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Resourceful Redesign - 7/9/2013 -

Despite limited resources, the Optical Society of America used their funds strategically to work with two creative firms on a redesign without breaking the bank.

By Mike Price

The three-person staff of Optics & Photonics News followed the Italian phrase "L’arte d’arrangiarsi” when tackling their recent publication makeover. The saying translates to the art of getting something from nothing, a practical mind-set that served as the template for enhancing Optical Society of America’s top member benefit.

Despite a low budget and limited resources, OSA showed how you can work with two creative firms without breaking the bank at the Association Media & Publishing 2013 Annual Meeting June 10 in Washington, D.C.

Christina Folz and Alessia Kirkland of OSA and Becky Eason of Eason & Associates led a session titled "Redesign on a Dime.”

"A little outside input goes a long way,” Folz told attendees, advising them that they don’t need to know everything about their entire design plan up front before speaking with a creative firm. "Talking with people is free.”

OSA charted a course with an open mind. Among other things it gathered information by sending a reader survey, interviewing design firms, gathering input in-house, and conducting informal competitive analysis.

By using Bates Creative, a marketing agency specializing in design and branding, OSA received an eye-opening, detailed critique of its monthly publication. Such items needing addressed were inconsistent image quality, table of contents getting lost, and the need for more images to market stories.

"Some of the critiques may seem so obvious you wonder why we didn’t think of them,” said Folz, OSA editor and content director, who is using the recommendations to also improve the publication’s online presence.

After analyzing what needed to be done against strengths—and costs—of internal and external resources, OSA hired Eason & Associates to complete a few critical design elements: the publication’s nameplate, fonts, cover, and table of contents. Only focusing on essential design elements minimized the cost.

It had been seven years since OSA redesigned Optics & Photonics News, creating a need to refresh its look, rebrand the magazine, and better serve its readers. Folz reminded attendees to make sure you have back issues available to send to the design team, which "may seem obvious but is vitally important.”

Multiple rounds passed before OSA and Eason & Associates found a suitable nameplate. From there they tackled the table of contents, carrying through typographic elements from the cover. OSA agreed with Bates Creative that a two-page spread for the TOC was ideal.

Folz said this phase of the redesign was accomplished by making objectives clear, managing time, and providing constructive feedback. Email after email made feedback possible.

Inside the book, OSA worked to implement, maintain, and keep the design fresh.

"Readers didn’t know what to expect with the look of the columns,” said Kirkland, OSA creative director. Columns now have a clear identity and are a mix of one, two, and three pages. A 12-column grid provides ample opportunities for variety in column width and white space.

Features now are paired with standalone sidebars and info-graphics, along with font families that have a more pronounced identity that aids in storytelling.

OSA keeps its cost down when designing features by using stock or repurposed illustrations.

Detailed templates and style sheets help maintain style, while keeping things fresh and current is done through art meetings and viewing other magazines.

"What was best in web and digital fonts was really telling us what fonts could be outdated,” Folz said. "Fonts get dated pretty quickly.

"Digital drives design, so we’ll have to look at redesigning again.”

In today’s fast-paced publishing environment, Folz acknowledged that it won’t be another seven years before the 37-year-old publication receives another makeover.

"A small budget shouldn’t stop you from dreaming big,” she said. "Every magazine is different. Revisit your plan and make adjustments to remain within your budget.”

Mike Price is information products editor for the National Ground Water Association. Association Media & Publishing thanks him for covering this Annual Meeting session for members who were unable to attend.


 

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