Critique: Spring Preview

Before you work out and challenge your body in new capacities, you’re supposed to warm up and stretch your muscles to prepare. This helps prevent injury, not to mention to push yourself and improve. This is what I feel like I’m doing in this class. Until recently, I didn’t think that I was all too visually creative. I dabbled in InDesign when I was editor for my high school literary magazine, and I created a few promotional flyers for organizations I was a part of using my ancient CS3 software that I just recently upgraded (woohoo!). So other than designing the six or so projects for the intro magazine design class last semester, I still have a lot of warming up to do.

At my skill level, my best work is done on paper. I had a lot of ideas in the preliminary stages, but it was translating them into a digital format and at the size of the Vox dimensions that I had to work around. I originally wanted to go for more of an illustrated and hand-drawn look for the cover, and I settled on a kite theme. I got about halfway done with the idea and arranged them onto a page when I realized that it just looked too flat to work on a larger scale.

Spring Preview kites

Although I liked the idea, I wanted to try my second option, which involved more work in Photoshop. Whereas the kite idea would have involved more bright, popping colors, I wanted to try taking the palette to the other extreme embodied by spring — earth tones, natural elements and so on. I thought of how I could incorporate nature into a cover when I landed on the idea of having the title “Spring Preview” carved into the trunk of a tree. It felt to me one of those things that even if you’ve never done it before, you know what a tree carving looks like. I think it also has kind of a playful feel without being too cute.

I had to play around a bit with the type and the colors in order to make sure the cover was legible. At first I thought something big and bold would lend itself to an attention-getting cover, but I only found that as I made the type more grainy, it made the text look more distorted but in a bad way. If given a bit more time, this would be my first area to refocus would include lightening the photo, making the bark less textured, etc.

Spring Preview tree

As for the spread, I wasn’t sure how to incorporate the cover I changed at the last minute into the body. I tried framing the photos in the wood so it would act as a photo frame, but it didn’t translate. Instead, I kept it pretty basic in columns and played with the text highlights and headings to add some color. I wanted the month headings to incorporate my original idea of illustrations and a watercolor feel, but I think in the end it just adds too many styles that don’t work together too well.

 Spring Preview spread1Spring Preview spread2

You can’t miss: Drew Barrymore on Marie Claire’s February issue, times two

This month’s issue of Marie Claire is its Spring Trend Preview issue, which I flipped through to find color palette inspiration for my design. Originally, I knew I probably wanted to stray from the typical pastels that one would associate with the season, but looking through the magazine, I saw that a lot of their spreads carry this scheme, including its cover.


The other day, I saw the newsstand version of the cover, which offers a much more attention-getting bold yellow and red as its pop-out colors. Both do, however, pair the warmer hues with a cool blue or grey background so it isn’t too overwhelming overall. However, the more bright colors in the newsstand version is meant to compete with other titles and designs on the rack, and hopefully would mean better sales.


You can’t miss: When logos look alike

As I was conceptualizing ideas for the Spring Preview spread, I realized that I still feel like I’m at the stage where I need inspiration to draw from and piece together a solid idea before I can make something entirely my own. As I was sifting through some of the great posts on the blog I’ll be following this semester, Logo Design Love, I came across a 2008 article that compares logos for different companies that look alike. I think it’s important to remember that everything is influenced by something else, or as we’ve said in my web design class, everything is a remix. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and we shouldn’t think that we can’t be original when we take certain elements and put a new spin on things.

Photo inspiration: I see London

With all of our reading about London in Simon Garfield’s Just My Type, particularly the Johnston Underground font that perfectly embodies The Tube, I was getting nostalgic for this past summer when I lived and interned abroad in the city of 8 million. On one of the particularly chilly days this past week when we had winds of more than 20 mph, I pulled out one of the few actual “London” souvenirs I bought for myself while I was there. This mug is by Alice Tait, and all of her illustrations look hand-drawn and have kind of a whimsical feel to them. The bright colors make the different iconic destinations pop and bring the huge city into a more personalized snapshot of London life.

London mug


9 thoughts on “Warm-up

  1. I saw that Marie Claire issue on the newsstand today and remember thinking how much it popped. I didn’t realize it was a different version than what subscribers got. It bothers me a little when magazines do this and one cover looks “better” than the other. I think it makes sense when there is a good reason behind it (Like if Vox were going to do something provocative on the cover and decided to tone it down a bit for Missourian subscribers because the audience is different). But in general, I don’t want to feel like I have to buy a more expensive newsstand version of a magazine I subscribe to in order to get the better designed version.

