The Future of Magazines

It was my pleasure to be invited as a guest on Grace Bonney's (Design*Sponge) radio show / podcast After The Jump today. Along with Paul Lowe and Paul Vitale of Sweet Paul magazine and Michele Outland of Gather Journal, we discussed the future of print media and what it's like to be a small publisher today.

Happiness through typography

I'm working on the 24th issue of UPPERCASE magazine. TWO DOZEN ISSUES! That's over 2700 pages of content that I have designed over the years. This next issue will be released early in the new year and it felt like it was time to do a bit of a design revamp. It's easy to keep doing the exact same thing over and over, but I'm a graphic designer by training and getting to design my own magazine is the fun part of independent publishing. The underlying grid and basic typography is staying pretty much the same, but I'm introducing a new font family to keep myself challenged and to see each layout with fresh eyes.

In previous issues, I was using Bodoni Poster Italic for some of the headlines, but overall I was tiring of how bold it was. The new selection really isn't all that different—it is the Bauer Bodoni family. It's kind of funny that I've selected a typeface design from 1791, but it's a style I've always loved. My design intention with this revamp is to make the spreads feel a little bit lighter overall, a bit more sophisticated but still playful. More places to breathe, little typographic details to delight the eye, some fun typographic touches... all the things that I love about design.

I agonized over which font to purchase (there are so many permutations of Bodoni and of Didone-style typefaces), but now that I've had a few days to get to know it, I am happy with the decision. It works really well with all the existing fonts I use (Sentinel, Tungsten, Neutraface) and with various weights plus roman and italic, there is a lot of possible variation. Certainly room to grow!

Throughout my career as a graphic designer, the typography has always been front and centre to my design process and inspiration. I posted the image above of a page in progress on Instagram and viewer Samantha Epstein commented, "everything about this makes my heart sing". Her comment made me so happy! Yes — beautiful typography does make the heart sing!

And not only is the typography beautiful, the content in this issue is overwhelmingly so! I can't wait to show more as I progress through the design.

It goes to the printer on the 15th of December, so it is going to be one marathon effort over here to get through the design while filling orders and managing customer service. But I'm energized by the new design direction and look forward to each new page.

Design Thinkers, part 2

Christopher Rouleau shares more of his conference notes from Design Thinkers.

Richard Turley

Senior VP of Storytelling, MTV (previously: Bloomberg Businessweek)

"Let's Talk About Me"

  • "Typography can change the world!"
  • on bad clients: "the worse I made it, the more they liked it…"

Steve Vranakis

Executive Creative Director, Creative Lab, Google

"Making Technology Matter, and Using Technology to Drive Creativity"

 

  • the description "must be brave & kind" was listed in a Google Creative Labs job posting
  • make design matter
  • coding = a creative discipline
  • developers = artists
  • code / poetry = right words in the right order
  • break the conventions / structures

Annette Diefenthaler, Ellen Lupton & Lawrence Zeegen

"The Future of Design Education"

What is the most important trait(s) for students leaving college / entering the workforce?

AD: one core skill is more important than multiple skills. A single skill permeates through a portfolio. Don't pretend you can do everything.

LZ: not skill sets, but mindsets / must be able to embrace new thinking – we're looking for innovators who will push the industry forward

EL: don't copy others / "nobody's going to be everything"

What is more important: critical thinking or technical skills?

EL: there should be no division—skill set and mindset should be integrated

AD: students must be adaptable and be able to teach themselves, or know how to acquire the skills they need

LZ: importance of learning both high tech and low tech (analog techniques), as well as learn from each other

How do you teach less-skilled students (the 90% "non-stars")?

LZ: educators are responsible for teaching the entire gamut of students, from all skill levels and backgrounds. strive for better, not best

AD: must question metrics – not just about graphic design "hard skills"
things to consider:

how is the student inspiring / challenging the discipline / industry?
how the student having an impact on his / her community?
how is the student able to communicate / inspire / teach others?
ultimately, educators must embrace diversity of skills and help break down barriers

Should software / technical skills be the core of design programs?

EL: critical thinking is more important that software knowledge
"teach spelling AND poetry in tandem" — always with an element of FUN

How important is coding fluency in a world where students are expected to be multi-disciplinary?

