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VERSUS MAGAZINE initial research

Being given the brief simply named “Your Title Here” I straight away thought about what I would want to be doing once I finish the course, which led me to a number of fields, which I norrowed down to three. Editorial Design, Branding and Sports Design were the three fields I could see myself being involved in and enjoying my time in. This brief was an oppertunity for the to try my hand at something I quite possibly would be doing in the future, understanding the field and developing my skills in it, something I was not going to pass up.

Why Editorial Design? I mean at first glance a lot of people would say their is not much design that goes into creating a magazine, thats where I know their wrong and its something that intrugues me. My drive for Editorial Design is definetly my willingness to want to create my own magazine, merging my two passions; design and music. The idea being with the design side looking to promote young and unknown designers, educate them and have known designers educate us, while musically promoting unknown artists, having interesting features, while also blending the boundries between music and design.

Branding might seem something generic, in a way monotone but done right I think its genious. Like the re-branding of ‘Animal Planet’ where the agency went straight to the companies animalistic roots, or the branding of the Polish company ‘EDP’ using increidbly polished yet minimalist design to get their message across over a number of mediums. Not only do I find it incredibly satisfying having to build a brands idenity but the idea of ‘re-branding’ where you have the chance to alter the publics perception towards a certain brand I find extremely appealing. Sports Design or Sports Branding, appeals to me mainly due to my high interest in sports. Sports Branding is currently often in the public eye due to the Olympics and Euro 2012; personally I prefer Euro 2012’s campaign due to it being much more creative and visually pleasing. What really got me interested though was other designers attempts at publicising and branding these events with some amazing outcomes, something I felt I could do for the upcoming Euro2012, or the WorldCup in Brasil. Those are my three choices; I just need to decide on one.

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YOUR TITLE HERE :

VERSUS MAGAZINE initial idea

With my initial three areas of interest sorted I ended up looking at what genuinly interested me and what I would want to continue doing for the duration of the brief and beyond; which led me to Editorial Design. Knowing that I wanted the magazine to focus around music and design and in some way bring design to the forefront I started to look for inspiration, at existing products that already had certain ideas I wanted to bring through and others which had certain aspects I had the vision for but wanted to improve/change. One of my biggest inspirations for my own magazine is ‘Little White Lies’ a film orientated, independent magazine, starting out life very similarily to my project as a final piece from a university student. What is heavily influencing my thinking is not what is on the inside but what is on the front cover. ‘Little White Lies’ get a designer to create an amazing front cover for them based on the headline film of the issue; which ends up with some outstanding eyecatching covers. Each cover is done by another designer, is different and gives each issue a different out look, but the main thing for me its one of very few magazines trying to bring design to the forefront through other mediums, something I want to achieve in my own way.

Besides ‘Little White Lies’ no other specific magazine has really inspired me. I have tended to focus away from the typical design/music publications but rather focused on lesser known independent projects and some designed by university graduates. ‘Huck’ an urban magazine is very minimalistic yet gets its message across through colour creating colour associations and mood. ‘Bruno’ on the other hand is a great example of a well organized magazine, seperating its content through colour and headline pages. The rest I focused on how colour was used (often used to highlight something of importance or to add aesthetic to a page), how the pages need a flow to make them easy to read (well organised collumns) and other fairly pecular things.

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VERSUS MAGAZINE indentity development

Once I had a fairly concise idea of what I wanted the magazine to be in my head it was time to give it an identity. The first problem was coming up with a name, a name which would represent my vision for the magazine, a name that would become synonymous with its content and its readers. Coming up with a name I felt was one of the integral parts for the success of the magazine, so ended up doing a lot of research based around branding and naming a company. James Dettore the president of the Brand Institute in Boston states that “First, it should be able to communicate on its own without a lot of advertising”, which makes sense, as the name should in most cases where possible give the public an indication what its about. A perfect example of that would be something like KFC, which is an acronym for Kentucky Fried Chicken, the name states exactly what the brand is abound yet it short and catchy. The brand/name development for me was a long around, with initially doing a brainstorm and coming up with a miriad of names the most prominent being; RAW, Colourless, Illmatic and White Noise. Raw and White Noise to an extend did give the audience a certain clue about what I wanted the magazine to achieve; showcase raw talent, combine visuals and audio, but none really did it for me. By pure chance while playing a ‘beat’em’up’ game, the word ‘VS’ stuck in my head, whereas after a while I realised the name Versus was ideal for the publication; it stating clearly what I wanted to achieve, a fight, mixup between music and design.

This led me to having a full on browse at a range of logo’s mainly focusing at logo’s which are either full type, or where the imagery behind the logo represent the name. The recently redesigned logo for the massive design blog known as ‘Abduzeedo’ and more specifically their ‘rawz’ section was a huge inspiration with it being simple, clear yet quite obviously well designed which is something I wanted to grasp with my own design.

