Geeking out

This is how I know I’m in the right job: I get excited about things that anyone outside of my industry probably wouldn’t get excited about.

Today, my editor and I had a meeting about a new project. We were talking about some new layouts, and he relates everything to sports, so he handed me a couple editions of ESPN magazine. To be perfectly honest, I’d never seen the magazine before. If the sport doesn’t have something to do with water, I probably don’t care. (OK, that’s a lie. I like playing basketball, and being a backup for a soccer team last summer was fun, even though I sucked at it.)

But let’s go back to that other sentence: I’d never seen the magazine before. That’s embarrassing to admit, because in my job, I should be leafing through all the magazines and newspapers I can get my hands on. In university, I had a broadcast instructor who advised us to read two or three papers before breakfast in the morning. At the time, I thought, “Hell no,” mostly because I didn’t have even have time for breakfast in the morning, but I’m coming back around to the idea. In a nutshell: Read and examine every piece of media you can get your hands on. (Also, Nate Silver’s advice for young journalists: “Don’t feel guilty if you spend the first 90 minutes of your day drinking coffee and reading blogs — it’s your job. Your ratio of reading to writing should be high.”)

I love finding interesting blogs and interesting profile pieces. I love looking at layouts, designs and graphics and thinking, “That is such a cool idea.”

But I’m also usually a little jealous, because someone else had the cool idea. One of the things I miss about not being on the Reflector editorial board anymore is the brainstorming we used to do. For big projects, our EIC liked to send us into the archives and skimming through other publications, to figure out what bits and pieces we liked, and how we could bring that together into our own creation.

One of my favourite memories is creating the parking edition, where we sat around the table for a very long time, brainstorming a cover. Someone would come up with a bit of an idea, or explain a concept they liked, then someone else would disagree but build off of the idea, occasionally the photo editor would redirect us based on technical capabilities. It was probably the longest time we spent trying to design a cover, and even though it was long, I loved people bringing up ideas and others tweaking them to get to the final product. Eventually, we settled on the idea of using the kids’ game Rush Hour, except I couldn’t remember the actual name of the game, and some time was spent on just trying to describe it in terms so that everyone else could figure out what I was talking about.

Now that I’m not in school anymore, I have a lot more time to read blogs and read long profile pieces. What I haven’t been doing is looking at layout and design so much — there are places in town that have the Edmonton Journal, but I don’t get any form of hard copy newspaper or magazine.

So looking at the ESPN magazine was a lot of fun — it reminded me it’s something I should do more often. Their layout is very clean, but they’ve kept a magazine feel, breaking some of the newspaper rules, especially when it comes to white space and snapping to columns. They don’t create dog legs — which earns them a lot of points, in my opinion 🙂 — but a three-column page (six columns on a spread) might have eight photos running horizontal, and the breaks between photos don’t necessarily line up with the breaks between columns.

Consider this blog post fair warning. If you need to find me in the near future, I’ll be the one with her nose in the various hard copy publications, geeking out over layout and well-written articles.


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