The Design Process

Have you ever wondered how exactly The Auburn Circle comes into existence each semester? Our editor-in-chief, Shelby Rice, shares a taste of what it’s like to put together the magazine each semester. The upcoming Spring 2014 issue will be Shelby’s 4th issue as editor-in-chief, so be on the lookout for the recently completed masterpiece, available as early as April 22 at our 4th biannual launch party, SNAPS.

Q: On average, how many hours does it take to put together each issue? 

A: “From start to finish, it probably takes somewhere between 125-150 man hours to put the magazine together. That number includes the hours that staff members put into evaluating submissions, the hours the section editors spend designing their pages, and the hours that I spend finishing the magazine.”

Q: Which part of the process usually takes the longest? 

A: “The step that takes the most hours is evaluating the submissions. I would estimate that my staff spends a total of 100-125 hours reviewing the submissions we receive and determining whether or not they want to publish them.”

Q: What programs do you use to create the magazine? 

A: “The main program we use to design the magazine is Adobe InDesign CS5.5. We also use Photoshop when we’re working on the visual arts spreads.”

Q: Stylistically, what are some differences between The Auburn Circle and other popular magazines? 

A: “The Auburn Circle is quite different stylistically from popular magazines, because we have to balance pictures, graphic design, art, etc. with the written pieces. In most popular magazines, the emphasis is on the text, and the pictures are secondary. However, with the Circle, we try to balance both the text and the pictures equally, so that the pictures enhance the text and vice versa.”

Q: Is there a certain order when it comes to designing the magazine? 

A: “Normally, we pick the font color first, and it’s been happy serendipity that the covers have matched the inside color for the past three semesters. However, this semester, I picked a font color that clashed with the cover, so we had to backtrack and pick a new color based on the cover. But we always pick the cover before we start designing the rest of the magazine, so at that point in the process, changing the color wasn’t difficult.

After picking the cover and the font color, I generally like to start with the prose pieces (fiction and nonfiction), because they’re the easiest to layout.

Then we move on to poetry, which is a bit more difficult. We have to find a way to fit both the poem and the pictures that go with it on the page, which can be challenging, because sometimes the shape of the poem and the picture are just too much to fit on one page.

After poetry, we move on to the visual arts layouts, which basically entails filling in the blank pages with photographs. This sounds easy, but it’s often quite difficult to find pictures that have a similar subject or look to them so that it makes sense to pair them together.

Finally, when all the pages are in the order that they’ll be printed, I fill in the table of contents and write my letter from the editor. And that’s it. After all that, we have a magazine that’s ready to be sent off to the printer.”

Q: What is the biggest challenge that the Circle faces when it comes to designing the magazine? 

A: “The biggest challenge is two-fold. First of all, it’s really difficult to fit in all of the submissions that the staff wants to publish. On average, we receive over 200 submissions each semester, and the staff okays about 35-40% of those submissions. However, we have a limited amount of pages, and not everything can go into the magazine. I do my best to include all of the submissions that the staff wants published, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Then we have the second part of the challenge. Because we don’t set a theme ahead of time, all of the submissions we receive are completely different. Setting a tone for the magazine and finding a way to put all of those submissions together so it makes sense is extremely difficult.”

Q: What’s your favorite part about the design process? 

A: “My favorite part of the design process is seeing an entire magazine come into being. Before we start designing, I set up a blank template – all the pages that are going to be in the magazine are there, but they’re empty. It’s very gratifying to see those blank pages slowly be filled into until we eventually have a finished magazine. ”