Design notes

By Mike Ryan, Design Director at Journey Group

Mike Ryan

If you receive World Vision magazine, you see the culmination of a long and fruitful design process between Journey Group and World Vision’s magazine staff.

As the designer, I usually start with a 3,000-word story, hundreds of images, and a handful of graphic ideas. Fitting all of the necessary elements into four or five spreads is a challenge.

The larger challenge, however, is packaging all of these elements together in a way that creates pause and communicates clearly. Purely by nature, designers relish the former and editors strive for the latter.

The process between Journey Group’s designers and World Vision’s editors embraces both. The final magazine design should be distinct for World Vision, consistent in feel, and appropriate for the content.

In an effort to share our collaborative design process, I’d like to show you four opening spread designs for the cover feature of the Winter 2009 issue. The feature is authored by Max Lucado, reflecting on Acts 3 and his trip to Ethiopia, where World Vision is at work. The theme for the entire feature package is “Stories of Transformation.” These four images represent about 5 percent of the designs that were created, but I think they effectively illustrate this particular design process.

Winter 1

Proof 1 design

Journey Group starts with the raw content and a visual summary—a document where the editorial team outlines the storytelling objectives. This story was unique in a few ways: 1. There was a prominent guest author (Max Lucado) who was to be featured photographically, and 2. The feature was more of a devotional than the usual photojournalistic World Vision magazine feature.

At first, the editors wanted to explore featuring Max on the cover and less prominently on the opening spread. Because there wasn’t a particular photo tied to the story to represent on the spread, we searched for a generally hopeful and scene-setting image of Ethiopia. I really liked a portrait of a young boy, seen above in proof 1. The boy wasn’t a mentioned in the story, but he was both Ethiopian and hopeful. From a design perspective, his portrait provided rich color and texture for the backdrop of the entire feature package. We felt that the story’s environment had to be rich in design, since there wasn’t the usual photographic narrative that usually carries a feature.

Winter 2

Proof 2 design

After proof 1, we and the editors decided together that it was important to feature Max Lucado on the opening spread. This, of course, changed the way we thought about the design of the spread. There were plenty of great photos of Max. The best were images of Max with his wife, Denalyn, and his sponsored child, Mimi. We were all in agreement that the design flavor started on proof 1 was appropriate. This design (above) was our best effort to maintain the same look with a new photo.

As a side note, photos of Ethiopian landscapes were also entertained, but the right image needed a prominent subject in order to counterbalance the weight of the graphic elements on the opposite page.

Winter 3

Proof 3 design

The visual changes at this stage had to do with the weight of the cover story compared to the other two features in the issue (“Footprints on the Heart” and “Something to Live For”). Prior to this stage, all of the features had a single-page photo opposite the story introduction. World Vision encouraged us to give prominence to the cover feature by using a landscape image of the same scene of Max.

The design at this stage began to suffer. The problem was how to retrofit a horizontal image AND keep the rich design elements that were already throughout the feature well. This image (above) was our first attempt. It made this feature more prominent, but it was yet to be solved graphically.

Winter 4

Final design

With one proof stage to go, the problem was finally resolved. The solution: The image remained a large horizontal, but was reduced in size to accommodate breathing room for the complimentary design elements. The final design became a distinct introduction to the feature package that was consistent in look and feel, and appropriate in tone.

I hope that our design work on World Vision magazine only enriches your interaction with World Vision’s stories of transformation.

Thanks for reading.

Related posts: Choosing Chaltu (Nov. 3, 2009), Too many choices (Sept. 21, 2009)


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