Redesigning Communication Arts magazine

In the Spring of 1995 while working on staff at Communication Arts magazine as an Associate Designer, I was asked to redesign the publication. At the time, CA had not been redesigned in a number of years. They were publishing 8 times a year, 4 regular issues and 4 Annuals showing results from their separate contests for Advertising, Design, Illustration and Photography. The new design needed to work for both regular issues and their contest Annuals with their sections of contest results plus the regular editorial columns.

Prior to March 1995, CA had been typeset primarily in Times New Roman with occasional use of Linotype Helvetica and Univers. They'd had a custom caps/small caps font made of Times Roman that was used for the masthead and also for display headlines. In this font, the stroke weights between the caps and small caps had not been corrected when the font was produced, resulting in uneven stroke weights.

For the magazine redesign (September/October 1995 issue), editor/designer Patrick Coyne asked me to make the main editorial features and column sections more distinctive in terms of layout and typography, while keeping the same readable and clean appearance that the magazine was known for as a showcase for creative work. For the Annuals they needed typography that was flexible for credits and captions (that could sometimes be lengthy) and still be readable. In addition I was asked to redesign the masthead.

To make the long title of the masthead more prominent for line its length, for the new version I used an extra condensed font, Univers 39 Ultra Condensed that I modified for use at a large display size.

Communication Arts, September/October 1995

I redesigned the magazine interior using Adobe Garamond and Linotype Univers for display and captions. My approach was a combination of book typography using traditional old style figures and ligatures in text with modern sans type for headlines subheads and captions. In the technical articles I used small caps for file formats, this helped prevent acronyms from being a distraction in text at full cap height, especially when many show up in one article, while still making them easily identifiable.

At the time old style figure numbers were in a separate typeface with what was known then as an expert character set. If you wanted OSFs in your main text, you had to switch back and forth between regular and expert character set typefaces. With OpenType fonts we now take setting OSFs for granted, but in 1995 with Type 1 PostScript fonts, this was a headache. To make typesetting OSFs easier at Communication Arts, I built an in-house version of Garamond Regular and Italic, CA Garamond, that included old style figures in the regular character set fonts.

Since CA is printed on a continuous roll-fed web offset printing press, much of the way the imagery in terms of layout would remain similar to how the publication was laid out before. This meant that pictures had to be arranged in a way that they did not overlap when pages ran "against each other" in the printing form or signature sheet. The "Fresh" section that I designed for CA, a mini portfolio of three spreads in each issue often was printed with pages running directly against each other (opposed, head to head). I came up with a layout that was technically symmetrical, but adaptable to the content in terms of design.

For feature articles, I was involved with curating image content and layout. For some, when there was space allowed, I was able to design special opening pages with custom display typography. Features were usually 10 pages in length and it was always challenging to select and show a range of work that best represented the featured firm or individual given the space constraints of printed magazines.

Besides updating the typography and text layout of CA, I tried to introduce more full bleed imagery where possible, within the constraints of designing for web offset printing.

In 1999 I convinced CA to purchase Linotype's new version of Univers (Neue Univers) and this became the new sans serif type family in the magazine. With more weights and better character shapes and kerning than previous, this was implemented into the publication as well it's other printed materials I was directly involved in designing.

For the CA magazine's design, I produced a style guide with examples of the layouts and calling out every style used in the publication as a reference. Like all design, refinements were made after the initial redesign launch and new design added as the content has evolved in the publication. At that time, besides Patrick Coyne, I was the only other graphic designer on staff. Later an interactive department was established with full time staff focusing on their interactive design contest and web sites.

For every issue that I worked on, I was responsible for the updated template that was used by myself and the production staff for the magazine layouts. I was in the proofreading loop as well and this involved proofreading the entire magazine 5 times, from initial formatting round to the final blueline proofs before it was printed. Since this was before direct-to-plate digital printing commonplace today, most images were sent out early to color separation houses and we had FPO or low-res images in the layouts. When the newly-printed magazines came back from press, it was fantastic to see the final images printed at a high-resolution linescreen on the pages of the magazine.

Working at CA on both editorial and promotional design was an invaluable experience.

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    © 2016 Mark Eastman.