How To Evolve The Look & Feel of a National Magazine

Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity & Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority promote the advancement of college and university bands. The organizations share a national headquarters and a national publication. The PODIUM is that national publication.

As Publications Manager & Multimedia Designer, this publication is one of my main responsibilities. Every semester (spring and fall), an issue of The PODIUM is produced and sent to chapters and alumni members across the country. According to The PODIUM Online, the purpose of the publication is “a show-window of the college band world” and “serves as a snapshot of the Fraternity, Sorority, and the college & university band at the time”.

Published across multiple mediums, The PODIUM articles cover a wide range of topics relevant to Kappa Kappa Psi, Tau Beta Sigma, and the greater college band world. Articles aim to educate, entertain, and inspire those engaged in the exciting world of the college band through the exchange of ideas, experiences, and expertise.

I’ve come a long way since I arrived in the National Headquarters in April of 2013. Before that time, I had never used Adobe InDesign before. Within months on job, I had to learn enough of the program to produce a 44-48 page magazine. Recently, the 9th issue I’ve designed was released into the world. Visually, I feel like this is the best one I’ve done. The Fall 2017 issue of The PODIUM is the culmination of subtle and not so subtle changes to the layout over the years.

 

The Cover / The Theme

Every cover I’ve designed reflects the theme of that particular edition of The PODIUM. I’ve written before about what a magazine cover is suppose to do. The Fall 2017 theme is the post-National Convention recap, which is the theme of most odd year fall issues. With this being my 3rd post-National Convention issue, I continued the tradition of using the official National Convention photo of the attendees. My initial idea was to have the photo cover the entire area and place The PODIUM logo within the picture. However, due to the dimensions of the photo, I had come up with a new idea.

I made two copies of the photo, with one serving as a background and another in the foreground. I overlayed the light to dark blue gradient (made with the same blues from the 2017 NatCon logo) onto the large background photo. I placed the smaller version of the photo on top as if it was a physical photo laying on top of a table. Drop shadow was added to the photo to help with the effect. I placed the official 2017 NatCon logo with the text “CONVENTION EDITION” at the bottom to put a stamp on this particular issue’s theme.

The Inside / The Articles

Throughout my years here, I’ve experimented with the design of the inside of the magazine in an effort to improve and evolve the magazine. I’ve altered the masthead, the calendar of events, and the From The Executive Director page. I’ve completely overhauled the table of contents and other elements, drawing inspiration from professional, entertainment, and other fraternal publications.

Subtle yet important touches include increasing the space between text columns as well as the space from the edges of pages. The additional white space makes the magazine cleaner overall.

In the Fall 2017 issue, I’ve arrived at an article format I really like. I gave the title text more weight and have an excerpt that acts as a preview of the content within. I’m very visually satisfied with this layout, which is still flexible throughout the magazine. The tradition of using one of the colors of the author’s school continues in this issue and work well in this new style.

The National Officers section is where National Leadership submits articles for publication. They usually promote national initiatives and/or provide important news or advice to members. I completely changed this section to be more readable with dark text on white paper. The blue top and bottom sections let the reader know they are in a different section with a different purpose. I always want to design something that is clean yet still distinctive. The author and their title moved to the top to make room for their photo. Having the officer’s photo beside their article puts a face to the important name, creating that connection for the reader.

The Result

I’ve gotten great feedback on this latest issue of The PODIUM magazine. It’s the closest to what I’ve always wanted to The Podium to be visually. Through trial and error, research, and the support of those who I work with I learned how to make a national magazine and then how to steadily improve it. I’ll always strive for greater design, clean yet creative, for the Fraternity and the Sorority.

~b.

Fall 2017 Edition of the Printed Podium Publication is now available to read online.

The 5 Mics Project: Using My Talent To Celebrate Greatness

5 MICS is a design series I started celebrating my personal 5 favorite MCs in hip-hop, the rappers whose music and style I love.

I analyzed their photos and pulled what I considered the most recognizable elements of them. Then, I sketched out what would eventually become simple illustrations of each. I created a general face/head template and then applied the unique elements on top of that.

Notice the Miles Davis one up top I did for fun.

Like with each design series I do, I created a system of presentation that would be consistent throughout. I took the microphone I made, duplicated it 4 more times, and put the mics in formation to be the 5 Mics project logo. With each MCs illustration, I drew additional inspiration from a project or other specific bit of information about the artist.

 

RAPSODY
“There’s levels to this but I’m a whole new floor.”
The colors in the background are inspired by the cover of her EP, Beauty And The Beast.

LOGIC
“But, I’m not defined by the sales of my first week
Cause in my mind the only way I fail; if my verse weak”

The background here refers to Logic’s skill of solving Rubik’s cubes at an incredible speed.

J. COLE
“Cole under pressure. What that make? Diamonds.”

His 2014 Forest Hills Drive album was the inspiration for the background.