AD: students must have "digital fluency": able to use but not necessarily produce
ability to tell stories with existing apps, platforms, tools of visual distribution

How do you teach students to be "resourceful"?

EL: make students work within constraints, units, specific parameters, this teaches problem solving / resilience creates systems that can change / design is the most basic form of literacy for both designers and non-designers / empower students to do good: either at industry/agency level, or within their community

AD: time = money; make students execute projects in time constraints
find ways to "get to amazing" within 24 hours

What are your thoughts on design departments who are changing the course descriptions from "Graphic Design" to "Communication Design"?

EL: "I will go to my grave as a graphic designer!"
"graphic design" connotes discipline, long standing traditions
"communication design" connotes business, marketing, PR (yuck)

LZ: "graphic design" doesn't adequately describe the tasks any more

What are the constraints of a 3-year design degree? What would you add/change?

LZ: too insular
gap between real money / real time
need to connect graphic design with everything else

EL: too much focus on self, homework, etc. / add communal spaces to create a studio experience, encourage peer-to-peer learning, which is invaluable / also, make all classes electives…

AD: most classroom spaces are terrible – feel too "school-like"
learning / working environments affect how we think, act, and the quality of our work

Visit Christopher's blog for more, including his notes on Jessica Walsh and Erik Spiekermann. Our thanks to Design Thinkers for the press pass to this annual event.

Inspired by Little Golden Books

UPPERCASE magazines on display at this past weekend's New Craft Coalition.

UPPERCASE magazines on display at this past weekend's New Craft Coalition.

Did you know that UPPERCASE's spines were originally inspired by Little Golden Books? I've always loved their eye-catching golden spines and wanted my magazine to have a similar recognizable shelf presence, even when displayed spine out. Using a silver foil for issue 23's spine brings that idea full circle. It's nice when childhood inspirations still apply to your adult life!

The wisdom of calligraphers.

Calligraphers are wise people. Get to know all of these fine folks in the forthcoming issue of UPPERCASE.

Getting through the unpretty

An issue of UPPERCASE begins as a nebulous entity in my mind.

In this ideation phase, distraction is my friend. Making connections between disparate topics, leaving room for serendipity and chance—that’s what makes UPPERCASE good. Early on, an issue is a rough assembly of ideas, imagery and thoughts. It’s a hazy thing in the distance that requires concentration on my part to make it happen. 

Each decision—from who writes what article, to whom I decide to profile—takes me closer to it, bringing it slightly into focus with each step forward. By the time an issue of UPPERCASE is at the design phase, I have been thinking about its content for six months or more. At this point, I have concrete items to work with—thousands of words, gigabytes of images and 116 blank pages—but I often feel like this is the most unfocused stage of the entire process.

This is the “unpretty” phase of design when all the words and pictures are splattered onto their designated spreads so that I can take inventory of what I have to work with. It can be overwhelming to sort through everything; and there are moments when my ideas for the overarching theme seem lost in visual clutter. This is the stage that I liken to sculpture: the design is in there somewhere, but I have to hack away all the unnecessary material to reveal what it is supposed to be. I start to live inside the design, getting to know how this particular issue is going to work: the structure, the connecting colours and sympathetic visual motifs.

Designing becomes a series of decisions made to resolve different perspectives:

me / you
What am I trying to accomplish as a designer?
What do my readers want to experience? 
What are my intentions?
Will there be an element of surprise?
Do I love it?
Will you love it?


sharp / blurred
Are the themes evident to the reader?
Do the ideas and design leave room for play and discovery?
Does the issue feel cohesive?
Will it inspire new ideas and connections for the reader?


micro / macro
Is the kerning on this word ok?
Should I hyphenate this paragraph?
Should I have one or two columns of text?
Should the article be four pages or six?
Does the headline on this page look good?
Does this article fit well at this point in the magazine?
Does the issue fit with what readers expect of UPPERCASE? 


As I switch between these perspectives, an issue of UPPERCASE begins to emerge. After I’ve answered all of these questions (and many more!), it’s ready to print.

