NYC internships from a graphic designer’s perspective

Guest post by Erika Graham

My summer internship came to a bittersweet end yesterday, and I still can’t believe that I’ll be back at school in less then a week. As an editorial intern for the Toy Book, a leading toy trade magazine based in Manhattan, I had a wonderful time running around NYC and gaining an experience that I’ll never forget.

In order to fit my summer into a 500-word blog post focused on why a NYC internship might be the best learning experience you’ll ever have, I’ve compiled my top three moments at the Toy Book. I also thought that, since I am a guest on a newspaper design blog, my list might hold a little more attention then a large block of text…

Top Three Moments of My NYC Toy Book Internship

  • Writing a bylined article for a nationally syndicated publication. I was asked to write the story for the annual ABC Kids Show a couple of weeks ago, which was definitely the highlight of my time at the Toy Book. I also got to design the layout for this section of the magazine. It always pays off to get to know your editors and let them know what you’re interested in. As soon as my editor knew I had experience with layout design, she started sending me more projects that involved both writing and design.
  • Meeting Dan Marino. I was able to meet him and other NFL legends at the media party for the fall release of NFL Madden 2012, one of the many events that I attended with the Toy Book. Writing that article might have been my top moment, but getting to participate in private demonstrations of new products and the upcoming holiday showcases was a very close second. Sitting down and playing the new FORZA Motorsport video game while the game developer sat next to me and explained it at Xbox’s Holiday Showcase in Milk Studios is an experience that can’t be duplicated at a local internship.
  • The contacts that I’ve made (and the sweet resume addition)! There is nothing like knowing you’ve made a few friends and really succeeded in your work as the internship comes to a close. I’ve added contacts that I can reach out to at any time for help when I’m looking for future internships, that evasive first job, or where to find the best slice of NYC pizza. Looking ahead to the fall semester, I’ve already had several responses to different intern positions due to my great summer experience.

 It’s not any grand discovery that interning while in college is (or should be) a huge priority. But definitely don’t wait until you’re a junior or a senior to start applying! I’ll be a sophomore in the fall, and while the job search is not right around the corner for me, I know that I’m opening doors for myself by taking advantage of the opportunities now.

As for next summer, I’ll most certainly be back in Manhattan, working for a different publication and chalking up some more “only in New York” experiences.

Erika, Riah and Leah in Times Square Spring 2011


College 2011 mailer from Target includes more than coupons

Target Mailer to 2011 College Students

Target hits the mark in three areas

I don’t typically write about advertisements. But this one deserves the spotlight. The design, the content and the practicality of this mailer is perfectly geared toward my age group – something that I don’t find very often even in newspapers. The heavy weighted paper is also a sign that Target didn’t skimp out when they created this project. It’s a nice bright white, giving the colors a rich and pleasing tone.

1. Content is engaging and pertinent

One of my favorite aspects of this ad has to be the content. SEO (search engine optimization) specialists have already got this one figured out: good content attracts good customers (and gives better ranking to websites). I don’t see many print ads use quality content very often attract customers. This ad does.

Target mailer 2011

The content I’m referring to includes a series of six short blog-style articles peppered throughout the mailer. Written by college students, for college students, the articles offer advice on how to manage your time at college, organize your space and keep in touch with family. It’s great to see content written by peers, especially since the topics are both practical and fun to read.

2. Checklists and coupons are useful

Flip open to the front page and top of page 2 has six brightly colored columns dedicated to the college 2011 checklist – all items sold by Target, of course. But what do you expect? It’s an ad, after all. And if you want to build your own checklist, Target has an easy online layout that lets you shop and build your own personal checklist.

Target 2011 College Mailer

Scattered throughout the mailer, Target included other lists of advice and short words of wisdom from college students who have survived this particular stage of life. I’ve no doubt parents will eat this up just as much (if not more) than their children.

So sure all this is fine for freshmen who still don’t have a clue about college. Target didn’t forget the large population of students returning to college, though. Flip to page 13 and you’ll find 20 coupons, many of which I plan to utilize. Parents and students have reason to appreciate this mailer from Target.

3. Targets audience with appropriate design

Okay, love the design. The colors are bright and perfectly reflect the current trends in college dorm decoration. Page spreads utilize the space well without overcrowding, so it is far from the typical Sunday ad.

