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Our new collaboration with Lantana Publishing
7/22/2020 10:20 AM

Image of laptop showing Lantana website

Lena Gomez, of our current MA Communication Design Information Design Pathway cohort, has been involved in an exciting collaboration with Lantana Publishing this year. Lantana is an award-winning children's book publisher that focuses on diversity, social equality and environmental sustainability. Alice Curry, Lantana’s founder and CEO had been talking to Pathway Lead Jeanne-Louise Moys about a potential collaboration in 2019. Lantana was looking for a holistic communications strategy that would reflect how their vision and ethos are evolving and work effectively for their different audiences and stakeholders. When Lena joined our MA cohort in autumn 2019, her strengths and interests mapped well to Lantana’s communication needs so Alice presented us with a brief that Lena undertook for her professional practice assignment. [caption id="attachment_11634" align="alignright" width="150"]Portrait of young, dark-haired woman Lena Gomez, MA Communication Design[/caption] Lena said: “Diversity in children’s literature was a large aspect of my undergraduate thesis research, so working with Lantana was the perfect fit for me. I was excited to take on the challenge of creating a communications strategy for a client that is in the middle of implementing exciting new changes”. At the outset of the project, Lena visited Lantana and worked with them to understand their needs and priorities. She then conducted research to align her project with a broader understanding of current marketing and communication trends in the publishing industry and consider the specific customers, stakeholders and potential partners encompassed in the audience. Looking at user analytics on their existing website and social media and developing clear user personas to work with was an important part of her user-centred research. Lena also had to bear in mind how her design solutions needed to be easy and efficient to implement for an independent publisher and work with their existing systems. [caption id="attachment_11635" align="alignright" width="300"]Image showing Lena's design proposals for Lantana compliment slips Lena has also redesigned compliment slips for Lantana using her new logo design[/caption] Lena developed a range of initial approaches for Lantana. These included both visual design proposals and strategies for their implementation. Once a direction was agreed, Lena developed her ideas further producing a comprehensive strategy supported by a new logo design and style guide for the redesigned brand, compliment slips and corporate stationery, a series of infographics and proposals for the redesign of the website. Reflecting on the project, Lena said: “Working with the team at Lantana has been a rewarding experience. Through collaboration and exploration, I feel that we came up with feasible solutions that aligned well with the goals and values of the company. I’m also happy with the range of designs that I had the opportunity to work on, from logo design to infographic design and more.” Following submission of her project for University assessment, Lantana has contracted her to continue the redesign of the website. Alice said: “I feel the project has been beneficial for both of us, the relationship has been easy and professional, and I've really enjoyed working with her these past few weeks. Lena has brought some fresh, new ideas and insights to the project, giving our branding a fun, child-friendly yet professional new look, and we're delighted. ” This project is the first collaboration between Lantana and the Department of Typography & Communication. Jeanne-Louise said: “Working on live briefs is always incredibly valuable for our students. Lantana’s brief is particularly good as Lena needed to consider the needs of the publisher and their systems alongside the needs of their multifaceted audience. We look forward to future collaborations.”  

Online Careers Day: getting ready for the future
6/22/2020 12:37 PM

Even in the current climate of the pandemic, work does not stop for our students. The Department hosts an annual  Careers Day for second years, inviting real designers (and other creative professionals) from a range of disciplines to speak to us one-to-one. It was particularly successful this year, with 17 guests meeting with more than 40 students in intense 20 minute bursts. It gave us fresh perspectives on our careers, and a new experience of professional communication.

Discussion sessions

The day started with reviewing work prepared in advance. We were asked to write reflective reports of our experience with our Real Jobs scheme, looking at the skills acquired from working for actual clients. We also took personality tests to help inform our thinking about what kind of professional environment might suit us. We then evaluated all of this to see how it resonated with our future career plans. Having read our reports, Rachel Warner offered us feedback, sampling snippets from the written pieces and inviting their authors to offer insight to the room. Outside of lockdown, this event would have been delivered in person, but instead this was replaced with our online classroom system. Even though this could have posed several issues, with students now in different time zones and the possibility of unstable connections for our forty-plus attendees, it ran swimmingly. Students were still able to chime in easily, as they normally would, and we felt as though we gained an equally valued experience as would have been in person. In a similar vein, students also prepared CVs and their own digital portfolios to bring to the session. Following another round of general feedback from James Lloyd, we split into small groups to have a more intimate and personal review of our work from each other. Being able to directly analyse the content and design choices of our peers in the same situation offers insight and direction for our own approach. We all appreciate that learning from colleagues is a valuable skill, especially in the design field. The day was long, but feedback suggested many of us would like to see more time dedicated to this portion of the day – a great expression of the value we place on teamwork when offering feedback in this kind of studio setting. [caption id="attachment_11583" align="alignnone" width="569"] Thanks to Oli at TDL-Creative for his favourite Designer CV Cliché.[/caption]

