Get ready, designers. You’re in for a great semester!
While you might struggle at times with this course (or others), this semester is going to fly by, so really try to cherish this course and Professor Strong before it ends. You’ll learn a lot about publication design and life and share lots of laughs with your professor. With that being said, here is some advice before you begin:
- Design takes a lot of time and effort. Design is tedious and takes patience. Make sure you allot for more time than you think you’ll need and work on your publication little by little every few days.
- Look around for inspiration. Pinterest is your friend. Your fieldwork publication is your friend, as are other publications. Seeing what others are doing is helpful because it can spark your first idea. Maybe in your research you see a color that would fit your publication, or maybe a layout, or typography.
- Don’t be afraid to move on if you find yourself getting stuck. This is typically how I work but you might get hung up on something. Don’t. Great ideas don’t come at times like these.
- Know your keyboard shortcuts. This will make your designing experience so much easier. W allows you to switch back-and-forth between showing your grid and hiding it. The most common and most important (in my opinion) is Command-Z, for undoing something, and Command-Shift-Z for redoing something that was undone.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. This will be tough because your classmates will create some amazing work. But you have to remember that all of your publications are very different from one another. Also, designing isn’t easy and doesn’t come natural to everyone, so if you fall into this category, be patient with yourself. You have great ideas, and if you just keep pushing yourself, you’ll achieve the best version of them.
- Have fun! You’re obviously interested in design, otherwise you wouldn’t be here, so really take the time to enjoy this course. You’re going to be so proud at the end of the semester when you hold your final prototype. It’s such a rewarding experience. And if there are things you wish you could’ve pushed further, even after you turn in the assignment, you can. This is your publication.
When I first enrolled in publication design, I didn’t think it would be easy but I also didn’t think it would be this hard. I have a newfound respect for editors and designers. There have been many long nights agonizing over typography and color palettes. Now that I am on the other side, here is some advice I’d like to give to you, next year’s class of designers.
- Your first idea will not be your best idea. Work through it anyway. There will come a time where you feel like you have hit a creativity wall. Don’t give up, there will be breakthroughs and triumphs along the way, too.
- Sometimes simpler better. There’s no need to perform elaborate design acrobatics. Simpler is often better. Use your whitespace wisely. Develop a hierarchy and give your viewers a point of entry for every page.
- Be ready to explain your design choices. Graphic design is more than just arranging elements on a page. You need to be able to explain your choices. Once you start to think strategically, you will have an easier time with your project (Also, Professor Strong requires an accompanying rationale for each phase of the project).
- Step outside of your comfort zone. We all have preferences when it comes to design, but don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Play with fonts and colors you might not otherwise consider. Know all your options.
- PRINT, PRINT, PRINT! Once you get 2 or 3 spreads done, make sure to print your work. Your designs are likely going to look way different in print then they do on screen. Text that looks good on the computer may be way too big in print. Colors also look different on paper than they do with the backlighting of a screen. Also, printing allows you to take a closer look at your progress. Cross things out, circle things you’d like to change, write notes. This will help you in the long run, trust me.
If you follow these five tips, you will be able to make the most of your time in Professor Strong’s class. Also, don’t be afraid to stop in her office to talk with her about your ideas. She is always more than willing to help and makes herself very available for students.
First of all, you all are extremely lucky. I haven’t seen Professor Strong in two days, and I already miss her and my classmates.
- Do the homework. My biggest piece of advice would be to put a lot of thought in to the elements of the course that serve as homework and are not directly related to working in InDesign on your actual publication. For example, the Editorial Brief assignment is important. But what is more important is to remember that it exists! You do it so early on. Tape it to the front of the folder you have for the class and remember that it is OK to make changes.
- Have fun with the class material. I think the people who had the most fun with it and put their own personality into their publications were the most successful. Who wants to read something written by someone stiff and not fun? If you put your positivity and passion in to what you are creating, it WILL show.
