Re-design the Concordia Journal

The Concordia Journal, a theological publication for North America Lutheran society, is published quarterly by Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. And it has contributed its effort on helping senior seminary students, pastors and church workers on subjects related to their services to their churches.

structure & elements
This article starts with why does the Journal need a new look, and the answer is simple. The old Journal had its text-heavy problems. Beside the lack of image on the pages, single style of texts were set on all the pages. Although we understand the text domination is normal in journals, but a better visual treatment does serve its purpose in publications. A re-design of the Journal became necessary.

After a introduction meeting with the editorial team, my design process started with the re-evaluating the structure of the old Journal. There, with a variety of text sections including publishing credits, author credits and subscription were grouped in limited space on a page, they neither came with a visual hierarchy to guide readers through, nor got their own spots on page layout. And you did not find clear visual elements to help section dividing, which could cause confusion for readers in content browsing.

To fix that, my next step is to deal with the clutter of text, assure a better organizing of the content. My first try is to separate text groups and make arrangement into different groups on pages, then build indication elements for each section, make each department visual existed. The concept is the simple, everything has its own spot and similar items are well grouped.

layout typography grid
The purpose of this approaching in layout is to please the reading experience. Beside the right choice of typefaces, the new layout is to help guiding content and to confirms enough white space to help easy reading.
For the white space on pages, margins are increase, thumb space are also added to increase note taking area.

From the designer’s point of view, Journal publishing can’t be compared with other publications like magazine, which you can add fancy elements like illustration, color graphics on to the pages, the resource for the Journal is limited, the main playground for graphic designer in this case is typography.
And this is what my focus on. For its elegant style and the short and neat x-height, Adobe Garamond pro regular is picked for the main text, which helps on wider line space and a lighter text color on the page.

The first solution comes on my mind to solve the text heavy issue is to lighten up the over all text color on the page, creating more white space onto the page, solutions include increasing main copy leading and space between headers and main copies.

With an understanding that the style limiting can contribute to a text-heavy reputation. Variety in type styles also come with contrast to gain attention. Along with styles for quotation, number list, end-note… four different headers in Gotham, Garamond and Myriad Pro are created to help better guiding of different sections for each article. Further, to breakdown the boredom of a all text page, a BIO section is set under the main title of each article. There, texts are set with the San Serif Myriad pro to be distinct from the main text, author’s head shots are tailored with bio text inside the box area, which increases the visual attraction for each article.

Grid in design is about alignment and visual guiding. The grid system used here is to approach for a better visual system. Combing the techniques of aesthetics and algorithm in type setting, the alignment of text lines on spread pages creates extension and visual harmony from page to page, which helps organizing elements on the publication.

Beside the main test, the next big thing for a publication is its cover.
Every good book starts with a good cover. The seminary dark green color scheme had been on the Journal covers for years, which did match the seriousness of the theological topics, and those are what the Journal about. However, a fresh look of the cover on every issue is sure to attract a wider group of readers, light-heart images/photos also help readers to get into serious topics 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, plus a thicker card stock with a soft touch aqueous on material, the cover does help bringing a new life to the Journal in this case.

The re-design process got started from September 2016 to March 2017, I had worked very close with the editorial team and got continue support from the creative service. Presentations, catch-up meeting, production meeting and the lonely days on designing and thinking, all of these bring me unique experience in the design processes which is invaluable.
Plus a reward lines from the editor about the new Journal, “People are loving it.”

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