100 Habits of Successful Publication Designers: the first 25

Checked this book out of the library yesterday, and cracked it open this morning on ‘da bus.  I was originally looking for “the Poetics of Space” by Gaston Bachelard but I couldn’t find it because I don’t know my Dewey but that’s another story.

In any case I picked up this book at random and am pretty glad I did so far.  My present within-the-decade life goal, aside from being taken on a tour of North Korea and singing drunken karaoke with the tour guide [two nights before they realize I stole one of Kim Il-sung’s personally designed tea kettles and sentence me to 47 years hard labor only to realize I’m kinda bff with Adam Yamaguchi who would help bail me out], is to make a name for myself in the print publication industry. A big nice name in a bold, provocative sans serif. Probably super-imposed on a weird silhouette of my face, framed by some artsy haircut intended to downplay but acknowledge my big (read: wise) forehead.

I’ve only read the first 25 “habits” so far, but if you’re in or want to be in publication design, specifically for magazines, please take a look. So far it’s given me…wait, a few bullet points would look cool here:

  • The tips are given by a couple dozenish seasoned designers in the industry: Laurence Ng, Ina Salts, Arthur Hochstein, Kalle Lasn. The advice is humble and realistic.
  • The example magazines mentioned are popular ones mixed with more exclusive.  It’s a good mix and an excellent source of inspiration for someone just looking for a good combination of content/design (Ex. NYTimes Magazine and IdN are in the same section)
  • One tends to read down advice lists and see a lot of self-contradiction, especially for things like relationships and that fluff. If one wasn’t paying attention, one would dismiss the first 25 points as doing that sometimes. But it isn’t. When #7 says “It’s not about you” while #9 says “Be brave, bold, and passionate”, they begin to mold the dimensions of the balancing pole every good designer uses between voice and the backstage identity. I really like that about both the industry and the people who make it and keep it moving forward.

So yeah, even if you’re a journalist(-to-be)/editor(-to-be)/freelance writer(-never-too-early-to-be), check it out. It’s all one industry and subsets should be learning from each other.


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