Press Check

Man Rolan Printing machine printed the Laudamus poster and added an extra varnish layer on it to protect the surface.

Re-design the Concordia Journal

The Concordia Journal, a theological publication for North America Lutheran society, is published quarterly by Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. It has contributed its effort on helping seminary students, pastors and church workers on religion related subjects.

Structure, elements and layout

This design process started with the old Journal’s text-heavy reputation. Beside the lacking of image, the typefaces and style setting were limited on the Journal. Although we understand the text domination is usual in journals, but we need to find a better visual treatment of this publication. A re-design of the Journal became necessary.

My design process started with the re-evaluating the structure of the old Journal.

After an introduction meeting with the editorial team, my design process started with the re-evaluating the structure of the old Journal. It neither came with a visual hierarchy to guide readers through the content, nor got spots for text groups on page layout. A variety of text sections including publishing credits, author credits and subscription were all grouped in limited space on a page.

To fix that, we will deal with the clutter of text, to assure a way to organize the content better. This included separating text groups, building indication elements for each section. Everything should have its own spot and similar items are well grouped. We make each department visual existed.

Also, beside the right choice of typefaces, a new layout can help guiding content and to confirm enough white space to help easy reading, which includes margins increasing, and extra thumb margin.

Typography, grid and cover

The main playground for graphic designer in the world of Journal is typography.

From the designer’s point of view, Journal is different from other publications like news paper or magazines. To others, you can add sophisticated elements like illustration, color photos on to the pages, but the graphic resource for the Journal is limited, the main playground for graphic designer in the world of Journal is typography.

And this is what I should focus on. My first solution to solve the text heavy issue is to lighten up the over all text color on the page, steps include increasing main copy leading and space between headers and main copies.

Because of its elegant style, short x-height and compact horizontal space, I picked Adobe Garamond pro regular for the main text, it helps increasing the leading space but remain its compact horizontal spacing.


With an understanding that limitation in style might contribute to being stereotype, a variety of header which are set in Gotham, Garamond and Myriad Pro are designed. Along with styles for quotation, number list, end-note… Further more, to breakdown the boredom of a text page, a BIO section is set under the main title to increases the visual attraction for each article. There, bio texts are set in San Serif typeface to distinguished themselves from the main text, author’s head shots are tailored with bio text inside the box area.

Beside typeface, there is another important figure in publication design – Grid system. Grid is about alignment and visual guiding. The grid system used here is approaching for a better visual management system. Combing the techniques of aesthetics and algorithm in type setting, the spread page alignment helps text lines on two spread align horizontally. The visual harmony extends from one page to another one, and this connects every page on the Journal.

Another big thing for a publication is its cover, and every good book starts with a good cover. The dark green color had been used on the Journal covers for years, it did match the seriousness of the theological topics. However, a fresh look of the cover is sure to attract a wider group of readers, light-heart images/photos would also help readers to get into serious topics in the Journal more easily. New masthead design, plus a full image to wrap up the the front and back covers help changing the reserved feel on the cover. Material wise, a thicker card stock with a soft touch aqueous helps bringing a new life to the Journal.


The re-design process got started in September 2016, until the Journal got published in March 2017, I had spent lots of time closely with the editorial team and got continue support from the creative service of the Seminary. Presentations, catch-up and production meetings and those lonely days on designing and thinking, all of these bring myself unique experience in the design processes which is invaluable.

The new design helps linking readers and the authors together in the Journal.

After all, the new design helps linking readers and the authors together in the Journal. This is what this job about. Finally, a reward lines from the editor about the new Journal gives me the best reward, “People are loving it.”

Conversation about arts

For visual artists, it is always interesting to explore a deeper understanding in art processing. How the other people think about the art works? How do different colors affect people’s thinking? What make the difference in understanding on the same subjects to different people? After all, those sounded mysterious connections between art and human always amuse us, if not puzzle us.

The event “Psycho-Figuration” hosted by the Contemporary Art Museum in Saint Louis one weekend attracted variety of audience in the area. The topic was about analyzing and opinion-paralleling the artworks of a New York based artist Nicola Tyson’s figures painting by Juliana Varela, a licensed psychotherapist and Adrian, a painter originally from Georgia. This event featured an mind exploring conversation about the relationship between art and psychology.

Juliana expressed the importances of her subjects – her patients’ self recognition through their own visual expression. While Adrian Cox, tries to explore his imagination world by looking for a deeper understanding of his subjects in painting, by researching and sculpturing. They both take it seriously on approaching for a better understanding of their subjects, then put the concepts into their art and works, help people and themselves understanding each other better.

They both agree that there are things can’t be verbally processed, and sometimes it is difficult to explain people’s reactions by words, the common ground for us is the visual expression and empathy, which is the key of these relationship/connections.

Similar thinking processes could be applied to graphic designers. What object motivates the clients? What color scheme are the best for the event? What typefaces are the best for the atmosphere setting?…These questions are good samples of approaching to each other. These things are what in our conversations with our clients all the time. For graphic designer, this is the process of looking for an idea instead of healing a patient. We also might have a wider media platforms and audience base, but a conversation can get the processes started.

(Photo, from left to right: Alex Elmestad, Director of Learning and Engagement; Juliana Juliana Varela, licensed psychotherapist and Adrian Cox, painter and adjunct lecturer in Washington University in St. Louis.)