My early designs seem above focused on the idea to make the word ‘Versus’ stand out, my trying to alter the look of the V, E and R. Initially I focused on a fairly minimalist look by simply slanting the V and giving the E a very minimal feel, to make the design feel extremely sleek, which then I followed up by a ‘bolder’ version. After I had the basic designs I ended up making them digitally just to get a better feel for them, eventually deciding to stick to a very minimal and sleek look, due to the very minimalist and stylistic approach I had in mind for Versus Magazine.

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VERSUS MAGAZINE the layout

A ‘grid system’ is the staple of almost every magazine, even the ones which seem to not have one, have a very adjustable grid in place. A grid gives structure to a publication, gives the reader a flow, and makes the reader comfortable with them sort of knowing where to expect information, imagery etc.

Their are some standard rules you can follow or choose to break in grid design, such as the ‘rule of thirds’ and ‘the golden ratio’, both of which try to organize the content in a functional layout. The ‘rule of thirds’ essentially splits up the layout in three and makes sure their is functional information in each area, while the ‘golden ratio’ looks at focusing a readers attention to one area first, as a starter. Both rules have been enforced within the structural layout of the magazine in some way, while also being inspired by other already existing magazines. The London based ‘Pentagram’ do a number of Editorial pieces, of which a number helped me when it came to looking at typography and how it should be used within a layout. The ‘headline’ type should in almost all cases stand out from the the rest of the typography; where colour, additional design, sizing etc can help greatly (best place to be creative with typography). While the likes of ‘Fader’ and ‘Little White Lies’ helped me get my head around standard layouts seen in ‘LWL’ but at the same time some of the more fascinating multi grid layouts in ‘Fader’ some of which are very specific to some of my content so were a great help.

I had also found that having content first was almost 100% necessary since without it you could never for sure plan for its contingencies, which I found after a few failed layout/type mistakes.

“One of the most effective principles in grid design is called the Rule of Thirds, also known as the golden grid rule. The Rule of Thirds is a technique which is applied by dividing a space into thirds, both vertically and horizontally, creating a grid of rectangles.” Mark Boulton VS | 04


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VERSUS MAGAZINE what mediums best?

Although from the start I saw Versus being an online magazine, I wanted to make sure this was the right choice, especially since it was going to be continued beyond the brief itself. Their are a number of mediums that I could place Versus, be it online (through ISSUU, Flipping Book), or a self coded liquid layout, print, or a mixture of the two; the question was outcome is the best.

My initial thoughts led me toward ‘ISSUU’; the most popular visualizer for pdf files and host for magazines. ‘ISSUU’ is great visually, really making any magazine stand out, and also works fairly reasonbly on other sources outside a PC, such as tablets. Another benefit is that its extremely popular, therefore making it accessible and also helping with achieving traffic for the magazine and a wider audience. The reading function is nice but not yet perfected but one of my biggest current drawbacks with ‘ISSUU’ is that it doesnt allow for many interactive elements. Not many magazines have taken advantage of a web based magazine, with interaction being something that is often overlooked, something I wanted to change. Although ‘ISSUU’ will allow me to use links - which can work, it currently does not allow for videos/sound but will in the near future, so in a way it will be ideal in not so long. An alternative to ‘ISSUU’ is ‘Flipping Book’ something very similar to ‘ISSUU’ but has one important advantage, that of interaction. ‘Flipping Book’ in my opinion is slightly more optimized for single page reading with its zoom function working better due to the way it resizes itself. It also allows for sound and video, in a limited way but it does allow it, which is brilliant. Although its miles less popular than ‘ISSUU’ which limits the accesibility and at the same time its not as visually pleasing.

Another online possibility is ‘Adaptive Web Design’ aka a liquid website. Their is the possibility to code a website from scratch to be built specifically to host Versus, and tailor it specifically to its contents. A self designed site would allow for any and all interactive elements I might want and need, and magazine traffic would all be in one area, but their is a massive problem with this. The coding and flash behind such a project is extremely advanced and to produce something like this would take a fair amount of time and most likely more than just myself. What about print? Its the classic medium for magazines and well in many, many ways the best. The feeling of flicking through pages, the weight and quality you get from print, just cant be replicated. Although in my opinion print is the best format just like I feel books are better then their eletronic counterpart, there are a fair few drawbacks towards print. First of all theirs all the costs, with the actual printing, the distribution etc. Then the fact that printers can make errors’ and to reprint takes time. The plan will go along the lines of the initial issue of Versus being hosted on ‘ISSUU’, with following issues having the option for limited print. With a website being built to support the brand in the coming months, to give a focal point for the readership.

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VERSUS MAGAZINE the development

The development of the magazine has been long and tedious, with layouts, typography, content being changed and added every day, but to make it a success it is all necessary. A magazines success doesnt only rest on its content and look, but its all the small things that make it work and help it become something a reader would enjoy. One of the most continious and visible changes were to do with the contents page. With the contents page being the first ‘inside’ content you get to see, I wanted it to represent the style and feel that Versus represents. The idea was always to have certain areas segragated and to make it incredibly easy to navigate be it online or print, but the way it was to be navigable changed constantly. Initially a lot of yellow was used to give it impact and allow the text to stand out, it worked to an extent but too much yellow really did hurt the eyes, so it had to be toned down. The content images went through a huge number of shapes, but in the end simple rectangles worked, but on a white background to give them a much more minimalist feel, with the actual images standing out themselves. The idea to add contact details came in at a later time, it involved a hell of a lot of different type to try out, with eventually the type being chosen being used throughout the magazine.

