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NC STATE remake

An alumni magazine gets a new shine

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Say the words "alumni magazine" and you might get some groans. Say the words "alumni magazine" and "Molly Renda" and you'll probably hear, "Really? Let me see that." In the visual arts and all manner of print matter, Renda's work is eye-catching and coherent. Locally you've seen her designs on book jackets, calendars, brochures and bookmarks. She created the popular "Traveling Library (Part 1)," an exhibition featuring book-art projects involving unique paper surfaces, folds and bindings. She was selected by the North Carolina Arts Council for a residency in France.

And she was an executive editor of DoubleTake magazine, in charge of design and production. In the '90s, it was a rare year that DoubleTake didn't bring home some national award or recognition.

Jeannie Norris, managing editor of NC State: The Alumni Magazine of NC State University, wanted a redesign, a totally fresh look. Denise Gonzolas Crisp, chair of the Department of Graphic Design, and Renda, now an adjunct lecturer in the department, developed a preliminary syllabus and budget for an upper level undergraduate class.

The class evolved quickly. Salary, studio material, computer stations and visiting speakers were agreed upon. Marvin Malecha, dean of the College of Design, provided dedicated studio space, and the class "Case Study Studio" became a sponsored course of the alumni magazine.

Renda's enthusiasm is visible. "The cool thing is having this experience with the students. A real project, and a big one with lots of details. Invaluable as they enter professional practice."

Leading the class of six seniors and one junior, Renda has engaged real-world client meetings and frequent meetings with the edit staff, explored print production requirements with a practical budget, and toured the magazine's printer to understand the best practices for file sharing.

Some of the editorial goals driving the redesign were clearer navigation, better typography, more lively and inviting presentation of the departments, and a stronger visual connection to the campus.

"It's exciting. A group of undergraduates designing a magazine with a circulation of 30,000," says Renda. "The first half of the semester the students worked on design individually. We'll now cull from those sets two to three separate design presentations that include nameplate, logo, cover design, sample layouts and feature story treatments."

"And all with the College of Design's computing power!" adds Renda, clearly happy with the technological tools available. "We all work on a Mac platform using InDesign CS, Adobe's page layout program, as well as Photoshop and Illustrator."

The students are learning the practicalities of magazine publishing, with real-world deadlines, conflicts and budgets. "Frequent meetings with the edit staff have led to an open dialog that tests design ideas against editorial and production needs," explains Renda.

Look for the launch in fall 2005.

Contributing writer John Valentine can be reached at ajcg@acpub.duke.edu.

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