 

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In

The spine pattern for fall

The fall issue is heading to print just after Labour Day and I look forward to revealing the cover design, featuring the work of Seb Lester, on Tuesday! (Subscribe to my newsletter to see it first.) In the meantime, here's the pattern design I've developed, inspired by the content within the issue. In addition to the special calligraphy and lettering section in the fall issue, we also explore the influence of heraldry on traditional and contemporary art and design.

Starting from the observation that a calligraphy nib is somewhat shield-like and also thinking about the souvenir spoons that are featured in the Collections spread, I did some studies of the nib shape and shield shapes, ultimately going in this simple repeat so that the overlap of the shield vaguely references the split in a nib. It can't be too detailed or illustrative since it will be reproduced quite small (and in silver foil! I hope!) on the magazine's spine.

I can see foxes and bears in the motif as well, can you?

In Tags

Collector's Edition

Irma Boom photographed by Ivan Jones

Irma Boom photographed by Ivan Jones

As a book-lover and designer/publisher of books, I'm always interested when a new compilation of design work comes out. It is a chance to discover interesting formats, designs and "why didn't I think of that!" ideas all in one place. I'm immersed in the design of The Typewriter book which, at 320 pages currently, is quite the undertaking. I printed out a mini mockup to work on the page flow, which reminded me of Irma Book's tiny book.

Sample spread from Collector’s Edition, Innovative Packaging and Graphics by Stuart Tolley

Sample spread from Collector’s Edition, Innovative Packaging and Graphics by Stuart Tolley

“The future for book designers is becoming more and more interesting. I think we are in the Renaissance period of making books. I have to think about why something should be a book and not a website. This challenge makes me want to continue designing books.” –Irma Boom

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Art Director Stuart Tolley wholeheartedly agrees with the importance of creating physical design objects. Through publisher Thames & Hudson, he has produced Collector's Edition: Innovative Packaging and Graphics: "a visual culture book showcasing the new wave of beautifully produced, limited edition, large format, graphic design and packaging for music, book, magazines."

The book is organized into sections categorized by boxed sets, multiples, handmade and 'extras' such as collectible memorabilia and objects.

If you're in London, the book launches with an exhibition running from August 19 to 31. Find out more here. I look forward to adding Collector's Edition to my library.

In

Greetings from Canada

"A short teaser for Greetings From Canada, a limited edition run of fine letterpress postcards featuring the work of 10 Canadian artists, illustrators and designers. The first project of its kind in the country, it aims to elevate the art of letterpress printing while showcasing a selection of some of the best creative talent Canada has to offer." 

Back in the day, I had my own set of postcards called "Greetings from Canada." I used to sell them when UPPERCASE was a public gallery.

inside the design

Issue 22 of UPPERCASE magazine is inspired by colour. With such a broad topic, I had to find a way to tackle it within one issue.

Like many graphic designers, I thrive on constraints. So I gave myself some rules to follow: 1) The issue would be organized Roy-G-Biv-style, going from red at the front of the book through to violet at the last page. 2) The arrangement of the content and structure of the magazine would stay the same as any other issue of UPPERCASE. For example, the Beginnings column is the first few pages of the magazine and would therefore feature predominantly red imagery. I set out to find an artist whose work uses a lot of red: Canadian painter Janet Hill has been in my inspiration file for years and her paintings are punctuated with ruby accents. At the other end of the spectrum, I described the concept to longtime contributor Andrea Jenkins, who wrote a musing on her love/hate relationship with the colour purple. With these guidelines in place, I assigned and curated content—sharing my art-directed rainbow concept with our contributors and featured artists along the way.

I am so grateful to all the amazing contributors and featured artists who shared my colourful vision for this summer issue and turned in some spectacular work. UPPERCASE issue #22 will be released July 1. 

Subscribe here.

In Tags

printmaker & designer Fanny Shorter

Fanny Shorter is a printmaker and designer who grew up in country town of Winchester, UK. Fanny is inspired by the intricacies of flowers and nature, and you can see her interest flowing through her work.  

“Nature’s never just attractive,” says Fanny. “There’s always something else going on. There’s a reason why a plant looks like it does. I like combing the fact that its aesthetically attractive with the fact that its interesting.” 

Fanny was trained as an illustrator at Brighton University, and she uses ethically sourced materials and water-based inks on all of her creations.  