- GO TO PROFESSOR STRONG’S OFFICE HOURS! She is an incredible resource, and you won’t have the luxury of meeting with her when you’re out in the real world to get advice and confirmation on your work.
Hello, fresh designers! I was in your shoes once. Just 14 weeks ago … bright-eyed and hopeful. Now here I sit … #haggard #exhausted but so #accomplished. This class will be hard. But it will be worth it.
Here are some tips on how to thrive instead of just survive!
- Move on. Don’t get stuck. If you’re struggling with something and staring at it expecting a new, innovative idea to pop out of the page, let me tell you now–nothing is going to happen. Move on to another page, get out of your environment, take a walk, go to a bookstore, etc. etc.
- Gather inspiration. Don’t start your book without doing some initial research. You may have an idea in your head going into the class, but your first idea is rarely your best. Go to a bookstore, get on pinterest, sketch stuff out! I was so afraid to find inspiration in the past. I thought it was some sort of plagiarism. But starting with one idea often becomes a completely new one, which looks nothing like your original inspiration image.
- Sketch (even if you can’t draw). I am the worst illustrator. Like … my stick people don’t even resemble stick people. Get the picture? Anyway, SKETCH. Sketch out each page you plan on designing and where you think content will go on the page. I recommend doing this before you determine your grid (if possible). It will help you determine how you plan to use the grid and which grid will work best for you. FYI, your designs will change. Sketching allows you to think without taking too much time to actually put it in InDesign, and you can refer to it later as a reference for inspiration.
- Stretch yourself. I designed a cookbook for male vegetarians this semester. I am a vegetarian, but I am definitely not a man. Designing for the other sex was a huge challenge for me. I learned more than I would have had I designed something that was more my style. This project stretched me. Even though I’m not 100% happy with it, I know I worked 10x harder than I would have with something I was more comfortable and familiar with.
- Look around! Watch your classmates. Look at how they choose to solve problems. Not only will you learn from this, but you may find some inspiration in their design solutions.
- Have fun. Don’t get too down on yourself. You won’t be completely happy with everything in your publication, but this class is a huge learning experience, and you can always continue your publication down the line. Enjoy the process.
I took this class to build and improve my skill in graphic design and to challenge myself. I knew how to work in InDesign, but not that well. This class took a lot of work and time, but it taught me how to think like a designer not just as a writer and a photographer. To the next class of designers, I have some tips to help you on your journey.
- Make sure to have your ideas fleshed out. The one thing that I had a problem with was having an idea AND a plan. I had the idea, but I had a hard time planning how I wanted my magazine to look. I tried many ideas. I would stare at the computer screen, I would plan it out in my sketch book and tried other methods, but nothing was working. I asked Prof. Strong for guidance, and that helped out a lot. When it comes to planning, you have to have a clear way in what you would like for your publication, what is going to be in it, what audience you are going for, how you want it look like, etc., Having a plan will help to make the designing process better.
- Ask for help and go to office hours. Prof. Strong is so nice and sweet; she is always available for office hours. If you feel too embarrassed to discuss your work in front of class, office hours are a great opportunity to discuss your work with Prof. Strong. You can talk about what is working and not working in your design process. There were several times in which I was stuck, and I could not figure out what was going on and why I was not happy with my publication. I have a tendency to do things without asking for help because I wanted to figure it out before asking for help. I wish that I would have asked for help more and used the office hours that were available. GO TO OFFICE HOURS AND ASK FOR HELP.
- Time management. Make sure that you know how to manage your time wisely because it takes time to design. Also make sure to take your time when you are designing. When you are rushing to do a design, it will show, and that is not good. If you take your time, you can produce something you can be proud of. Finally, don’t wait until the last minute to do anything because it will show once it’s time for a critique. Waiting until the last minute is never good but especially not during the end of semester, when you have to physically print the publication.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. It is not going to help you if you compare yourself to others. I had a hard time with that because I was worried about how everybody else was better with design. If I would have focused more on my own abilities and what I could improve on, things would have gone better for me in the design process. It took me until two weeks before the end of the semester to produce something that I am kind of proud of. You can only design based on your own abilities and Prof. Strong will understand that.
