- Be open to feedback. I am not one who loves to be criticized, and I used to take it very personally. This class was so good for me in learning how not to take feedback as a personal hit and use that information to grow from it. Be willing to share your stuff in class and go into office hours — Professor Strong gives great tips!
This class will have its fair share of frustrations and challenges as any good class should, but by the end, you’ll have a great product to show and something to be proud to have on your portfolio. And don’t forget to stay caught up with things as you go so you aren’t scrambling at the end. Happy designing!
From Liz White (MNO) …
Rewarding experience if you put in the work!
To the spring 2020 semester of publication design,
Welcome! I hope you’re excited because this class is just as rewarding as it is challenging. To be able to hold a 20-something-page magazine at the end of the semester that is entirely designed by you is the best feeling in the world.
Over the course of this semester, I learned about the importance of white space on the page and how to let the elements breathe. My first instinct was to overdesign the page because I felt like I needed to fill it, but as the semester went on I learned how to delicately design a page that showed the elements in the best way without being too crowded. I also learned about how important it is to give myself time away from my magazine. Coming back to my designs again and again a few hours or days later gave me a fresh perspective and new things to try. Finally, I learned that every little detail matters. As just a magazine reader before this class, I didn’t realize how the smaller elements, like color and typography, really unified the entire magazine and how important those elements are.
Advice for you:
- Give a lot of thought to your editorial concept and solidify it early on. This will only help you down the road. The more details you have planned out, the easier it will be to design your furniture, color palette, etc. It requires a lot of initial thought but is worth it.
- Leave yourself a lot of time to complete assignments. This is not the type of class that you will be able to complete assignments for the day before. Designing requires a lot of time both in front of and away from your designs, so plan accordingly. Rushing to design pages at the last minute will cause you to forget to include details, which will affect your concept overall. If you’re a procrastinator like I am, it is a hard habit to break, but it will pay off. Giving yourself time every day to look at your magazine helps and gets the gears turning.
- Choose a topic you love and it will be more of a passion project rather than something you are required to do. One of the best decisions I made was choosing a topic I really love. It made creating my editorial concept so much more fun. I genuinely enjoyed designing my pages all semester because it was something I’m interested in.
- Use office hours. This is really important. Although in-class feedback is good, one-on-one with Prof. Strong is essential to making your magazine great and working on every detail. It is work outside of class, but it is so worth it, and your magazine will be better for it.
Most importantly, have fun with it and design an awesome magazine! You’re at the beginning of a design journey. I wish I could be in your shoes and do it over again.
From Kristen Heglin (ADV) …
Yes, you can make your own publication!
At the start of the semester, the task of creating a unique magazine from scratch seemed daunting. Even articulating what I wanted the publication to be about proved difficult. At the start of this class, I only had a base understanding of magazine terms, so I knew I would be in for a challenge. But it was a challenge I loved working on. Here are some of my takeaways from this semester:
- Don’t leave all your work until the last second! Hands down this was the longest creative project I have ever worked on. With a semester-long project like this, it is imperative that you not leave everything for the night before. If you do, it shows in your design. The key to success in this class, for me at least, was dedicating a little bit of time almost every night to working on the magazine. Even if that meant playing around with typefaces, or designing a brand new spread. Because of this, I created something that I’m so proud of, because I put my blood, sweat and tears into it (not really but you get the point).
- Embrace the group critique. In years past, I was terrified to present my creative work to the class. I always doubted my abilities and took it personally when anyone offered any sort of criticism. In the beginning of the semester, I had these same feelings because I thought I was surrounded by elite designers. But as the class went on and I got to know people, I discovered that we were all in the same boat, as we just wanted to make the best work that we could. I came to welcome the group critiques, because my peers often offered feedback that I would have never thought of. And, I learned how to give constructive feedback as well. It was so great to see how everyone’s publication progressed throughout the course of the semester.
- Go to Prof Strong’s office hours. I know you hear this at the start of every semester, but these meetings will be so beneficial. It’s good to do check-ins with her, to not only show off your amazing work, but to make sure you have all the smaller details sorted out. The minutes go by quickly, so schedule often!
- When creating your magazine, pick a topic you’re passionate about. Not that this class isn’t fun, but you’ll have so much more fun if you design your magazine about something you love. I did mine for the Riot Grrrl feminist in your life, and I genuinely was excited to open my computer and start working on it. Making a publication that you would actually read is a special feeling — especially when you execute it well!
No matter what type of graphic design you do, I wholeheartedly believe you should take this class. I learned so much about design and how to apply those skills, that I’ve seen myself using my new skills in other classes. My magazine is a part of me, and I’m so pleased with how it came out.
From Marrisa Poe (MNO)
You Got This!
If you’re reading this it means you have embarked on the adventure that is Publication Design. You may be nervous, heard good and bad. But what it comes down to is the experience. You will learn a lot, grow a lot, but most of all, you won’t do it alone. So have fun, take the criticism, and by the end of the experience take with you more than what you came in with.
