Design | Print | Brand


Artist, Know Thyself

I was listening to a podcast the other day where the host asked the female guest about how they knew they wanted to do the thing that they became successful at doing. The woman said that while contemplating dropping out of college, she had a conversation with her mother. Her mother, of course, wanted her daughter to continue college, but the idea of sitting in lecture halls, listening to people talk about a subject she had no interest in, bored the young woman to death.

She felt pulled to finish college because her parents worked so hard to get her there, but she had no idea on a course of study that would keep her engaged. Her mother asked her to not think about what to study, but instead, think about what she would want to do for the rest of her life. Even that concept seemed to frighten her because she was too young and inexperienced to realize what her true passions work. So her mother took a different approach.

She told her daughter to imagine it was her birthday and asked what would she want to do on that day if she can do anything she wanted.

How the woman responded the is not important—the question is far more pertinent.

I considered that same question for myself; if it was my birthday, what would I do if I could do anything I wanted. The answer is simple: A nice meal with my family, maybe we enjoy a movie, but not required. More important would be a trip to my local Barnes and Noble for an extended run at the magazine newsstand.

It’s no big secret that I love magazines. They are probably my number one source of creative inspiration, and I can even attribute my career in graphic design to my love of magazines. So it would seem obvious that I should spend my time and energy pursuing that craft. I did work in the industry for over a decade, but that didn't quite scratch the itch for me.

I have always aspired to make my own magazine, but struggle to push forward on the idea because of the immense cost to produce one; not just the money, but the energy expenditure as well. My title as Publisher has always been a pipe dream that sat just out of reach, but the time has come to reach a little further.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve been focused on two personal design projects. The first is a design challenge where I make a different poster each day. The second is an art and design magazine called Substrate—an art and design magazine where the pages are as much a work of art as the content on the page.

The problem I had with these two projects is that the posters were getting most of my creative attention, and the magazine wasn't getting much at all, mostly because posters are easier to make than magazines.

  • The content can be minimalist or complex.

  • The type can be subtle or overpowering.

  • The focus can be abstract or deliberate, and the result didn't really matter, because I was both the designer and the client.

However, these posters weren't going anywhere except into my portfolio archive, so is it energy wasted? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

On the other hand, the magazine has progressed very little. I've nailed down the concept, written a scope of the project, and even contacted a few people to be involved, but it's not moving forward at the pace it should, and I want to change that.

My birthday wish

When I heard that statement in the podcast about the mother asking her daughter what she would do if she could do anything she wanted, I knew in a flash what needed to change in my current process.

I shouldn't be making posters. I should be making pages.

A magazine has pages (duh), and my magazine's pages are going to require some sophisticated layouts. It's hard to explain my vision, but if you can imagine a magazine where the pages progress from regimented and clean to abstract, bordering on chaotic; that's what I intend for this publication.

That kind of progression will require foresight, and the best way to give me that foresight is to practice. Posters are a decent way to practice, but I need something more practical for my end goal. So instead of me creating daily posters, I'm moving to daily pages, where each day in a given week progresses from clean on Mondays to chaotic on Fridays.

Posters make for better social media updates than editorial page layouts, but I'm not moving forward on this project for likes and shares. At some point, I will need those likes and shares when the finished work becomes more clear, but for the time being, this is an effort to keep my design chops focused on the right outlet.

Another upside to these page updates is that I get to use this blog post for something other than just space on my website.

If you'd like to stay up on when Substrate becomes a reality, make sure to add yourself to the mailing list, and get updates on all the things that we're working on.