- Take notes and apply what is said from the critiques. I know it can be hard for people to talk about your work after you worked so hard on it but it help you me. I am always down on myself anyway but listening to what other people had to say helped me in the design process. It was nice to hear feedback in what was working and what was not working. The feedback helped me in the design process. Remember: All of us are here to learn, and we are all trying to become better.
- Show your work to other people who are not in your class. It would be nice to talk to other people about your idea just to see what their opinions are. It is nice toÂ hear what they think of it, can they read it, would they pick it up if they saw a copy of it, etc. More eyes and and opinions are always better than one as a way to help you.
- Sketch things out. In the early stages as I was designing, I would sketch things as a way for me to envision in how I wanted my magazine to look like. From the cover and the layout of the publication it helped me to process a lot of thoughts. Sketch things out it helps.
- Use one of strong skills when designing. If you are good at one thing use that as an advantage. If your are good at writing use that as a way to come up with choosing what kinds of words you would like to use in your publication. If you are good at photography,use that as you are try to come up with how it looks visually. If you are already good at design, combine that with others skills that you might have.
- Use your field notes publication as an inspiration when designing. Looking at your field notes publication can help you in designing your publication. Take a look to see what they do, what is working, what is not working, what is something that they do that you can do better withÂ your publication.
- Remember that you are learning. It is OK, that your first design will not be perfect. Taking this class will give you an opportunity to learn something that you might not know about graphic design. If it from applying your grid to your master page to calling a typeface a font. It is all OK, just take what you learn and apply it your work as you are designing.
Final thoughts: This class might be hard, but it’s going to be going to be OK. By the end of the semester, you will have created something that you are proud of and developed a skill set you can put on your resume. Just remember no stress, be confident and have fun.
A note to future designers …
I had been interested and curious about graphic design for a while, but it wasn’t until this course that I truly got a chance to explore it. This definitely wasn’t an easy course, but even through the long nights spent staring at InDesign, I still find graphic design fascinating and respect it even more now.
You’re going to spend a LOT of time working on assignments. While you may dread it at the time, holding your finished prototype at the end of the semester is one of the most satisfying finishes you’ll have in college, and makes everything worth it.
Some advice I have as you start:
- Make sure you have a strong editorial concept. The stronger the editorial identity, values and concept of your magazine, the easier it is to come up with the visual identity and stories. It’ll make finding images, choosing colors — literally everything — easier later.
- Allocate more time than you think you’ll need, and don’t procrastinate. There were too many times that I put off an assignment until I was scrambling in the end, and you don’t want this extra stress. Design takes time, and you will thank yourself later if you start early. Trust me.
- Print out drafts of your work. Colors and text look different when it’s on paper rather than on a screen, and it’s also easier to get critiques and make edits because you can scribble all over them.
And some things I’ve learned about publication design:
- Don’t be afraid to try something crazy. You really, truly never know if something looks bad unless you try it, and so many key elements of my pages were created by playing with the wild ideas.
- Just because you think something is cool doesn’t mean it’s serviceable for readers. With publication design, you’re not designing something for yourself but for a reader. Therefore, even if you really like the way something looks, if it’s confusing or hard to read it’s not valuable to readers.
- Every design choice must have a reason behind it. You need to be able to justify why you chose a certain image, typeface, color, whatever it is, because each element on a page needs to be there for a reason.
You’re going to learn so much about yourself and graphic design as you take this course, and the process, while grueling at times, is extremely rewarding. Best of luck!
Survival tips for the next design angels …
(Maybe I’m feeling the Met Gala 2018 theme a little too much, but surely, you’ll be angels).
As much as I admired graphic design before, I definitely have a deeper appreciation for the craft after taking Publication Design with Professor Strong. Why do I say that? It’s not some mushy cliché about how I grew as a person as I grew with the creative process — even though that’s arguably true.
