In case anyone thinks all I ever do is mess around and draw, here’s an example of my bread and butter: publication development. Since I write, edit and do layout, I tend to get involved in a lot of projects where the client needs a Jack of all publication trades.

In this case, the Montana State University College of Agriculture was looking for help in pulling together a branded annual report publication to reach out to alumni, tell success stories and recognize their staff, students and supporters. Since I had worked as a publications editor for MSU in the late 90s and early 2000s, I was familiar with MSU’s brand and Montana’s ag audience, so I decided to take the project on.

Looking over past reports, which were chock full of perfectly good writing from the MSU News Service but rather choppy to read, I suggested running larger photos and creating a narrative through-line to help guide readers through the huge document. (I don’t expect readers to devour a publication like this cover to cover: If they look at the pictures, skim headlines and get the right overall impression, I’m happy. If a couple captions draw their attention enough to read the articles that go with them, even better!)

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As much as I tried to rein in this bulky publication, my effort is still pretty darn dense. I did a series of interviews with featured scientists and wrote 18 assigned stories. I shot for a correctly institutional tone, but tried to balance that with a reasonably warm voice, since the readers are “family.” Starting with a dearth of recent ag background knowledge and rusty writing skills, it took time to get up to speed. Looking back, I wish I’d made the stories shorter and the font bigger (I never thought I’d say those words). It is just so hard to cut stories down once you see how excited the scientists are about them! A good editor is truly a blessing.

Design-wise, I continued to use a curve (loosely drawn from the MSU logo) consistent with the style of previous reports, but I trimmed down the color palette and tried to accentuate section breaks to organize the content into manageable chunks.

The MSU photographer, Kelly Gorham (who does great work) wasn’t available, so it was a bit of a scramble to get brand-appropriate photographs. I did get to use some of Kelly’s photos, but thank goodness for my friend, photographer Meggan Carrigg Davidson, who came in and did some smash-up shooting on short notice.

Overall, I’m not absolutely blushing with pride over the layout, but on the other hand, I feel pretty good that I got it done on time.     …or at all, for that matter!

A PDF  of the report is online at the MSU College of Agriculture’s Website.

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