Target 2011 College Mailer

And while the prices are easy to locate for all items, they aren’t emphasized. The products stand forefront and are arranged topically. So the page on how to organize your space includes products such as shelves, over-the-door hangers and bed stands to make the most of space under the bed.

Target 2011 College Mailer

Well, that’s all for now! I’m just very grateful to see an ad target my age so well. It was fun to read through and gave me some great coupons.

I hope to cover this a little more in the future, but we’ll see.

Later! Riah

Buy Google Plus on eBay or wait to be invited by a friend

It’s an interesting thought — Facebook no longer ruling the world. In some ways it’s hard to grasp considering how long Facebook has been around. Most of us grew up with the blue-faced social media site.

The latest and greatest Google Plus

But now there is a new social media site out to challenge the giant. It is, not surprisingly, from Google and called Google Plus. From what I’ve read, it looks like a brand new approach to social media from a search engine giant that is out to conquer the beast; in the process Google may even change the very way we find and optimize sites for the web.

While it feels too early to know what kind of impact this will actually have, I’m not ready to underestimate Google. They’ve put a lot of work into this, and apparently it is quite different from Buzz and other failed attempts at social media by google.

For those who want to get Google plus (also referred to as Google+), you’ll have to either know someone who can invite you or be one of the extremely luck ones who was invited by Google. Due to the popularity of this new test social site, those invites are really hard to find. If you’re willing to pay a little money, there are several hundred eBay sellers claiming they can get you in — for a small fee, of course.

In the meantime, enjoy Facebook. Theres no telling how much longer it will rule the world. And if you have an extra invite to Google Plus, I’m definitely looking to try it out for myself.

Note: I don’t think it’s a good idea to go and buy an invite from anyone. Google is opening and closing the window of opportunity at their discretion. So even if someone sends you an invite, it may not work unless the window is open. There’s no telling when Google Plus users will be able to invite more people, but as of a few minutes ago, it still wasn’t possible. Guess I’ll just have to keep waiting and hoping.

Why your college newspaper should be redesigned

Personal Update

I know, I know. It has been almost a month since I last updated this blog. But, believe me, I have a very good reason for being tardy. Not long after my last post, I applied for a web copywriting internship at a marketing company near my hometown. And guess what! That’s what I have been up to for the past few weeks. I couldn’t be happier, too. This internship has been an incredible opportunity to learn more about corporate writing and develop my writing skills through constant practice.

Because I end up spending almost eight hours a day writing, I’ve found it very difficult to come home and find more time to write. It has also been difficult to find time to work on the Collegian redesign, but that’s also been combined with technical difficulties. So here I am, enjoying the summer by doing what I have come to truly enjoy, writing. Don’t think the redesign won’t happen, because it will. We may just have to be a little creative in accomplishing it.

Why your college or university newspaper should be redesigned

And I would encourage you to consider redesigning your newspaper too. Perhaps you’ve noticed, but the world changes very quickly; design does too. There will always be new trends, new styles and new perspectives. In everything else in life beside newspapers, dictionaries and obituaries, it seems the design is updated regularly. Even cookbooks and the Wal-Mart brand go through redesigns.

Resist change, get left behind

For some reason, journalists tend to resist change when it comes to their occupation; but I think we’ve seen enough in the past nine years to know that unless you are willing to be flexible, you will get left behind. That doesn’t mean I advocate taking on a new set of values; on the contrary, hold tight to the truth and to your determination to serve the people, but consider being flexible in your presentation. So many newspapers are still so very far behind when it comes to design and technology. As a result, the entire field of journalism has suffered.

Newspaper design says a lot about your newspaper’s identity

If you believe that actions speak louder than words, then consider this: the way you present the news may speak louder about your newspaper than the very articles you write. Your newspaper front page design does matter. And so do the inside pages and every last detail. The way you present your content also says a lot about your newspaper’s identity. And maybe it’s time you created a new identity for your newspaper that matches your audience. Redesigning your newspaper can help you accomplish this.

If you’re a journalist and you still disagree, consider this:

If you’re a college student studying traditional journalism, research graphic design and learn more about page layouts. Believe it or not, this will help you develop better content. When you have a better idea of how your content can be presented, your mind will be broadened to greater possibilities. Give it a shot. You might actually find you enjoy page layout.