I say my appreciation for the craft has deepened because creating a publication from scratch?
It really put me through the ringer.
And I have that much more respect for what graphic designers go through on a continuous basis. For pleasure, no less.
Whether it’s a page, a spread or a whole magazine, designing thoughtfully requires a lot of time and concentration, and therefore, a lot of emotional labor. That’s a really esoteric way of saying that if you actually care about the projects you’re handing in each week, you’re probably going to cry at and/or curse out Adobe InDesign (or Suitcase, my God!) at least once this semester.
Still, when you’re in the little Newhouse presentation room at the semester’s close and
- you’re holding your prized, physical copy of your publication prototype,
- and you line it up next to those of your classmates,
- and you see the glossy (or matte!) fruits of your and others’ late nights and early mornings and office hours in-between?
You’ll realize how very worth it those arguments with the Adobe Suite really are.
Here are some revelations — again with the Met Gala theme! — I had as I embarked on my publication design journey this semester.
1. Just because it’s “pretty” or “cool” doesn’t mean it’s a necessarily the best idea.
Being of a corny and a campy disposition, I love typefaces that look like I’m running PR for a saloon or celebrating my one-year anniversary with a vampire. When it comes to my fashion tastes, I’m definitely going to opt for fur, velvet and cheetah print over clean basics and classic lines.
But as I worked on my publication and gave feedback to my peers, I realized that sometimes, less is more. And if less isn’t more, then it’s best to ensure that every image, every splash of color, every typeface use, every bit of diction is functional.
It needs to be intentional. There needs to be a reason why the reader or the viewer is seeing the design element on the page.
2. Open your heart to the roast.
In theory, everyone knows it’s an admirable trait to be good at taking criticism. But more than being a stance or theory, being able to take criticism is crucial for the fate of your publication.
Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure there is a reason why you arranged the page the way that you did or why you chose a certain name for your section or why you picked that image for your department front. That being said, in-class critiques give you the blessing of fresh eyes on your project.
Coming from different backgrounds (and just by virtue of being another, separate human being), your classmates will be able to give you valuable feedback on your work. See their criticism not as a wrecking ball, but as a warm, delicious cup of how your book or magazine can shine to its full potential.
This also goes for Professor Strong herself! If her pure intentions aren’t apparent in her meticulous, hour-long video reviews of her students’ work, they are so in how she will always, always, always make time to meet with you. When she does, she’ll tell you what is admirable and needs to be teased out, and what should, frankly, hit the curb. Sometimes, ideas (that would have never been broached under the time and content constraint of an hour and 20 minutes) blossom from office-hour brainstorm sessions.
Yes, this is a shameless plug for office hours with Professor Strong. It’s absolutely worth it!
3. Flexibility is key.
As I said before, being good at accepting criticism is a valuable trait. Still, you should know that taking critiques in stride doesn’t mean simply resisting the urge to block your classmates on Instagram for what they said about your weak hed or dek.
It’s about experimenting. Take notes about what your peers said in class. And when you get the chance — hopefully as a well-caffeinated and non-hangry designer — check those suggestions out.
If your peers’ ideas actually make the page more cluttered, more disjointed or just plain ugly, well, herein lies the beauty of Adobe InDesign: you can always just hit delete or change the color back or press Command + Z. There isn’t anything to pry glue from or scrub at by hand.
The only harm is in not giving new ideas a shot.
And yes, this is the part with the mushy cliché where I say I grew as a person as I grew with the creative process.
No doubt, graphic design can be frustrating, which is why I am endlessly impressed by those that excel at the craft and flourish through the process. As you get to learn every aspect of publication design, inside and out, you’ll realize that you, too, have developed valuable technical skills as well as the patience to survive anything the communications and arts fields can throw at you.
That, and a relationship with the loveliest design angels and Newhouse professor you could have for a class.