LUPE FIASCO
“It’s hard being a Lupe fan, go to Harvard to be a Lupe stan.”

Background is “All Black Everything”.

BIG K.R.I.T.
“If it don’t touch my soul, then I can’t listen to it.”

The purple was inspired by the Cadillactica album. The lightning cut was inspired by Mt. Olympus. The crown refers to what K.R.I.T. means (King Remembered In Time).

One of the great things about being a graphic designer is having the ability to pay visual tribute to those that impact you. We should all use our skills and gifts to deposit as much positivity into the world as possible. The 5 MICS design series is just one example of me creatively saluting some of those who provide greatness to the soundtrack of my life and the life of others.

~b.

Why I Love Being An In-House Designer

I currently serve as the Publications Manager & Multimedia Designer at the National Headquarters of Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma. In our office, I am the only one exclusively dedicated to graphic design. I’m THE graphic design professional at HQ. I consider myself a one-man graphics wrecking crew! As such, I’m responsible for using my skill set to promote the brand of the Fraternity and Sorority.

Being in-house, for me, means being able to apply my knowledge and translate my love for the organizations into visually appealing and communicative art. As an in-house designer, I personally know and care about everything I do. It’s not just a job for me. I really get to live with the brands. I also get to help evolve those brands and then apply that evolution across various mediums. The deep connections I have with the Fraternity and Sorority helps me do better, more relevant work that will stand the test of time.

Instead of starting fresh every project, I’m working with people who have developed trust in me that’s built over time. We learn how we work and how to produce the best product. The creative process becomes easier. Also, I’m there to help manage all the designs and publications that are housed underneath these two larger umbrellas. I’ve re-designed both national websites and designed the Tau Beta Sigma visual brand identity and guidelines. I have a lot of experience designing for the organizations. This gives me ever-growing confidence to know I can properly showcase the personality of each in an impactful way each time.

“I see in-house design as a valuable resource, with in-depth knowledge and custodianship of a brand,”

Kate Bates, design manager at the British Library.

I feel that I am in a place where not just my work but my mind is valued. I’m not just asked to complete a task. I’m asked what I think about that direction. I’m asked how best to present information. I’m given creative freedom as well as creative clarity. There is a certain ownership you can take when you’re an in-house designer. There is a personal investment you’re making as well as an investment being made in you.

~b.

Case Study: Tau Beta Sigma Coda Program

Last week, I broke down the Kappa Kappa Psi Centennial Logo. Today, I break down the logo design for the newest Tau Beta Sigma National Program, the Coda program.

Have I mentioned I love my job? The opportunity to brand various initiatives of the Fraternity and Sorority is one I cherish.

Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority is an organization dedicated to the service of collegiate bands and the promotion of equality and diversity.

The sorority operates primarily as a student service and leadership recognition society whose chief aim is to assist the Director of Bands in developing the leadership and enthusiasm that they require of their band. Our goals are not only to provide the band with organized and concentrated service activities, but to give our membership valid and wholesome experiences in organization, leadership, and social contacts.

-from tbsigma.org

The Coda program of Tau Beta Sigma encourages sisters to work with the elderly population through music. It is similar to the Crescendo program but the Coda focuses on the elderly rather than youth.

Coda is a common musical term for the concluding passage of a piece or movement, typically forming an addition to the basic structure.

The program’s purpose is to focus on cultivating and continuing musicianship and music appreciation during the “concluding passage” of life.

from the Coda webpage on tbsigma.org

With the Crescendo logo, I analyzed the crescendo symbol on sheet music and thought about applying that inside the logo.

The final approved logo referenced the musical term, “a gradual increase in loudness in a piece of music”, by making each letter larger than the next. With this project, I took inspiration from the name Coda and immediately analyzed the coda symbol in music.

I recreated the general shape in Adobe Illustrator and added custom laurel leaves on the shape. On the inside, instead of just having 2 straight lines intersecting, I played with the idea of placing a baton in the middle. The baton is seen throughout the official Tau Beta Sigma visual brand identity, which I also worked on.

I was right on the money with the direction I went, according the National Council! They asked me to extend the axis of the lines to mimic more of the traditional coda sign and try the baton pointing up instead of down.

 

Making those changes really enhanced the overall visual. Extending the axis of the lines made the reference to the musical coda symbol more concrete. The baton is now pointing up from a more active perspective. The text below the logo is in the Playfair Display font, one of the official fonts chosen by the Sorority for use. After all the adjustments were made, the logo was approved!

Purpose driven design will always be my favorite thing to see and do.

~b.

Case Study: Kappa Kappa Psi Centennial Logo

Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity was founded on the campus of Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater, Oklahoma on November 27, 1919. At this year’s National Convention, with 2019 approaching, we kicked off the countdown to the centennial! To do this, we needed a logo that would be the centerpiece of all centennial branding and promotion.

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