Another variable that was developed over time was the typography for both headings and inline text. With the inline text I looked at some of the most popular choices; Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica etc. and wanted to choose something similar to it, ending up with Cambria. Heading wise I looked at a huge variety of fonts, serif/sanserif, bold,thin,itallic, wanting something that would easily stand out from the inline text yet still look swuave. Bebas Neue popped up and stuck, alone it was very powerfull and made the headlines stick out, but with feedback from my public questionnaires many people suggested to add some ‘punch’ to the headlines. This led me to developing graphical headlines using an array of geometric shapes (since I felt they kept within the style boundries of elegant, timeless and minimalist) whilst they defined the headlines and gave them that kick that was needed.

Most likely the most potent visual aspect of the magazine is the use of the bright yellow. It came from me wanting to add some colour to the at the time black and white layout. Initially I started placing squares around the place to highlight certain pieces of text, headings etc. which was followed by finding a set colour that highlighted the text best. A plain bold yellow seemed to do the trick, and put throughout the magazine gave Versus much more of a style and identity the reader could recognise and familiarise themseleves with.

The cover it self didnt really go through many changes besides colour. Once I had decided a lead headline to go with (top 5 white rappers), I settled on a royalty theme and led with it. Having the main design aspect done, I went through several colour schemes, additional texts and fonts till I reached the end result.

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VERSUS MAGAZINE the final outcome

Versus Magazine Issue #1 was released on the 23rd of March 2012, on completion the night before. The final outcome is something I’m proud of, not all completely the way I wanted it, but I’m more than happy with my first try. From the outset I wanted to achieve a balance between music and design, bringing content to the forefront, with design truely mattering. The cover is simple, sleek and straight to the point; you get an idea what the magazine is about due to the content displayed and the design aspect of it. Although I am hoping to make the cover more of a spectacle on future issue’s, by possibly using interviews as lead artwork. The content I feel is a real winner, with most of the feedback I so far have received being overwelmingly positive. Managing to grab an interview with a well respected illustrator, and a increasingly popular emcee was great, especially since both co-operated so well. Then the actual range of articles from showcases, technology updates, reviews, to features were great, had a broad scope and educated the readers.

From an aesthetics/layout point of view I’m fairly happy. I managed to implement a range of varied layouts yet still keep a flow, with any design supporting the layout itself and enhancing it. Although in the future I plan to be more daring and editing photographs/graphics, wrap text around images, just to vary the layout that bit more so, to keep interest wanting.

“I am very happy to have been featured in the first issue of versus magazine. the content is great, engrossing and entertaining, can’t wait for the second issue.” gabz

With issue 1 done, its time to start on issue 2 and developing the Versus Brand...

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VERSUS MAGAZINE The Future

As I have mentioned before, Versus is something beyond a brief to me, its something that I now see as a part-time job almost, something that takes up a fair amount of my time. With the initial issue out I straight away started out on one of the most important supporting pieces to the magazine - the website. The website was designed from scratch by myself, only using the magazines aesthetic as guidence, and the usual browse through websites such as behance for ideas. Conceptually I wanted the site to be the hub for the magazine, if someone discovered Versus by chance, they would straight away go visit the site, find old issues, web exclusive features and check out other benefits that come with a website. From a design stand point, the aesthetic comes straight out of the magazine, as well as the fonts, although sizes and colour combinations have to be altered at times to work on screen. Usability wise I tried to make everything as accesible as possible... any social features are in their own spot, the reviews are seperate, and the center content is all divided. I also made sure that only certain features / articles displayed in the magazine would be available through the website, to not take away from the magazine format, but to use the web to display certain things that a magazine can not (video / audio etc).

One major change that happened following the release of the initial issue was the development of the logo. Although myself and a lot of the readers did like the simplicity of the original, I did feel I had to make it stand out somehow, therefore I decided to design the ‘V’ in a completely different stylistic sense to the rest of the logo, to give it that umph.

Somethign else that has been looked into towards the future of the publication was the print format. Although their are no plans to feature print for issue #2, I wanted to know what it would look like in print, and so would the rest of the team, which would mean arranging a one of print (which turns out really isnt cheap...). Designing for print taught me a number of things I didnt really know, such as having colours come of the page, having to design bigger than the size that was needed, and to arrange the pages in print order, rather than in the order Versus would be read in. Their are going to be more and more social development for Versus as well, to allow for better intergration between Versus and its audience. As well as trying to attain proper advertising revenue, which would pay for the limited print issues that are requested. Versus is in constant development and something I feel will constantly develop my skill and knowledge in design.

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