Digital Design Questions Answered With New Publication Release
Written by Joy Beachy
Digital design evolution continues to be a hot topic as more designers and experts in the industry weigh in on best practices, user experience needs, and design standards. While some hard-and-fast design rules have solidified, such as screen-worthy font choices and web-safe color palettes, there is still a lot of room for creative expression. It becomes imperative, then, for publishers and designers to continuously seek out examples of good design, and to learn from other publications’ successes.
One such example is the newly imagined Fibromyalgia Aware digital publication. It was custom designed from raw files – Word docs, jpegs, content maps – into the cohesive publication viewable here. As a digital-only publication, the designer was free to play with multiple elements of digital publishing, while keeping the focus on the magazine’s core purpose.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Designer Extraordinaire Callie Nipper, a 14 year veteran to design, to ask her about designing the new Fibromyalgia Aware magazine for digital consumption. Nipper brings experience in both digital and print publishing, ranging from invitations to advertising to magazine design. Her focus has been on digital publishing design for over six years, and she served as the Strategic Services team lead designer for this project.
How did you initially discover your passion for design?
I was the editor of my high school newspaper, and once a month on a Saturday we had to come in and lay out the paper. I loved it. And I decided I needed to do that for the rest of my life.
You transitioned from the high school paper to continuing to design in a print world. Why did you make the switch to digital design?
I think digital design is the future. We live in such a digital world now: everybody is so connected to something, whether that’s a phone or tablet or laptop. It seemed like a natural progression for my design career, and I wanted to be a part of the transition to a digital world.
When it comes to starting a brand new digital publishing project, what do you want to know right off the bat from the client?
I want to know what they really love about their publication so I can expand on that and use that as a key ingredient in the design. I also want to know the look and feel they’re going for, or if there’s a color scheme they’re sold on.
Is their audience a factor?
Yes. I like to know about the demographic of the audience, especially. Some of the older readers are not as tech-savvy, so I need to know if I need to put in extra triggers for things that aren’t immediately intuitive. Like for video or audio, I might put “click here to watch a video” so it’s more intuitive for the reader what to do. I might change the design to make it stand out more.
Did the publisher have feedback for you with regard to colors or audience?
They wanted fruity tones – that’s what they said – but we might say jewel tones. I actually went online and searched for fruity colors and downloaded some. I even have a palette called “fruit cocktail” for them.
With their audience, a lot of their readers have a hard time reading smaller print, so they were interested in making the type bigger. They also wanted the magazine to be fun and carefree. They weren’t sold on a font, but they had a feel. There wasn’t a lot of “don’t do this or that.” They were pretty open, which is nice.
Color choice is obviously important in a visual medium like a magazine. As a designer, how do you stay informed on color choices and trends?
I think being up to date on what colors are “in” is a big thing. I like to look at Pantone’s color of the year. I also watch what colors a lot of fashion designers are using to see the hot colors of the moment. I look at that quarterly because designers do shows quarterly. If it’s applicable to the client, I try to pull that in.
Are there digital design elements that you like to pull into the majority of your projects?
I like buttons, so I incorporate a lot of buttons into my design. They help make things more intuitive and guide your eye to action items. That way things don’t get jumbled in the text. It keeps the design clean.
I also love when I get good quality photos that I can play around with and can apply an effect to, whether that’s just making it fade into the page or to layer text over it.
Like the cover of Fibromyalgia Aware?
Actually I didn’t design the cover. That was a file the publisher sent over, along with some of the button designs. But the other pages we did, and in future issues we’ll be designing the cover.
How concerned are you with mobile reading while you designed this magazine?
Pretty much every project we work on at Nxtbook is meant for mobile and for desktop. For custom design like this, I know it will look great on an iPad and laptop, so I don’t worry about it too much. If you want something designed for phones, though, then you need to either have a separate phone design or use responsive design, like Ubiquity.
Can you walk me through a couple of the pages you liked best?
Sure. I like this one. This is a letter from their founder. Originally in the content map they provided, they wanted the letter on one page and the bio on another, but it didn’t make sense to me to separate the two. So I pulled the yellow from the leaves to use as a background color behind the bio to help Lynn be a part of the page. And I used the same purple around her picture and around the border. I loved how the purple complemented the color of the leaves. If you want to know the technical term for that color it’s mangosteen, which is a kind of fruit. They said they wanted fruity colors! I also liked the font choice, which mimicked a typewriter, as though someone was writing a letter on one.
This page I liked because I put a bird on it. If you look at the previous page, they have a list of their forerunner champions, and one of them is the Champion of Courage. You see there’s a bird on the logo for that one. Because this article was talking about a woman they’re calling their Champion of Courage, I wanted to tie in the bird from their logo. So I got the bird from their files and made the outline the same color as the I on that page, and I added it next to the title. See it there? It looks like it’s going to swoop down and carry off the tittle from that i.
I like the overlay, too. I like that you can see the picture behind the green box. I liked the picture and didn’t want it to be covered up. I liked the tranquility of it. I think they want to fill their readers with a sense of tranquility because they spend the better part of their day in pain. An image like that is calming and soothing.
This page uses a new feature, sub-pages. Basically I designed this page 10 times and swapped out the main photo for the side photos, one change per page design. It saved the publisher time and cost for animation, and is a benefit for readers. They get the same experience no matter what device they’re viewing it on. The slideshow will operate exactly the same on desktop, tablet, and phone. If this were an animation, not sub-pages, that might not be the case. With the way different devices and platforms work, if you do an animation, there might be a little bit of difference in experience between devices.
I noticed there were social media links at the bottom of each page. Was that at the client’s request?
It was my idea, but it fit their audience. Social media is such a prevalent part of our society now, it doesn’t make sense NOT to have those links there. I originally was going to link it to our standard share feature, but this client has Facebook and Pinterest pages, so we linked to that. It’s just another way for readers to engage with them. They really embrace social media, like you can see on page 5, and wanted to make sure everyone knew all the ways they could be reached and see what they had going on.
One of the articles actually has a woman named Erin who talks about social media. She says something like it’s the new-fashioned way of borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor. It’s the new way to sit down and talk together, and to find solutions together.