Grafik Takeover: My ‘Zine’

The other part of the Grafik takeover was to create a ‘zine’ using content from Grafik’s website. Being obtuse when it comes to graphic design and what it has to do with me, the majority of my time working on this zine was spent being conceited. I spent years telling people that I had no interest in doing a graphic design degree, just like I had no interest in animation (more like no interest in doing the animation) and now, here I was doing an editorial task where I was effectively relegated to layout design. As an illustrator on an illustration course, I felt more than entitled to drag my feet with this, especially since this was my first visit to Adobe Indesign since the book I made last year.

I decided to pick several letterform articles to use for the content of my zine, half because looking at the letter at such a scale that it ceased being a grain of sand on the beach and instead became a skyscraper, made me consider how much effort can actually go into designing a typeface, and half because it was the first suggestion on the brief.

I went looking for the most bizarre looking letters I could find, to really emphasise the letter as the focal point of each spread. It’s funny how little I know about design (and funnier how little I bother to pick up). There are no doubt conventions that are routinely applied in the production of graphic design, but being unaware of any that aren’t strictly speaking, common sense, I decided to pursue a minimalist approach to the layout. (Also, from quotes I’ve heard, but can never remember properly, the ‘best designs do the most work with the least elements’ or something to that effect.) Every letterform would be massive and accompanied by only the title of the article and the body copy. No other elements. I didn’t want to play it too safe, so I went with white font on a black background. Using solid colour as the background hasn’t worked out well for me in the past, but I wasn’t convinced that it was an entirely futile endeavour. I spent some time trying to pick an appropriate font, and settled on Futura. It has a weight to it which helps it stand out in white on a coloured background. I also like the relative scale and density of the letters. 

One of my spreads. Note the subtle symmetry.
One of my spreads. Note the subtle symmetry.

Honestly, the only thing I felt enthused about doing was the cover page, since I was effectively naming and marketing the zine. I showed my work in progress to our resident designer Sarah Boris and Angharad and they gave me some feedback on font types, colour schemes and other considerations.

Designers On Design. Issue 1. Coming to a store near you never.
Designers On Design. Issue 1. Coming to a store near you never.

Sarah really helped me bring together the cover. It should be interesting to see how the publication is taken as a whole, should I ever witness anyone flicking through it. I looked at some random magazine layouts online, to get a sense of where my design was in the grand scheme of things. While I had been particular about my placement of elements in relation to each other, I can’t claim to have used an extensive grid system. Nor could I, with so few elements. My colour pallet is unorthodox to be sure, but if now is not the time to experiment with such things, when is? I have the rest of my life to be boxed in by clients saying ‘I want this’ (pointing at someone else’s work), ‘but in red.’ I tried to keep an eye out for orphans and widows and eliminate them with extreme prejudice. (Of course I’m talking about one word lines of text at the top or bottom of paragraphs, not people, but I wanted you to be unsure about that for just a little while.) The extreme prejudice part I should redact as well. It was more like mild disinterest. I did actually alter at least one column of text to remove a widow though, so yay me.

Another spread
Another spread

The back cover was intended to be reserved for the local printers who had offered to print all of our studio’s zines in exchange for free advertisement. While the initial conversation I had with them as one of the studio’s representatives went very well, and most students did end up getting their zines printed, my sporadic attendance resulted in me missing out. As a result, my back page is slightly different and you will either think it very clever or utterly asinine depending on whether you are me or not.

The back page of my zine. Like I said, you either like it, or you're not me.
The back page of my zine. Like I said, you either like it, or you’re not me.

The process of readying the indesign document for print has not been an enjoyable one and I do wonder what I would do If the internet wasn’t full of people who’ve already gone through the disasters that confront me. A prime example would be the alarming amount of difficulty it took to even produce a PDF where the black I had used throughout my entire zine would actually show as the same colour it was in the Indesign file. And we’re not talking about CMYK vs RGB or anything, we’re talking about black. There’s a sketch from an old TV show called the Fast Show that comes to mind, so it’s time to move on.

Sketchbook page considering cover treatments
Sketchbook page considering cover treatments
Another sketchbook page. Not only did I cleverly work a Prinny joke in there, I had to redact someone's contact details off of it. It's like all my Christmas's have come at once...
Another sketchbook page. Not only did I cleverly work a Prinny joke in there, I had to redact someone’s contact details off of it. It’s like all my Christmas’s have come at once… because redacting is awesome. Take that Freedom of Information Act!

Graphic design is a school of study in it’s own right. It has it’s own principles, sensibilities, history and purpose. It always bothers me when I’m supposed to learn about another school of study than the one I signed up for. Especially due to my woeful lack of knowledge when it comes to the school of study I did sign up for. I understand the course is helping ground all its students with a solid knowledge-base in all sorts of things, but I can’t help but feel being a jack-of-all-trades will simply leave me a master of none. Being just as good as the next guy, or 10,000 other people applying for the same position, doesn’t help me stand out, now does it?

An unfair claim to lay at the door, when the course made no secrets about its content and delivery? Perhaps, but It’s almost time to have that awesome portfolio that knocks people off their chairs while looking at it, and I’m not seeing it happen.

The irony of all this is that editorial work is effectively just taking stuff that already exists and repackaging it; the hard work has already been done. This was not a time or effort heavy project that required months to compile and present. Honestly, I like what I ended up with and I did get to play around with the cover quite a bit.

The technical difficulties of creating hi-res images from the tiny files on the website was an issue for me as well. This is the problem with relying on the internet all the time. Not every solution some random guy puts on a forum is the right one for you.

I also had to reprint the finished zine twice, since the purple printed considerably darker than it appeared on my computer screen. And that is the most important lesson to be gleaned from the whole experience: never expect it to all go right the first time. Give yourself time to account for unforeseen difficulties, technical hiccups and have some wiggle-room in your budget to get past all that stuff.

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