Featured RDA Winner: Harvard Review Covers

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With the April 11 Regional Design Annual deadline just days away, we thought that it was high time to dive deeper into some of the stellar projects that graced the pages of the most recent selection of winners. This project hails from the East coast under the wings of Alex Camlin and Christina Thompson. Camlin took a minute to provide insight behind this project, including the happy accident resulting from a printer error that has become a mainstay.

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Alex Camlin

Describe the design details of this project:These covers for Harvard Review (a literary journal) are comprised of geometric forms which take a cue from the angular and curvilinear forms found in the typeface used for the journal’s title (a modified version of House Industries’ Neutraface). The covers are printed in four solid inks on uncoated stock. These include one metallic ink that overprints portions of the letterforms, adding some dimension and depth to the composition.

What’s your favorite aspect of this project?I design two covers each year for Harvard Review, which is published in the Spring and Fall. I design the first (#41 in this case), and then develop the second as an answer to, development of, or riff on the first. The designs are usually more decorative, and not based on definite concepts, or the specific content of the issue in question. I think that’s in order to avoid lending any prominence to one piece of writing or art over another, since the contents of each issue are varied in form and style. I like the process of creating something visual that works on its own terms. Designing with the goal of establishing a feeling or visual style without a specific message to communicate can be liberating, but also really challenging.

Who was the target audience?The publication of issue #41 coincided with Harvard Review‘s attendance at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference & Book Fair, and the Review’s editor, Christina Thompson, wanted a cover design that would also function as a mini-billboard of sorts: something refined and that would be a compliment to the style of previous issues, but also “loud” enough to be noticed in the sea of other visual materials washing over the eyes of attendees at the conference.

What was your objective? Was it achieved?The objective was to present a clear identity for the review at the AWP conference, and the design of issue #41 was complimented by branded giveaways and other materials at Harvard Review‘s booth. The secondary objective was to develop the cover for #42 as a strong companion to the previous issue: something similar enough to evoke the first, but different enough to stand on its own.

Did anything unexpected happen with this project?As a happy accident, the metallic ink on the first issue wasn’t intended to overprint the letterforms. It was actually a printer’s error that looked so good, I decided to make it intentional on the second cover. Also, the Review reported that an unusually high number of male attendees at AWP responded favorably to the cover of issue #41, going out of their way to compliment the design. I’m not sure there’s anything to be learned from that casually observed micro trend; I just consider anyone being moved enough to single out and compliment the form something is taking, regardless of its associated content — or their own identity, to be a mark of success.

HARVARD REVIEW, #41 AND #42, BOOK COVERS DESIGN FIRM Alex Camlin (Marshfield, MA) CREATIVE DIRECTOR Christina Thompson CLIENT Harvard Review