I started by auditing the existing systems of the magazine, and I found that there were actually a number of things I wanted to keep, they were just lost in the noise. Make: Magazine is part of a larger brand identity of Make LLC, so I wanted to be sure to preserve as much of the existing branding as possible. One thing I knew I wanted to change was the focus. Make: was trying to be Popular Mechanics, but to me the DIY spirit is about getting things done with spit and gumption, not precision engineering. I wanted to showcase that scrappy backyard tinkerer, not the turbo encabulator they can’t afford.
I chose to switch the size of the magazine to digest size so that its signature instructional articles would be partitioned out in manageable bites. This also cut down on material cost, which could be important for a company that is struggling financially. For page structure, I set up a 7 column scaffolding. This left me with plenty of options and a more dynamic layout than a framework with an even number of columns. I also organized the articles by type. News and opinion pieces went in the front, featured articles in the middle, and product reviews at the back.
For font families, I chose Garamond for headings and Fira Sans for body. Simple fonts to fit my goal of simplifying the publication. As I started plugging in copy, I varied up text blocks but kept the layout restrained so the photography could lead. I included the faces of the makers whenever possible since this publication is as much about the people as the things they make. When selecting articles to include, I deliberately chose a more diverse breadth of topics. The existing publication often dedicates half or more of its space to articles about coding, which is a pillar of the maker community, but a wider variety of topics will help expand the reader base.
At this point I had a very utilitarian magazine that was neatly structured but had little personality outside the photography. I had been going for an organized layout and ended up with something sterile. To breathe some life back into the project, I turned to color. I still wanted the content to lead, so I decided to use only 1 color per article. This had the added benefit of creating a shorthand for navigating the magazine, something I expanded on in the table of contents and with tabs on the margins. I made the Make LLC red the color of the cover story and then worked out from there.
The last step was the cover. The Make: logo includes a colon, which presented an excellent opportunity. I could list the contents of each issue in the upper third, giving much needed breathing space for the cover to spotlight the featured articles.
Next steps for this project would need to be addressing the website that accompanies the magazine. In 2021, a website will likely get more readers than the publication itself, especially for a young, tech savvy audience like the maker community.