Her work can be found on furnishings, stationery and accessories in her online shop

Swedish illustrator Lotta Kühlhorn

 

Lotta Kühlhorn is a Swedish illustrator who, at the age of ten, already knew that she wanted to be an illustrator when she grew up.

Lotta's illustrations and patterns can be found on cookware, books, fabrics, textiles–even wall tiles!

In January, Lotta released her book called Designing Patterns for Decoration, Fashion and Graphics. 

Sass Cocker from Little Gold Studio

Little Gold Studio is a shared creative studio in Brunswick, Australia. Founded by Sass Cocker of the stationery company Ask Alice, Sass and her creative coworking studio are featured in Frankie magazine's forthcoming Spaces book.

Ask Alice's work and that of forty-nine other talented designers are profiled in issue #17's Stationery Guide. Purchase a back issue of #17 while its still in stock (and take a whiff of our special scratch and sniff cover!) or you can read the Stationery Guide excerpt, below.

the Happy Happy Art Collective

After all taking the Make Art That Sells e-course in 2013, the ladies of Happy Happy Art Collective decided to form a group to support their common artistic goals and promote their work. 

Happy Happy members Lauren Minco and Tammie Bennett are busy making preparations, and are on their way to SURTEX, while Denise HolmesEmily BalsleyJill HowarthPauline Grayson have been taking on exciting jobs and new clients. 

art by Tammie Bennett

art by Tammie Bennett

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Lauren has some excellent advice on her blog about preparing one’s portfolio for the big event:

"If you're doing Surtex, you definitely need enough art to actually show. Unlike other markets such as editorial and publishing, you don't just have examples of your work to show clients as examples of your skill…you make art beforehand that a company looks at and says "that would make a great XYZ! We'll take it!". Sure, there are still jobs in the industry that artists are commissioned for, but much of your work is made beforehand and is then available to license as you show your portfolio. 

Because of this, some people have hundreds and hundreds of pieces (sometimes even more!) depending how long they've been in the game. There are a lot of opinions about how many pieces or collections of art a newbie should have. I have enough work, but not as much as some of my peers do. However, I know that each piece is solid and nothing is filler. So even if an art director comes up and only has time to see a few pages out of my portfolio, I know they are gonna see my best work.” 

A few members of Happy Happy were featured in UPPERCASE’s Surface Pattern Design Guide. You can see pattern submissions by Emily, Pauline, Jill and Tammie in the free download of the Guide by clicking here.

Victoria Weiss of Butterpop Studio

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Victoria Weiss is the founder of Butterpop Studio, an illustration, graphic design and web design shop based in New York. "I graduated from Parsons with a Communication Design degree, although my last 15 years has been mostly in animation, licensing, graphic and web design. I’ve lived in Hong Kong for some years as well and now freelancing from my house in Virginia Beach,” says Victoria. 

"I grew up in NYC and I spent many days in newsstands and bookshops just going through magazines in the mid nineties. Things have changed so much. Its hard to find ones with great content and treated with great care. UPPERCASE is beautiful."

Victoria’s on her way to SURTEX this year for the first time, and will be at booth 726.

"My portfolio is set up in a way for art directors to be able to use many icons to develop patterns for their collections. I’m aiming for wall art, stationery, gift, home decor and fabric companies this year. Also craft markets like scrapbooking.”

Be sure to check out Victoria’s website and stop by her booth at SURTEX! 

watercolour and florals by Nicole Tamarin

Nicole Tamarin works in watercolour and is drawn to classic themes and imagery, anything from florals to children’s to the everyday. She loves details and little extras, and tries to deliver a consistent level of polish to all of her work. She launched her business at SURTEX in 2012 and is excited to return for her third show this spring.

If you would like to know more about surface pattern design, you can download the UPPERCASE Surface Pattern Design Guide here

artist profile: Andrea Pippins

photo by Nicole Crowder

photo by Nicole Crowder

Andrea Pippins is an artist and designer with a passion for making others smile with her work. Using techniques like stamping and drawing, Andrea reinterprets her inspirations from many global cultures into designs that reflect her keen interest in rich hues, textural materials and mixed patterns. In her work, Andrea embraces colour, texture and scale with a fearless hand, offering a unique perspective in the hopes of inspiring others to enjoy the beauty of bold surface designs. 

How and when did you come across UPPERCASE? What do you enjoy about it? 