Cheese

This day offers more than just careers advice, though – we all learned a bit more about cheese too. Rachel offered a welcome break in the middle of the session by creating the ‘Cheese or Typeface?’ quiz as an online alternative for the usual typographical bake-off. Many students commented that this was their favourite part of the day, and of course a big congratulations to the winner, Peter, who doesn’t even like cheese! Typeface designed by our own Siu Yen Lo, a graduate from our department – all inspired by cheese. Find more of his work at www.flickr.com/photos/152469926@N08/albums/72157709875946066

Our incredible visitors

And finally, the part of the day many students initially feared; the interviews. Our guests, comprised mainly of alumni and friends of the Department, offered mock interviews, portfolio reviews and general careers chats. Most of them work within different area of design including UX, information design, editorial or branding. But we also had experts in marketing, and a member of the University's own Careers Centre, too. There was someone for everyone.  This real-life experience is unrivalled. Although many of us were nervous at first, the guests showed us we had nothing to worry about. They were kind enough to offer their time, and gave valuable and personalised feedback on whatever we wanted to show or talk about. One student said ‘…it was great to have the opportunity to speak to design professionals from such a wide range of disciplines. I now feel more confident about preparing for interviews in the future.’ Another participant commented that is was a ‘…fantastic day, despite the stress and anxiety I had building up; it's notable to say that all the guests were so lovely and supportive and the day itself has been SO helpful in getting us all on track with our careers after uni.’ Furthermore, when asked for feedback on the day as a whole, the majority responded that this section was their favourite part of the day. Removing the fear of the unknown and offering insight into what to expect has instilled confidence into many of those who attended. We now feel better prepared to present ourselves as the best candidate for the role our first professional role – whatever that might be.

The takeaway

There was one recurring message from student feedback of the event that I'd like to leave you with, and it's an encouraging one for most upcoming designers and prospective students alike. Several of us left a comment along the lines of  ‘…you don’t always need to stress about having a fixed plan after university; all the designers I spoke to said they kind of fell into jobs through contacts.’ Probably more like contacts, skill and hard work,  but our field is all about who you know, and this day offered us access to a much design broader network than we've experienced before. This realisation was encouraging. Even if we don't yet have firm plans about our career direction, it felt like those who went before us are out there, ready to support us. We feel more prepared for what is coming next – the real deal – and we are excited to see what the future brings.

Thanks!

Finally, a very special thanks to all the guests that gave up their time to do this. We can't thank you enough: Emmeline Hewstone  uk.linkedin.com/in/emmelinehewstone Kirstie Smith  uk.linkedin.com/in/smithkirstie Matt Standage  uk.linkedin.com/in/mstandage Viktoria Vass  hu.linkedin.com/in/viktoria-vass Andy Owen  uk.linkedin.com/in/andrew-owen-58b3321 John Anderson  uk.linkedin.com/in/janderson-uk Helen Noel  uk.linkedin.com/in/helen-noel-721b1a11 Ziga Kropivsek  uk.linkedin.com/in/zigakropivsek Greg Owen  uk.linkedin.com/in/gregowendesign Amy Keast  uk.linkedin.com/in/amykeast Tom Howse  uk.linkedin.com/in/tom-howse-5a8a9349 Dave Stroud  uk.linkedin.com/in/dave-stroud-1a163730 Francisca Monteiro  uk.linkedin.com/in/francisca-monteiro-942919147 Tim Friers  uk.linkedin.com/in/friers-tim-2564769 Nick Adler  uk.linkedin.com/in/nick-alder-ab8105a Ben King  uk.linkedin.com/in/ben-king-a4050b10a Anne Delauzun  uk.linkedin.com/in/annedelauzun

CAFOD Emergency Response Team – Stencil font
6/14/2020 11:22 PM

Background

CAFOD is a Catholic aid charity in England and Wales. Their global Church network is one of the largest in the world. Funded by the Catholic community, the charity works to alleviate poverty in developing nations. Their brand identity uses the typeface Montserrat in all of their communications. The charity were seeking to expand their supporters for their emergency funding by developing a separate sub brand for the Emergency Response Team outputs (for both in print and online). Their design team decided they wanted a stencil version of Montserrat to use in their Emergency Response communications.

