I love music. I have tremendous admiration for composers. How to write a song- especially a good one- is a mystery to me. But I’m seeing a parallel in my design class that might explain why Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is my #1 choice for the “Song I’d Want to be Stranded With on a Desert Island” compared to, say, MacArthur Park. Like a pleasing magazine layout, a good song probably begins one element at a time, and then deliberate features are layered and massaged into the music until the end product is a song you’ll listen to and maybe add to your playlist. Again, I don’t know much about writing songs, but I can walk you through the steps I traveled to create a magazine spread that will hopefully entice you to read the whole article and maybe add it to your favorites.
Here’s the end result, small and tidy. It meets all the requirements: 3 pages, 1 spread, 2+ columns, 1+ pull quote, 1+ word wrap, 2 photographs that I took myself, 3+ subheadings, contrasting typography, consistent headings and body, a 600+ word article from LDS.org with no headings… all put together in Adobe’s InDesign program. Looks pretty simple, actually. Well, my friend, it wasn’t. Come with me and I’ll show you.
The first task was to choose the article from LDS.org– one with no subheadings. Because conference talks today are published immediately on the internet to be studied and read, most modern church leaders write using subtitles. So I went back in time to my favorite apostle, Marvin J. Ashton, and found my favorite talk by him: “The Word is Commitment.” My target audience is my fellow class members in my Self-Reliance Initiative class, and this message is ideal for living gospel principles or paying off debt. Next I studied it, divided it into sections, and chose subtitles. Then I decided on the quote pull. I liked “Dale Carnegie once said, ‘If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.'” However, it didn’t seem right to quote Elder Ashton quoting Carnegie, so I went with “True happiness is not made in getting something. True happiness is becoming something.” Because that’s good, too.
I researched color and found that charcoal grey is a great for making a solid first impression at a job interview. I figured I’d contrast it with yellow. I chose two contrasting fonts that seemed a little uncommon without being weird: Bodoni 72 Smallcaps (A Modern typeset for the titles) and PT Sans Narrow (A San Serif for the body).
Worth a Thousand Words
The pictures were the hard part, and they played a key role in the rest of the layout. For the title page I wanted to use a photo I took of the Mini Incline in Castle Rock. I went there with my friends during the lunch break for Time Out For Women on October 9th. It’s called Mini as a contrast to the Incline, which is an old cog railway that climbs 2000 railroad tie steps up the side of a mountain in Manitou Springs. The Mini is 200 steps and 178′ increase in elevation, whereas the Incline is a mile high and over 2,000′ elevation gain. But I digress…
Originally I planned to enlarge the steps and use them as a border on the right side, with text on the left. The problem was the stunningly blue sky. The steps lost their effect if I cut the sky out, but the colors were too bright to write over, and the picture seemed too harsh and sharp for the layout. But the steps displayed the message of the article so I kept working with it. While playing around on InDesign, I found the fx button that allowed gradient colors, and the radial option toned the sky down enough for me to insert the text over the picture. It also allowed me to not worry if the resolution got fuzzy with the picture enlarged.
The second picture took a couple of days and about 10,000 steps. We had rented a little cabin up in the mountains for my birthday last week. While there I hoped to find something visual that showed “commitment.” It occurred to me that I’ve seen trees that grown straight out of boulders, and that would be perfect. I took my camera and hiked all over the place. There were plenty of trees growing out of rocks, but most were aspens and we missed the golden leaves by a couple of weeks. I didn’t think a dead tree really worked with my message. I took dozens of photos of fir trees growing from rocks, but none of the pictures worked quite right. So I went with this photo of a rock pushing an aspen, or maybe the aspen is holding the rock in place. Either way, there’s commitment..
I took pictures of this from all different angles in three different sessions of daylight. That’s commitment, too.
InDesign: the Magic, the Mystery
Next it was a matter of putting it all together. InDesign was a steep learning curve for me and I can’t even tally the hours or the tears or the tutorial youtube videos I watched. But I came out with a product I like. Rather than charcoal grey and contrasting yellow, I kept the muted blue sky theme going in the colors.I grabbed the blues with the eyedropper feature. I wanted the inside spread to have partial borders along the top and outer margins. I found the slanted lines by fiddling with the text box borders. Again, the blue was too bright so I used the radial gradient features on the borders, too.
The trickiest part was altering the text box on page one to slant at and angle so there would be no words on the stairs. L-O-N-G story short: I accomplished it not by cutting the text box, but by inserting another text box of triangular shape over the stairs, which somehow forced the words to scurry to the left side. I did the same thing on the right hand side for the words on that side of the stairs.
Elder Ashton shared great insights regarding goals in this conference address. I hope the layout I’ve designed to highlight his message is intriguing enough to motivate you to read the entire talk. That would be music to my ears!