Module Leader:



Project Brief:

Blurring Edges / Re-Defining Boundaries


Background information:

The traditional ‘magazine’ is essentially a bound collection of related news items, articles and features (usually liberally interspersed with advertisements) with accompanying photographs/illustrations on a given subject or theme. It is invariably topical containing a blend of news, reviews, comment and opinions on its subject matter. From the myriad titles that appear on magazine distributors’ shelves every week, we are asking you to investigate as much of what’s ‘out there’ in the world of magazine publishing as time will allow. After a period of initial research you will be asked to select and purchase the one magazine that impressed you most. What does the magazine of your choice contain, how is it organized and displayed, who does it address, where and when is it read and why do you think it is the best? To gain some useful insights into how the magazine medium works you will need to engage with this kind of interrogative questioning in relation to your research findings. Take time to think about this with the magazine in front of you.


The project task 2010:

1. The concept (your big idea)

Propose a fresh and new kind of magazine (or shall we call it our ‘all day information burger’?) and develop an editorial and visual treatment for it and its wrapper. Our theme ‘1+1=3’ is there to inspire but not constrain you – we expect you to ‘add value’ to the reader experience by bringing two subjects together in a relationship of creative synergy (we will further expand the ideas implicit in this equation in discussion with you at the briefing). The ethos of this magazine will be expressed through its editorial and art direction. Words and pictures will be creatively and intelligently combined to ‘tell the story’ in question in an engaging manner (it won’t be dull). It will entertain us visually by its imaginative layout and by the aesthetic and impressive quality of its production (meticulous attention to detail and finish). Finally, you should consider the relationship between print media and any/all of the conventional or emerging screen media options available to the graphic designer and magazine publisher. Utilise print and screen information links (URL’s), cross-referencing to page numbers in publications etc. so that readers can engage with content physically and electronically. Screen based content need only be visualised through storyboarding your ideas on paper. Explain any interactivity you would wish to include on the storyboard notes.

2. The face  (start designing here)

‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ – well maybe not, but a magazine is a different proposition. The cover is the magazine’s face through which we read its personality and identity. Inventing a title name is therefore your first task. Make this from at least two syllables taken from each of the two subject areas you have chosen as your interests. The next task is to now elaborate on the cover’s physiognomy. An imaginative eye-catching typographic and/or rebus treatment of the title is essential – this is the constant element that identifies it at each successive publication date. The cover picture, edition and date information, bar code, contents taster lists etc. need to be considered and included as appropriate.


3. The body copy

We are looking for a creative interpretation of your subject matter.

The basic elements to work with are as follows:


Your unique title and the subjects represented by it.

Most topics have iconic images and symbols associated with them. We suggest you investigate these and compile a list of references from which to draw inspiration and aquire the ‘feel’ of what you are trying to put together in your magazine. Some of these will of course be cliched but include them in your research database just the same.

The current top news stories/issues/debates covered by your title.

Your stories should be taken from journalistic sources. You can write original material if you wish.

Be inventive with typography and use the meanings contained within your texts as inspiration and a starting point for what to do with your layout  – this is not meant to be an exercise in superficial typographic styling. Consider the hierarchy between display and body text and experiment with drammatic differences of scale, juxtaposition, colour etc.


The images that you will produce to illustrate your top news stories/issues/debates/

Your illustrations should include images developed through graphic arts processes e.g. printmaking, collage, Illustrator/Photoshop, photography, drawing etc. in order to add variety and impact to your magazine pages/spreads. Consider how text and image relationships function within the overall scheme of your pages and be aware of the picture’s power and potential to carry the editorial message. With good pictures you don’t have to labour the point with heavy reading matter. Pictorial representation can also extend to symbols, icons, graphs etc.

4. The target audience

Who will buy this magazine? You will need to come up with a credible reader profile and convince us (as your hypothetical publisher) that there is an interest group out there. What interest group/s are you appealing to? Musicians? Philosophers? Poets? Dog lovers? Hang gliders? Tattoo artists? As this is a hybrid it might draw a new readership group from other related areas. Think about who might advertise in your publication and what product or service would they be selling? Get a fuller sense of its validity and purpose from engaging in this exercise.


5. The format

We are beginning with an A5 format in order to get some initial ideas down on paper, however, larger or smaller formats and different page proportions to those of the ‘A’ sizes may be considered and explored e.g. what about a concertina folded edition? What about a set of variously sized fragments assembled in a cover sleeve/box or something? Be inventive and don’t be afraid to experiment! Your final choice of format will be informed by discussion with your peer group and tutors and the personal experimentation you will engage in should give you many options from which to choose. The magazine is to be presented as a coherent collection of articles/features/advertisements etc. printed by any/all appropriate means (digital and/or non-digital) on appropriate stock – i.e. it is to be produced to an exacting standard of finish to approximate the weight, feel and quality of the ‘real thing’ as you imagine it. The only restriction on what you design is that it should be cut from and use the entire area of an A0 sheet of paper 1189mm x 841mm.


6. Grids

You will manage the problems of visual coherence by utilising some kind of underlying grid structure.