Restated brief

The CAFOD design team was requesting to adapt Montserrat into a stencil in the weights Black and Regular. They had permission to do so from the Argentinian font designer, Julietta Ulanovsky who initially created Montserrat (as long as it is strictly for CAFOD use). The stencil fonts will be use at some smaller sizes but will predominately be used for large headings. Before starting this project, I had a meeting with two members of CAFOD's design team at their offices. As preparation, they had made their own attempt at a version of a stencil . This was invaluable as they pointed out some the more challenging glyphs presented in this brief. The client and I discussed these glyphs at length in the our meeting; they will be elaborate further in the next section of this report. In this meeting there was also talk about the widths of the bridges. We concluded that it was something that needed further exploration within this project. There was also brief talk about having a version with fuzzy edges to make it look like it had been actually spray painted (see image below). But both the design team and I present it may not be the kind of look CAFOD really wanted in reality. These initial drafts formed the basis of my first attempts. During the meeting, I asked whether they were interested in any accented characters. They later got back to me with the requested characters stating it was not necessary to make all glyphs with additional accents, but to make some accents as individual glyphs just in case they needed them at any point. Completing a full set of accented glyphs myself may be something I'll revisit over the summer following this project. The client and I agreed to organise two dates where I would send through updates about my progress. In these email exchanges, my main client contact with CAFOD, Roland, would circulate my work with the rest of the design team and send me any feedback. I also had these updates approved my supervisor before I sent them. I had never made a useable type like this before. And more specifically I have never used the software Glyph before. So there was definitely a learning curve there becoming accustom with a new software. I’d made some stencil typography art in the past with ink but I didn’t have experience making them digitally for this kind of context for a real client.

Research

I started my research by briefly looking into the history of stencil typefaces. The art of stencilling itself has been around for thousands of years; hand stencils have been found in caves by blowing pigment over a hand held against a wall. But in terms of typography in modern use, stencils are either used in graffiti or by official organisations likes the military, utility companies, or governments. In the latter official use, it is placed to label objects, vehicles, or locations with a quick and clear application. When objects are labelled using a templated lettering like this, it makes it easier to identify their affiliation or source. This is the kind of intent CAFOD have with stencilling the typeface they use on all their visual outputs for their emergency response communications. In general, I also researched a lot of san serif stencil typefaces for visual inspiration. It interesting to see different approaches to the idea. Some cut through glyphs vertically while others chose the horizontally or diagonal. I created a visual library to reference if I needed and continued build on that library throughout the project. Before diving further in to this discussion, I should preface it with  key terminology around stencils and stencilling. When you look a stencil design, you will usually see bridges which are the narrow sections he cut through a letter. Then there are islands which, in typographic terms, refers to things like counters. These are often connected by bridges to the rest of the negative space to stop the island from falling out of the design completely or becoming damaged with practical use.

