resources, the Optical Society of America used their funds strategically to
work with two creative firms on a redesign without breaking the bank.
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
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
Christina Folz and Alessia Kirkland of OSA and
Becky Eason of Eason & Associates led a session titled "Redesign on a
"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
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
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
"Digital drives design, so we’ll have to look at
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.