Whatever you do has to hold together and make compositional sense. Can we read and follow your words and pictures trail?


7. Methodology

Less is more? You must think creatively and intelligently about what you propose in order to achieve a timely and satisfactory result. The more you think, the less time you waste on unproductive activity – thinking means working it out on paper by drawing, it’s the only way to measure your intentions. (development works on A3 layout sheets preferably). We are interested in seeing evidence of research, development and outcome at the end of the project with thoughtful analysis applied to all these stages of the design process. Do not force solutions but work steadily on the material you generate from research – analyse it, sort it into sets, make comparisons, put words and pictures together in creative combinations to tell your stories, reinvent some data in the form of graphic charts and diagrams etc . Engage and reflect at all stages. It’s not only about what you do, but how you do it that counts at assessment time.


8. Skills audit

Use this project to identify the graphic design and other skills, disciplines and methodologies you particularly want to develop e.g. drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, collage, typography, creative letterform, concrete poetry, iconography, information graphics, software packages such as Illustrator etc. Make your list.


9. Sounds interesting?

As the magazine begins to take shape materially, we want you to consider what aspects of your content could be posted to your blog (your online magazine as it were for the purposes of this trial) for your readers to access in a different way. We are interested in your thought processes and wish to see a range of speculations on what might be possible using time and sound as your ‘graphic’ medium.

10. In summary:

The 7 items required for your final portfolio submission are:


Item 1. An illustrated (any media) cover design with a typographic and/or rebus title and appropriate supporting cover copy and image/s.

Item 2. Feature pages/or spreads demonstrating your publication design skills: inspiring art direction, good use of typography, picture editing and clever and engaging use of copy, illustration, photography etc.

Item 3. An advertisement page/s. A single, double, gatefold or any other format advertisement by a fictitious company or organization. Its business should relate in some way to the subject matter of your magazine.

Item 4. Twenty of your best A3 concept development sheets.

Item 5. A final dummy presentation of the magazine produced to an exacting standard of finish to approximate the weight, feel and quality of the ‘real thing’ as you imagine it.

Item 6. A supporting blue A4 ring binder research journal containing evidence of your activity in collecting and organising images and ideas as sources of factual reference and creative inspiration. This ring binder will also contain a list of web-site URL’s that you have critically examined over the course of the module. It will be organised under the 15 tabulated headings given at the start of the module.

Item 7. Your Flash movie on CD (this will also be posted on your Blog).


Points to note

• Items 1 – 4. To be presented as flat artwork in sleeves in an A2 or A3 portfolio.

• Item 5. To be presented as a separate bound dummy magazine that we can handle and flick through – it should be sufficiently well made to ensure that it does not fall apart during this inspection. Include this in your portfolio submission as a loose item.

Assessment criteria:

The following generic criteria will be used to assess work:

Research: Students will be expected undertake exploratory and dynamic research, working independently or with others, that demonstrates initiative and critical reflection in the process of conducting primary and secondary research – Learning Outcome 1

Development: Students will be expected to engage with the issues and debates raised in this module, prepare as required for seminars and workshops and will normally be expected to attend all timetabled sessions – Learning Outcomes 2 & 3

Outcome: Students will be expected to produce creative solutions that show evidence of risk, ambition and originality and take appropriate account of the requirements of the project brief. Students will also be expected to present all outcomes in an accessible format to a high standard of presentation – Learning Outcomes 5 & 6

Analysis: Students will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of the issues and debates raised in this module and show evidence that they can contextualise their work within a wider theoretical framework – Learning Outcome 4

Assessment deadline:

Students to submit work to Graphics Studio in the City Centre Campus by 2.00pm on Wednesday 2 February at 2.00pm. See notice board and MLE nearer the time for your individual viva assessment appointment.



In the event of you failing the module, you will be required to undertake an additional set brief which will be posted to you after the Examinations Board at the end of the Summer Term.


Indicative reading:

DIEZMANN, T. 2003. Grids for the dynamic image. Worthing: AVA.

EVANS, P. 2005. Exploring publication design. New York: Thomson Delmar Learning

HELLER, S. 2003. Merz to Emigre and beyond : avant-garde magazine design of the twentieth century. London: Phaidon.

HONEYWILL, P. 2003. Digital magazine design : with case studies. Bristol: Intellect.

HORST, M. 2003. Art directors’ handbook of professional magazine design : classic techniques and inspirational approaches. London: Thames & Hudson.

LAYBOURNE, K. 1998. Animation book : a complete guide to animated filmmaking-from flip-books to sound cartoons to 3-D animation. New York: Three Rivers Press.

LESLIE, J. 2003. magCulture : new magazine design. London: Laurence King.

McALHONE, B. 1998. A smile in the mind : witty thinking in graphic design. London: Phaidon.

McLEAN, R. 1969. Magazine design. Oxford University Press.

TIMOTHY, S. 2005. Publication design workbook : a real-world design guide. Gloucester, Mass.: Rockport.

WALTON, R. 2002. Typographics five : graphic fusion : just what is it that makes today’s magazines so…? : magazine design and more. New York: HBI.

Magawebzine Project brief


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