Ideation & design development

I managed to open the original typeface in Glyphs, which was invaluable as it meant I could take the proportions of the cap height and the kerning of all the individual glyphs and apply them a new file. As this project focused on adapting an existing face, I knew that these sizes didn’t necessarily need to change. Within my workflow throughout the project, I had the original Montserrat weight I needed open in Glyphs. This was to confirm these sizes and positions when moving my Illustrator vectors in to the new Glyphs file. I wanted to put the clients initial drafts to one side for my very first attempt just to consider what my instinctual approach would be. That way I could get some rich feedback on my own typography practices from supervisor. I started my work by thinking about my library of references and making my first run focus on just the 26 Latin letters in the Black weight for now. I decided to start with this weight due to the wider thickness making the bridges more obvious when compared to the Regular. In my initial attempt, I tried to keep all of the bridges vertical. I wanted to see how it would look if I concentrated on trying to keep all the cuts mostly consistent throughout. There were a lot of flaws with this first attempt. Personally I felt that having nearly all the characters with vertical bridges didn’t feel correct at all. This is a particular issue in the K, V, W, and X. My supervisor informed me that next time the bridges should follow the axis of the strokes and make the direction of the bridges be consistent. This is similar to the approach made in the client's drafts. Also in this first attempt, I felt that the widths of the bridges were too wide. So in my second attempt, I made the bridges thinner and followed the advice given to me about by my supervisor. See image below. Some letters provided their own individual challenges. The Q in particular needed some serious surgery to adapt it into a stencil. In the original set the Q has a long tail that swoops underneath itself. However, adding a stencil bridge through the centre of this character would ruin the design of this glyph. This meant changing the tail so that is was more angular and moving it so that it didn’t start before the first half.     After sending this work to the client, they  came back and said that they felt that the bridges on both versions were too thin. This was interesting feedback to me because I initially thought I made them too wide. But, for their needs, the client felt that they were too thin. I discussed this with my supervisor and he said that I should try and make the widths in proportion to the weight as a starting point. Then make minor adjustments by eye. From the client and supervisor feedback, I decided made a scale of different possible widths to compare. My first attempt was number five and my second attempt was number three. Also following this feedback I considered is all the possible combinations of positions for stencil bridges. Knowing I improved some characters by embracing the flow of the stroke, I was curious to see if improvements could be made across the entire set. On a piece of paper I printed all the entire alphabet and used a pen to roughly mark the position where I could make a bridge. From this I found that in nearly all characters, placing bridges on the horizontal was inappropriate for Montserrat Black. But for some letters such as the J or the T, it is a welcome variation. One of the other challenging letters was the S. I wasn’t really a fan of the approaches made in my clients drafts. But I had also received some feedback from my first update saying that the S was a little uncomfortable. Placing bridges all the way through the centre S seem to disrupt the flow of the glyph. The bridge cuts the S into three separate places. I tried multiple variations of this letter to consider the options better. In the end, my solution followed the clients original attempt while also improving upon the idea. The new S followed the vertical whilst separating the letter in to less pieces (S on the far left in image below). In the second update, I provided the client two versions with varying widths of bridges. These versions would follow number six and eight on my scale. Number six is just less than a quarter of the stroke weight and number eight is just less than a third of the stroke weight. After creating these two trial versions, I sent both to the client in .ttf files so that they could test the typefaces in their documents so that they could make a more informed choice. In both of these versions I created the numerals, punctuation and symbols. Most of the punctuation didn’t need stencilling. The only one that did need attention however was the number sign. I tried a similar approach to the letters by trying every conceivable approach for bridge placement, this time in Illustrator rather than being by hand. In both the symbols and the numerals there were a few challenges, particularly when considering the width of the bridge. The numerals could be changed more easily for both widths created for the client to try. But due to the intricate nature for some of the symbols, they needed their own treatment.     I also made the Regular for this update. Compared to the Black, this weight was hardly a challenge. I measured the width of the bridge by using the width of the stroke itself. Due to the amount of white space that surrounds these thinner letters, it was the perfect size relative to the shape of the character. I applied the same approach to the positions of the bridges in the Black to this weight too. This version actually worked out very well. It didn’t need much experimentation as it was much easier to work with and most of the experimentation in the bridge placements had already been completed doing the Black weight. The feedback from both my supervisor and client was very positive after making these additions and adjustments. My supervisor commented that the consistent angles were much more plausible here and my handling of the  J, 1, and 4 was very good even though they can be tricky. My client tested the typefaces on their physical communications as well as on their digitals ones (for web and phone screens). They decided to choose the thinner bridge of the two. They also requested adjustments to the positions of the bridges on the G, K and 7. The G needed adjustments to the bridge position due to the close resemblance to the C. A critical issue for them as both letters occur in the most important word they would be using – "EMERGENCY”. The K and 7 were simply stylistic preferences.                                        

Final design

    A few weeks after I sent the final files off to the client, they sent me an envelope with the printed work where the new typeface has been used. This included a leaflet, some letters and a donation envelope. All of which regarding their Coronavirus appeal. My client informed me that these pieces of print have been distributed to around 100,000 addresses. The typeface will of course continue to be used for other emergency appeals in the future.  

Reflections

This has probably been one of my favourite projects that I’ve completed during my time at Reading. I genuinely had fun making this typeface. I found the feedback really interesting; I learnt more about typographic design along the way: and my client, Roland, was probably one of the nicest clients I have ever worked for which was it's own huge bonus. I took this job because the third year Type Design module was cancelled. I’m glad I took up the opportunity to finish my degree with something like this now under my belt. In terms of critiquing my own practices, I still have further to go in managing my time management which affected this project while I was juggling other universtiy work. With the design of the typeface overall, I feel I did rather well considering it was my first time making a typeface with vectors. However, this was merely adapting an existing typeface rather than making one from scratch. Designing something like that would be a completely different experience, but one I would still love to try at some point in my design career. In the beginning I was nervous about learning a new software. But Glyphs was actually very intuitive. This experience reminds me that I shouldn’t be nervous to learn new software or new skills more generally, you just need to put the hours in. I would love to hear some critical opinions on my work from more typographers. My supervisor has been an wonderful guide for me throughout. I would simply be curious to know what other people in the field thought of my efforts. In addition to their opinions on stencil adaptions of existing typefaces more generally. At the time of writing this, COVID-19 is still quite a prevalent issue. It’s been gratifying knowing that I had played a minor role to assist this charity in their aid efforts. I clearly can’t take all the credit, but it’s nice knowing that it may have helped in it's own way. Even though I am not Catholic I think they’re a really great charity. From working with them, I even made my own small donation to their coronavirus fund.

