Magazine Making 101

A few weeks back I was asked to speak to a class of NYU students who were creating something interesting: print magazines. Yes, you might be surprised to learn that one of the most respected learning institutions in the country is teaching the art and craft of producing the printed magazine. You might be even more surprised to know that it’s quite popular.

Called “Magazine Dreams: Conceiving, Designing, and Producing a Twenty-first Century Publication,” the class has been around for two years and regularly reaches class capacity.

Taught by Lise Friedman, a writer and adjunct professor at NYU’s Gallatin School, the class’s main focus “is the creation of student-originated magazines. The students conceive the themes, content, design—all of it, and they are in control of the production as well” Friedman said. At the end of the course, the students create both print and electronic versions. I’ve posted some covers and interiors below, but if you’d like to see the full project, go here and here.

“Whether manifested in print, online—or through an artful combination of the two—magazines are a tantalizing mix of tradition and the new, exquisitely tuned reflections of where we are at a given moment,” said Friedman. “It’s this balance of convention and innovation that guarantees their endurance, and I hope makes them an exciting endeavor for students.”

After speaking to the students myself, I was both envious that I never got to take a class like it when I was in school, and indeed struck with how passionate each one was about the process of working in this unique medium. Of course, they also got first hand training in how to collaborate with someone who’s opinions might not always jibe with their own.

“The most valuable skill I took from my experience, other than how to navigate Photoshop and InDesign, is how to work on a team,” said student Matt Feniger. “This class taught me how to compromise; it taught me to pick what ideas I should fight for and which I should let go. I also learned that although it’s great that staff members have disparate interests and ideas, it’s important to make sure that at the end of the day the issue or the magazine is a coehesive entity.”

Another student, Matthew So, said: “It’s important to have a buffer between learning skills in the classroom and putting them in practice in a professional setting. We are allowed to experiment, making mistakes and decisions we might not [have the luxury of learning from] in the future.”

In addition to the work the students do in groups, Friedman said they also complete a solo project, “a more theoretical undertaking that allows each of them to explore an aspect of publication, print, design, photography.”

Friedman also teaches a similar course in the fall, called “Creating a Magazine: From Inspiration to Prototype.”

I’m tempted to see if I can sign up myself.

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