- Go see Pr. Strong. She will give you so much insight and advice about where your magazine is going. She will push you to be better and will help you become a better designer. She wants you to succeed, so go see her. Her office hours are the best times to get the amount of feedback you need to improve.
- It is okay to say goodbye to your first idea. When I started this course, I had a completely different idea for my magazine. After I realized that I was hitting a wall with finding images, I knew that it was time to say goodbye to my original idea. I ended up going with one of my other choices, and not only did it end up being easier to find images, it was also something that enabled me to grow and realize that change is good.
- Take breaks, but not too many: Some days you will spend hours designing, and it will definitely take a toll on you. You need to give your eyes a break, so when you hit a wall on what to design or have no idea what to do for a one of your layouts, walk away. Don’t try to design something when you aren’t feeling inspired or you’re too tired. Start again the next day.
- Design is Fun: You should be enjoying your time designing, so make sure you pick something you love and can look at for the next couple months. Also, pick something that you can construct multiple ideas from based off the topic you choose. Seeing your publication from different directions and figuring out what works and what does not is all part of the process. Lastly, your publication should be something that makes you happy.
I hope that these tips were helpful, and I wish you the best!
From Emma Comtois (VIS) …
I enrolled in Publication Design because I missed working in print design. This course satisfied that craving and more. Prof. Strong is an amazing guide and gives honest, helpful critique. With that said, here’s some advice:
- Go to Prof. Strong’s office hours. This is something I wish I took advantage of more. She makes herself so available and wants to help students leave the course with a piece they’re proud of. Use her as a resource.
- Speak up in critique. I am a design major, but most students in this course are not, which is such a benefit. The design major is small, so we often hear similar critiques from the same students in our major. This course brings together a huge number of new students with a different perspective. Whether you’re a design student or not, do not be afraid to speak up during critique. Your opinion is valued.
- Learn how to defend your design choices. This pairs well with the previous advice. During critique, some people shut down a bit, but that’s the time to speak up for why you made certain choices. If it’s on your page, there’s a reason you put it there. The more you practice looking at your work and analyzing your choices, the better you’ll get at having a critical eye for design. That skill is something that takes you beyond the scope of this course and into any field you work in.
- Experiment with your grid. Look at what other publications are doing with their grid. It’s often not just three columns, all the same width. Apply that to your own designs. It will make your whole design feel more exciting and harder to fall into a rut. (From Prof. Strong: This is not for the uninitiated or the faint of heart.)
- Don’t overcomplicate your project or take on too much. The best designs are well thought through and well-edited. If you take on a complex project you think you can manage at the start of the semester, just remember that you will get busy. Choose design solutions that are manageable so you can spend time refining rather than just trying to get something on the page for the sake of the deadline.
Spend time on this course because it will be so rewarding. (Bonus advice: Stay on top of the assignments throughout the semester, it will help you at the end). I know I will leave this course with a portfolio-worthy piece, and I couldn’t be happier despite the long nights and last minute changes. I hope the same for you.
From Singdhi Sokpo (MND) …
The Ghost of Publication Design Past
It’s the beginning of the semester again, you’ve got a clean slate and things have yet to unravel. You’re a little anxious and a little excited, as you should be. Since this class is a combination of hard-working tedium and creative fun, you’ll find yourself somewhere between those two feelings a lot. Here are a couple of tips on how to make sure your publication design experience is more enjoyable than not:
- Give yourself time. As far as I’m concerned, this is everyone’s biggest problem. You think you have all this time, you prioritize more immediate deadlines, you’re taking it slow, and then — BAM! You’re up to your neck in weeks worth of designing that you now have only hours to complete. Then, those hours will slip through your fingers and you’ll wonder how they bled into an early morning when you’re exhausted and unsure of your work. Lesson learned: This is a horrible feeling and not how you produce quality work. Creativity isn’t immediate and neither is good design. Plus, it’s hard to enjoy designing on a tight deadline, so do yourself a favor and give yourself some time.
- Watch and learn (through tutorials!). If you’re like me, who took this class out of interest but with little design experience/technical skills, I suggest you bookmark Lynda.com and other relevant tutorials. Watching those tutorials can feel extracurricular and like more work than you need to do, but learning those skills will allow you to work more efficiently and create the vision that lives inside your head.
- Move on. It’s the little things, they always say. That’s especially true for design, which requires a lot of attention to detail, BUT don’t get caught up moving a text box two picas back and forth or getting stuck on the same page layout for too long. Sometimes you’ll try really hard to make something work but the better option might just be to try something new all together. The good thing is, there are endless design solutions, anyway!
- Print, print, print. You really can’t tell what your final product is going to look like until you print it. This is when you realize how huge you made that caption or whatever else, and get a better sense of scale and what needs fixing.
In the end, you’ll have spent a lot of time and energy on your final product, so make it something you can be proud of. Frustration is inevitable, but if you make it worth your time, so is satisfaction and all of the other nice emotions. Some lessons you’ll need to learn for yourself, but hopefully these tips will serve as reminders of what you want for your end-of-the-semester self.