>A-Z Degree Show 2020 Creative Direction
6/14/2020 10:56 PM

Background Each year the Typography & Graphic Communication Department organises and hosts an annual show to showcase work produced by finalists of the BA and MA degree classification. Each year the show is organised and run by a small group of students who decide on a theme that encompasses the range of work of the graduating class. A team of 9 graduating Typography students were responsible for creating  a range of promotional material for the design and delivery of the event in a cohesive and orderly way. Given the recent events of the Covid-19 outbreak, the physical degree show had been cancelled and shifted to an online presence.  Deliverables The key deliverables for this project were:
  1. The degree shows visual identity 
  2. An email invite created and sent via MailChimp
  3. An Instagram to promote and bring awareness to the degree show
  4. A website with information on the event and the students work 
The aim of these outputs is to primarily to emphasize the work of the graduating class, and provide them with as much publicity and support we can to aid them in finding a graduate job. The launch for the show is set for the 11th of June, 2020. Allocating roles As this year's degree show attracted 9 students, it was decided that it would be beneficial to split up the roles between us, to successfully and effectively fulfill the requirements of this real job. At the start of this job the role of creative lead was allocated to myself, which meant that I was the sole point of contact for all stakeholders involved in the project. In regard to the rest of the team, the roles were split up as ‘invites’, ‘website’ and ‘social’. In my role as creative lead, it was my responsibility to ensure that all teams were supported adequately and received necessary feedback to their designs. Although Rob was technically the supervisor and Eric the client, it was interesting to be the ‘middle-man’ between client and supervisor and the rest of the team. Simply put, my role was a ‘mini real job supervisor’.  Implications of Covid-19 Sadly, due to the global pandemic known as COVID-19, we were faced with some rather difficult situations. The biggest obstacle was the closure of the University due to Government guidelines. Subsequently, our approach to the show changed, and became predominantly online. As well as this, the way we communicated as a group and had our weekly meetings became conducted through either the Department online classrooms or Zoom. Moreover, due to the move to a more digital approach, Instagram was required to be utilised more in order to extend the reach of graduate work. On another note, the invitations were no longer able to be printed and these had to be designed and distributed using MailChimp. Although not directly linked to Covid-19, this posed its own challenge of collecting a mailing list. To collect data that the university could then keep for following years, a google form was created and distributed on social media like Instagram and LinkedIn encouraging people to sign up.    Collaboration This project involved working within a larger group of students. Our team communicated through a weekly meeting enabling us to delegate tasks and troubleshoot any glitches we had quickly and easily between us - (once universities closed, this was moved online). The regular attendance from one person from each sub team at the real jobs meetings gave us clear direction for our next steps allowing the project to move forward.  This was an efficient way to stay organised and work toward our deadline, whilst also using both Trello and Messenger to contact each other outside of our weekly meetings. Attending the real job meeting gave us a chance to pitch our concepts to our year group, who at the end of the day were the real clients of this project. It provided us a time where we could ask for opinions and feedback on aspects like colour, layout and theme, so we were not just assuming what the year group would like. Getting everyone in our year group involved was a core value for us as a team, as this wasn’t just our show. In adopting this collegiate approach I was praised for thinking about the rest of our peers.   Though the tasks we did were sometimes individual, we always kept in touch for guidance and advice ensuring we were both on track with the real job and with our own objectives. Trello was an effective tool as we were able to monitor progress, tasks, and deadlines, encouraging us to consider all aspects of the project right from the start and not lose sight of our final outcome.  However, there were times when communicating with the team from a perspective of leadership proved difficult. When asserting a sense of leadership and creative ‘lead-like’ attitudes, this was not always well received by others in the team. Due to being friends with everyone in the group, this clouded both mine and the others judgment of my position as creative lead. Although this was occasionally the case, our communication and strong team bond allowed us to work effectively as a group and achieve a standard of work that we were happy with. We excelled in achieving an exemplary final outcome that has been praised by our client to be:
“[looking] super!” 
Leadership In my role, good leadership and management was imperative to successfully deliver the curation of the 2020 degree show. Having had past experience in a role of management as supervisor at New Look, I already knew and understood the basics to effectively manage a team and support their needs. Although this knowledge was specific to retail, it was still transferable to my role as creative lead. A few of the key principles I followed whilst working as creative director for the 2020 degree show was:
  • Firstly always be approachable and accessible - making sure no one is scared to come ask me for help
  • Secondly set clear objectives and creative standards for the week so that everyone is able to understand them. 
  • Finally create a culture of honest engagement, so that everyone feels they can openly discuss their opinions and suggestions. 
The primary obstacle I found in this role was being friends with everyone in the team. This initially posed an issue as I would be viewed more as a friend than a team manager, and messages and communication would get lost between us. However, this was overcome by me making it clear that when we were in our meetings, these were to be professional and to acknowledge the fact I was in a leadership role to do a job. This proved to be effective as one member of the team stated that I did:
“a great job in organising our roles and keeping everyone on track”
whilst a lecturer found my approach and work rate
“...exemplary. He has a collegiate approach with his peers, while also helping to motivate and inspire the group. He has listened to and respected everyone’s specific role, letting their creativity and enthusiasm flourish. He has been the most effective project leader that I can recall from the past 5 years.”
Design process  At the start of the project, all members of our team generated different concepts and ideas for the degree show. After copious amounts of ideation and crazy 8s we decided to go with the theme of <A-Z (Greater than A to Z). To summarise our concept: “Communication has been the foundation of our development as designers. At Reading, we have built our design skills in many areas. In everything we have done, punctuation – graphic and typographic – has helped form our designing and refine our writing, bringing meaning, nuance and communication. Attention to detail defines our work: it is more than just A–Z.” This was then implemented and developed across all three outputs: invite, social and web. To implement this, the different outputs played with the scale and the rotation of symbols and marks to create something that was <A-Z.  This was enhanced by our visual identity - which was based on holographic foil. The vibrancy and quality associated with it mirrors that of the personality of our year groups. The holographic foiling was initially going to be used on the printed invites however, as these were no longer feasible to print, we decided to take this approach and style digital. At this stage we all developed various holographic gradients.  Once the visual style was confirmed, all teams were able to develop different assets that adhered to the brand guidelines. [caption id="attachment_11215" align="alignleft" width="960"] Instagram: main feed, stories and comments.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_11184" align="alignleft" width="950"] Website: loading page until web launches[/caption] [caption id="attachment_11177" align="alignleft" width="960"] Individual profile page[/caption] [caption id="attachment_11176" align="alignleft" width="960"] Template with student name template[/caption]     Lessons and reflections Through this Real Job, both as a group and individually we faced many challenges but also learnt a variety of new skills. One of the issues faced was gathering student work from our peers, specifically in formats that we requested. The process involved a lot of back and forth between our peers and the degree show team, especially when gathering updated pieces. Eventually, to overcome this, we set up a drive that everyone could upload their work rather than chasing over emails.   Moreover, I’ve gained insight into  the benefits of working together with team members of different strengths. Having someone on the team dedicated to the website and another person leading the print design allowed the team to focus on each deliverable. In addition, it became clear very quickly the benefit of organising content through shared folders help keep things on track.  Finally, in taking on the role of creative director it has given me a taste of what it is like curating and directing such a large design project. As this is eventually my career goal, this was a fantastic opportunity to see what the role is like and face some of the challenges with the role, yet be able to celebrate the many successes, preparing me for my future.  If you would like to view the 2020 degree show, click here  http://www.greater-than-a-to-z.co.uk  or alternatively check us out on Instagram @greaterthanatoz   

