Compass (external link), the bimonthly newsletter of the Chicago Audubon Society (external link), is my most collaborative ongoing project. The best part of designing the Compass — aside from getting to think about birds! — is working with Skipper, the editor. The teamwork involved and the commitment on both sides to create an excellent product is always rewarding. We usually swap several drafts, numerous emails, and a few phone calls as the content and design of each issue is finalized.
When it’s time to begin work on an issue of the Compass, Skipper emails me the articles, photos, captions, and calendar events she has written, along with instructions and initial thoughts on their placement. I use InDesign to create a draft of the newsletter based on her directions. I also use Adobe Bridge to edit photo metadata and create live captions, Photoshop to resize and edit photos, and occasionally Illustrator to create custom graphics. Occasionally I get to pitch in and write an article:
The Great Crested Flycatcher (external link) in the Nov/Dec 2015 issue
The One and Only Osprey (external link) in the Sep/Oct 2016 issue
As we are working on the issue, there are often changes and updates to the articles and photos, and the design and layout evolves along with the content. Skipper requests edits and sends me new design ideas on everything from story placement and fonts to decorative details and hyphenation. When new ideas come to me, I likewise share them with her. The teamwork involved in this project is why it continues to be one of my favorite and most satisfying assignments, and the result of working together is always a stronger, more effective design. Details about the design itself are shared below under “Design highlights.”
Revised the overall structure of the newsletter
Created a flexible layout built on a grid to organize and optimize the placement of text and images.
Incorporated open space when possible to let the content breath.
Redesigned forms to be more space-efficient and easier to fill out.
Make layout decisions based on readability
Focus on the flow of text so that it isn’t chopped up too much with photos or other design elements.
Keep text columns to a comfortable height so that the reader’s eyes do not have to make big leaps from the bottom of one column to the top of the next.
Decorative design elements
Apply stylish touches including drop caps, bird silhouettes, and decorative lines and borders.
When possible, orient the photos so that the birds face into the content to guide the reader’s eyes, or toward the page edge to be free to fly off the page, rather than “trapping” them against a column of text or the inside fold.
Joy is, indeed, a joy to work with. She is talented, intelligent, helpful, and professional. I hope she will continue to be our layout designer for as long as I’m editor of the Chicago Audubon bimonthly newsletter!
Skipper Joy Wolters, Editor
Chicago Audubon Society