    1. I never really understood why magazines created two different covers until I started thinking about the intended audiences. It makes sense that their subscribers get this beautiful and ethereal image of Drew, and the newsstands wanted a cover that caught people’s eyes as they walk by. Sometimes I don’t understand the art director’s decisions, but this is one instance where it makes perfect sense to me. The red and yellow pop so people will stop to by it. The tone of the pastel cover fits really well with the “happily ever” cover line.

      I also think it was smart to look through this magazine for color inspiration. I usually turn to Pinterest, but this would be a great way too.

  2. I really love the covers of Drew. At first I thought I would have wanted the cover for Subscribers, but I like how the cover with the pops of yellow still feels elegant, I’m guessing due to the soft grey/cool colors that accompany the bright yellow. She looks great either way!
    I absolutely LOVE your idea of the kites. I think if you would’ve tried to illustrate those in Illustrator you would’ve had such a unique cover! But I have to say I really liked your tree idea too… very cute and simple.
    Your cup reminds me of the fact that I originally wanted to go to London for Graduate School. One day I’ll make it there… I’ve never been! Alice Tait’s illustrations are too die for. I’m quite a sucker for illustrations, keep ’em coming!

    – Lauren Elliott

  3. I have an Alice Tait poster in my bedroom that I bought before going to London last spring. It’s depressing, as I can see it right now. I miss London a lot. I took classes and interned there too, we should reminisce together sometime. I thought your tree cover was super creative, and you executed it very well. It looks killer on a computer screen even if it printed a bit dark on paper. I LOVE Drew Barrymore, she is a beauty queen. What’s weird is I actually find the newsstand cover more engaging than the subscriber, which is usually never the case. I think her face being so close up and the really great colors does it for me. You’re right, the muted grey and blue with highlighter yellow really complement each other.

  4. If you don’t have good digital skills, it totally didn’t show in your spring preview design. I am thoroughly impressed at how realistic you were able to make the type on the tree. I do think had you make the text a lighter color to reflect the interior of the tree it could have been more effective. I also like the idea of making the heading look like they are carved out of wood to continue with the theme.

    It’s so interesting to see the newsstand and subscriber covers next to each other. Sometimes they can give off two different personas, and are the subscribers and newsstand readers they are trying to attract really that different? I personally like the newsstand version better (but I have been obsessed with the gray and yellow color combo for a while).

    I too studied abroad in London and am still going through withdrawals. The city is life inspiring. Maybe we can have a post-London depression support group?

  5. I love your initial spring preview design with the illustrations of the kites and such. It gives just a youthful feel to spring but I think your carving of the tree was very unique and stands out. Also, I totally understand where you are coming from on stretching your muscles to prepare for this class. As designers, it is our job to keep pushing ourselves which is an uncomfortable thing but can also be an awesome feeling when you look at your finished product. In reference to the Marie Claire magazine covers, the yellow definitely pops more and I think even the closer shot of her face stands out more than the wider and farther away shot like the first one. Also, I’m a sucker for a good coffee mug especially one with anything London on it. I studied abroad in London last spring and everything was magical. That typography on the cup is creative and the illustrations play a fun aspect of what could have been just an ordinary cup.

  6. I think it’s funny how your title is “Warm Up” as we are all probably sitting at our computers freezing to death…but moving on. I loved the kite idea but I applaud you on trying something a little different for spring as far as colors go, and I think you pulled off beautifully. It still had a “spring” feeling without shoving the idea down anyone’s throat. I liked your idea of the wood frames but I think it was smart of you to remove them. On quality paper, I bet an idea like that would have really shown through, but on that Vox newsprint, a concept like that would never stand a chance. I guess that’s something we will have to be aware of all semester. Making sure our ideas (as good as they may be) will still translate well on that paper.

    I really love your mug. I was in London last Spring for the interning abroad program and I miss it a lot. My room is filled with all these London and England related items that it’s hard to find inspiration in them all.

  7. I understand the feelings when designing the first cover. It just appeared to be a huge gap between the magazine design class and the advanced magazine design course. But I think your tree design looks very interesting and unique. I also love the banners / subheads in the feature page. It is just so arty and spring.

  8. You should definitely be proud of your Spring Preview entry. It was one of the stronger covers in our group. I’d like to know exactly how you created the carve effect in Photoshop, as I am only self-taught and probably have just a middling understanding of the program’s uses. If you had more time, I agree that any worries about readability would have been assuaged if the carving was a much lighter brown, as Erica and maybe others have noted.

    As good as your cover design was, however, I would argue that your cover teases were best of all.

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