I am, We are… Different by Design: Issue 3
6/14/2020 9:08 PM

BACKGROUND AND INITIAL BRIEF

I am, We are… Different by Design is a student-led group from the School of Art and Communication Design (Typography) advocating for diversity and inclusion within our creative fields. Two years ago, the team set out to create more of a sense of diversity and inclusion within our department, as students had felt this was something lacking. One way of doing this, was creating an annual zine that showcased design work in these fields and reflected on diverse and inclusive work. The zine has been designed to be distributed around the University of Reading, as a way to communicate to the University our opinions, design work, design skills and sense of diversity. The purpose of this project was to curate and edit a zine on diversity and inclusion in the arts that would bring awareness to the growing diversity in our creative industry. The project presented the stimulating task to source, interview, edit and curate the third publication of the ‘I AM WE ARE... DIFFERENT BY DESIGN’ (IAWADBD). The aim of the zine is to showcase both work from current and past students within the school of Art, Film and Theatre, as well as designers world wide such as:
  • illustrator and writer Lily Williams (USA)
  • visual artist and educator Soofiya Chaudry (UK)
  • illustrator Lauren Tower (UK).
This is the third year that the zine has been published, and both of us have been fortunate enough to take part in this year's publication.  We were conscious that although our client was someone we knew well, we understood that we still had to maintain a level of professionalism that is expected from us throughout the real job scheme. This meant we had to view Jeanne-Louise separately both as our client and as a supervisor. Our client allowed us to decide on what content would be most appropriate for the zine, and gave us freedom on who we could interview. As we were limited on the amount of spreads we were allocated for the zine, it was imperative that we only selected designers who we were creating change within diversity and inclusion. Having such free reign with who we interviewed was an exciting opportunity to reach out to diverse designers who inspired us, and were using their skills to create change.