Wow, I can't remember, but I've been a fan for a very long time. I've always been drawn to the stories about other artists and their creative process. UPPERCASE does a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the artists and their spaces, and the overall design of the magazine is breathtaking.

You have been busy making new collages and drawings. One of those drawings is your piece called “I’ve Been Thinking.” Where did your inspiration come from for this artwork?

For a long time I've been enamored with the photography of Malick Sidibe and Seydou Keita. Their black and white photos are so rich with pattern and texture that it feels colourful, graphic and bold. I usually rely heavily on colour, so in this new piece I wanted to explore the idea of limiting my palette to black and white but still making an image that was very pattern-ful and rich. Like their photographs, they always feature a figure (or two). I did the same but brought in all of the "colour" into the figure. 

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You have said that you reinterpret inspirations from many global cultures into your designs. What cultures influenced your Surface Pattern Design Guide submissions? 

I've been looking at a lot of global prints like and textiles from West Africa, India, the Middle East and ancient designs from Central America. I love the geometric shapes, the use of lines, and the simplicity in the colour palettes I've been observing in those works, and I wanted to create quirky interpretations of what I saw.

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Why did you decide to submit your designs into the Surface Pattern Design Guide? What do you hope will come of being published in the guide?

To me, UPPERCASE set a lovely art and design standard and offers a different perspective of what artists and designers are doing today as makers. I felt that my designs would fit into that context nicely, and would also be a great way to share my work with new audiences.  

You work for a wide range of clients which proves that you are an incredibly versatile graphic designer. What’s your process for working with such a broad range of clients with different wishes for their final design projects? 

No matter the client, the process is always the same: fully understand their needs and use design thinking strategies to develop designs that effectively communicate what that client or brand represents. Their needs dictate and inform the process and what is produced. For me the strategies have to be fairly flexible to work with different clients and projects.

What projects are you currently working on?

I have my hands in so many things right now. I just wrapped up my collage series, which I had a self-imposed goal of using all the paper I had in that size and color. I have 51 completed altogether but I'm itching to do more because this personal assignment really forced me to stretch my creative muscle. Because the current ones are roughly 5"x7" I'd like to push myself and do some large-scaled versions. I'm also working on new ideas that would include some animation. Those are personal projects, but as a designer I'm working a few big assignments that will take me through the summer.

I was impressed by your 4 page resume of work that you have accomplished over your career. Given your wealth of experience, and a fabulous portfolio, where do you see yourself in the future? Will you continue to be a multi-disciplined designer, or do you desire to immerse yourself in a bigger long-term project? 

Thank you. Currently, I'd like to focus on developing more of my personal projects in addition to working on special collaborations, while also continuing to teach design. Being an artist and educator are the two main areas of my creative path that I want to develop. I would really like to make sure that everything I do aligns with those two important parts of me. So whether it's a creating a collection of shoes, a design collaboration with a cultural institution, or a speaking engagement with teens interested in design, as long as it fits in "artist" and/or "educator" I'm open to working on the assignment.

a dapper zebra and an odd flamingo

Paper & Cloth is a design studio in the UK with a strong focus on illustrational talent. "There has been the odd flamingo running crazy in the studio,” they write about their promo piece. "We are loving all the gorgeous painterly, inky trends we are seeing… Check out the dapper zebra. Inky and yet somewhat debonair don't you think?"

every day is a party with Emily Isabella's newest collection

Emily Isabella is a designer and illustrator whose work can be seen on products at TargetBirch Fabric, and Tigerprint, just to name a few. Birch Fabric has just announced Emily’s newest fabric collection called Everyday Party. “The Everyday Party collection was designed around the philosophy of creating tiny celebrations from life’s ordinary moments,” says Emily. 

Take a look at Everyday Party, and see what sewing projects it will inspire! 

Joanne Hus' interview with Lilla Rogers

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Joanne Hus is a digital illustrator whose clients range from Time Inc., Gillette, the Chase Manhattan Bank, Scholastic, and Papyrus. 

Joanne’s interview with Lilla Rogers, artist rep and educator extraordinaire is part of the UPPERCASE Surface Pattern Design Guide in issue #21. You can read the entire article in the free download of the Guide by clicking here.