OUR GROUP/COLLABORATION

This project involved working within a larger group with students across all three year groups, in both graphics and art; creating a sense of community spirit and inclusion. Our team communicated through a weekly meeting with our supervisor, enabling us to delegate tasks and troubleshoot any glitches we had quickly and easily between us. Our regular attendance to the real jobs meetings gave us clear direction for our next steps allowing the project to move forward.  This was an efficient way to stay organised and work toward a tight deadline, whilst also using both Trello and Messenger to contact each other outside of our weekly meetings.  Working as a group on this project was fairly easy for tasks to be split and delegated, subsequently we did not have specific roles. Though the tasks we did were sometimes individual, we always kept in touch for guidance and advice ensuring we were both on track with the real job and with our own objectives. Trello was an effective tool as we were able to monitor progress, tasks, and deadlines, encouraging us to consider all aspects of the project right from the start and not lose sight of the final outcome.  When we faced issues such as Aanand’s inability to attend all supervisor and team meetings due to work obligations, time was organised for Aanand to catch up with Marianne to be given a de-brief on what was discussed and the aims and objectives for the following week. In addition, the pair of us dedicated extra time to areas of the project that needed focus and made time to speak to Jeanne-Louise or Liselot and Labiba (project managers). Overall, our communication and strong team bond allowed us to work effectively as a group to source, interview and write content for the zine and achieve a standard of work that we were happy with. We excelled to achieve a competent standard of work that was critically praised to be:
 “a really wonderful project and initiative” - Lily Williams
From the get go, the pair of us had taken a specific interest towards researching designers who were tackling the stigma around LGBTQ+ matters or were queer themselves. This stemmed from a personal interest on both our parts:  “As a queer person, and a person of colour, being involved in the zine was an opportunity to reach out to designers who were queer people of colour and/or were creating change in their field. Being able to interview and talk to other queers of colour and what they are doing to create change has been an amazing opportunity.” - Aanand Tank “As someone who has close relations to the Trans community and identifies as an LGBTQ+ ally, having the opportunity to be a part of this year's zine and source work related to LGBTQ+ design, was something I could not pass up. This was my chance to speak directly with designers tackling Queer issues visually.” - Marianne Winward This common interest between us allowed us to work closer together throughout the project as we were interviewing designers in a similar field. [caption id="attachment_11265" align="alignleft" width="300"] Some of our group members working in one of our weekly meetings[/caption]  

PROCESS

Initial Contact with the Client:

Our personal interest and existing understanding of topics surrounding diversity and inclusion made us keen to build a strong rapport with our client and learn more about diversity and inclusion from her. We wanted to demonstrate our dedication and interest in the zine from the start. Our process began with discussions concerning who and what we wanted to feature in the zine and why. Our featured contributors needed to be involved with diversity and inclusion because that was what we aimed to display - therefore, our individual tasks were to source and interview designers, artists, performers or educators. 

Research:

Our first stage of research involved exploring a range of designers and seeing in what ways they championed diversity and inclusion. As the pair of us had a strong passion behind queer aesthetic due to personal connections, we focused on sourcing content that was created by or for the LGBTQ+ community. This research stage was valuable in highlighting the lack of diverse queer work. It became clear very quickly that this was our opportunity to bring more awareness to the topic, to promote the content creators that are creating change for the queer community. One of the first challenges we encountered when sourcing creators was to ensure that the designs would be deemed diverse. Therefore we had to source people who were proactively creating content for change, rather than creating content that was accidentally diverse. 

Reaching out to  Designers:

When the both of us had sourced designers to engage with and feature in the zine, we had to reach out to them and gauge their interest to be a part of the zine. As social media, particularly Instagram,  is now a primary way for designers to showcase their work and reach out to people, we contacted a variety of potential contributors. These included but weren’t limited to:
  • Jules Scheele - Illustrator
  • Soofiya - Visual artist and educator 
  • Lily Williams - Illustrator and writer
  • The Vinegar Stroke (a.k.a. Daniel Jacobs) - RPDR Drag Queen
This initial contact with potential contributors was an informal way of being able to see if they would be interested in collaborating, and showcasing their attitudes to design for change and inclusivity in the creative industry.  Other content creators we sourced (Lauren Tower) were already familiar with us and the zine, therefore we had their emails in order to contact them more formally to engage them with the zine.

Sourcing and Creating Content:

With our interviewees participation confirmed, we were in a position to begin drafting interview questions. This process involved doing some further background research into each specific person, in order to have tailored questions for them. In order to do this ethically our interview questions were proposed to the School of Ethics and signed off before we were able to send them to our participants, alongside a consent form for them to sign. This process of conducting interviews was very useful as it allowed us to explore and develop our professional skills as we had to be respectful and professional in our data collection. The opportunity to interact with a diverse group of people, it provided us with an overall perspective of what others view diversity as, and a voice of opinion other than our team and client.  Once our contributors provided responses to our questions, we were in a position to begin editing down their answers. Each of our interviewees had provided us with some great responses and a huge amount of content to work with. This proved challenging when copy editing the responses in order to make sure it fit in the zine, due to the limited amount of pages. Once the main copy was finalised and signed off by Jeanne-Louise we were able to create a suitable title and blurb that summarised each article, that a user could read if they didn't have time to read the entire article. 

DESIGN DEVELOPMENT 

Visual references

In order to inform the design stage we spent time researching and exploring the existing zines, looking at aspects like shape, colour and type. This enabled us to gain an understanding of the genre of zines and gain a good understanding and feel for the possibilities of design layout. The research was beneficial as it showed us alternative typefaces and colour palettes, and how these influenced our design decisions.  [caption id="attachment_11271" align="alignleft" width="300"] The inspiration board we created on Pinterest[/caption]

Pagination

This was the process of producing page layouts for our content. In doing this it helped us clearly distinguish the different articles in the zine, and allocate an appropriate amount of spreads. The pagination including conducting two main tasks:
  1. distributing the content onto a range of pages
  2. preparing the page layout.
When creating the pagination we had to take into account elements such as what pages contain colour and which is the middle sheet of the zine. [caption id="attachment_11272" align="alignleft" width="300"] Pagination[/caption]  

Working to an Existing Template

Liselot, our project manager, provided the group with a template to be used when designing each of our individual spreads. This ensured consistency across each spread in regard to columns, margins and baseline. The challenge here was to make sure that the zine didn’t appear rigid and stiff. In order to overcome this, we used exciting and engaging typography in place of the suggested fonts.  In addition, column width and image widths had more freedom which meant the page seemed less dull. In doing this it created a zine that was cohesive yet each article had its own identity.  [caption id="attachment_11273" align="alignleft" width="300"] Zine spread template[/caption]

Design Development

The initial template of the spreads acted as the framework to our designs. We explored the use of bright colours, bold styles and fun typography, whilst contrasting this with the detailed aspects of our contributors work.  [caption id="attachment_11275" align="alignleft" width="300"] A selection of initial spread ideas for Lauren Towner, Lily Williams and Soofiya[/caption]               In response to feedback, we developed our spreads –  exploring layout, colour, and type in a more inspiring and playful way. From this we got positive feedback from Jeanne-Louise, our client, and supervisor. She was keen on the combination of hand lettering on the design, and was impressed with the copy editing for the articles stating that “It’s fab!” and we’ve “done a good job in editing”. From this feedback, our concepts were developed further. This was necessary in order to make spreads that were more engaging and  brought the design ‘alive’ - drawing more attention to themes of the work.  [caption id="attachment_11277" align="alignleft" width="960"] Development of spread designs[/caption]

Challenges faced:

During the design process of this year's zine, the world underwent a pandemic in which many things came to a halt. Due to this, universities closed and face to face access to our team and supervisor was gone. This was a challenge that we had to overcome. Luckily, living in the technologically advanced society we are in we had access to video calling, where we used Zoom to continue our weekly meetings. This meant that we had to pull together as a team and really push our efforts in order to make sure the zine was completed on time. During this pandemic we had been finalising our interviews and chasing responses, however, contact with contributors was lost and a few wouldn't respond. Understandably they had bigger priorities and may have had other engagements. As a result of this, articles had to be cut from the zine, resulting in there being blank pages. In order to overcome this, as a collective we decided to dedicate more space to the articles that used predominantly images. This meant there was more space available to showcase the content created by designers.  Moreover, because of the issues outlined above regarding COVID19, printing facilities were closed. Due to this, we proposed a digital zine that could be emailed out and published online. Also, to overcome this, we suggested having a print ready PDF for when things go back to normal. Although COVID-19 has not been ideal, it has stemmed the question of, where is the future of the zine? Where is it headed? Could a digital zine be the new thing? This sets us up for the fourth edition, which could take a more online presence?    

CONCLUSION

To conclude, this project has been one of the most enjoyable and exciting projects we have had the opportunity to be a part of due to its nature and topic. Throughout our three years of University, this project will stand out to us and be remembered as a high point in our degree. Having the experience of working closely with people from different year groups and departments has allowed all of us to gain a better sense of community spirit and diversity. Throughout the project, we were made to feel at ease with our group and never pressured to attend sessions and meetings if we were unable to with prior engagements. Having this freedom and sense of leadership throughout the project has been a unique opportunity on the course and further inclined us to stay involved and cooperative. During this project, facing the challenge of a global pandemic has made us consider the importance of technology and staying engaged with one another. Even through this difficult time, the team has stayed committed and positive.We built confidence in our communication skills and teamwork and learnt to be responsive and adaptive to changing situations. After being a part of this team, we both agree that other students should be encouraged to take part in the Zine project, whether it be to meet new people, represent diversity or be a part of a student led project. The experience has been so successful and enlightening that Aanand has spoken to Jeanne-Louise about still working on the zine after he graduates, as it is such a inspirational project to be a part of. Jeanne-Louise is thrilled and thinks that its “Great, that’s fantastic that you are all keen to continue. Really excited about that” - Jeanne Louise