If you’re a graphic designer, you already agree…BUT!

If you’re a graphic designer, try to understand journalists and the world they come from. Write a story or two so you can see what it takes to put together the content you so often wish you had. When designing a page, it’s easy to see the content and visual opportunities a journalist missed. With writing experience, though, you will be better able to offer advice to journalists when they are working on a story, and they might even listen.

Just do it

And now that I’ve ranted to you about redesigning your college newspaper, it’s time I check out for the night and brainstorm some more ideas for my student newspaper.

Live long and prosper!

Behind the scenes look at the front page

Background on the page

I’ve already heard from students on campus who love this front page! In my Interactive Media class this afternoon, a classmate mentioned they actually looked over (and possibly read) the Collegian front page this week because it looked so cool. Yeah, I love hearing comments like that.

So why does it look so different from previous pages I’ve designed? Well, after attending Tim Harrower’s workshop this weekend, I was very, very excited to step outside of the little box I’ve been working in and go bigger, bolder and beyond the “rules.” This week was a perfect week to do it, too.

My friend Erika and I met Monday night and began brainstorming how we wanted the page to look. Because the big event of this week is the dedication of the newest building on Asbury’s campus, I decided to go for a themed front page. We didn’t have an article about the whole dedication but there were several articles on some of the specific events planned for the weekend.

It has never been done before

According to the Collegian Adviser, we did something this week that has never been done before.  Can you guess? It’s the picture behind the masthead. I removed the teasers and campus pulse in order to run this picture big and completely dominant above the fold. Personally, I love it when newspapers drop the top teasers and fill the entire space with a gorgeous picture. It has been my goal this semester to try this on our front page and this week seemed the most appropriate time to go for it. And I LOVE it! =)

Puzzling lines

Honestly, the hardest part of the design was deciding where to begin the lines encompassing the stories. Our photo editor, Tyler Hoff, pointed out that the picture and stories felt compartmentalized when the lines curved in at the top and bottom. Eventually, we settled on this.

Colored boxes

Another point I carefully considered is the colored boxes behind the top story, schedule and quick facts. We rarely, if ever, put colored boxes behind the text. However, the page felt bland when I removed the colored boxes. I think it is more of a magazine design, but since that’s where newspaper design is headed, I’m happy to play around with something new (for the Collegian).


Tim Harrower mentioned in his workshop that when you do a cutout of a picture, it makes it feel a little less real. That’s why it’s best to keep the picture whole when you are covering a specific event. I believe this cutout is justified, though, because the context was not interesting nor did it add any value to the picture. It also creates a certain “look” we were going for on the front page. Kudos to Erika for mentioning we do the cutout.

Chunk and Crunch

A term you will hear often when you attend on of Tim’s workshops. Basically it means getting the info out in shorter segments of text. Examples of this are the deck, schedule, and fast facts boxes with each story. I’ve been working for several weeks to find a design I like for the info boxes. Finally, I found one. It’s readable yet different enough from the story so It stands out.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ve got to head off to work soon and then some more writing. This week is just flying by!

“AARP magazine is cooler than you are.”

AARP better desing than your newspaper

Yes, folks, I’m afraid Tim Harrower is right. My daily trip through the front pages on Newseum was especially sad this evening as I noticed so many poorly designed papers. But there were a few good ones…Portugal’s “i” comes to mind.

The "i." A newspaper in Portugal.

Beautiful, isnt' it?

The “i” was actually named the best newspaper in the world by the Society of News Design this February. And how many blocks of gray text do you see? Everything is summary (I assume since I can’t ready Portuguese) with lively color and great fonts.

Good design, like the “i,” doesn’t just happen magically, though. It takes practice and smart people, smart people who will share what they have learned. This Saturday (yesterday) I did quite a big of learning with some fellow students and journalists from around the East Coast as we learned from Tim Harrower at Vanderbilt University.

Tim’s workshop was excellent! It was fun, fast paced and went beyond the basics. Of everything I learned, the most important thing I walked away with is this: the way I design AND write needs to be geared toward the reader. For the three hours it takes to drive back from Tennessee, this idea floated around in my head. And I agree with Tim, there MUST be a change in both the writing and designing; it can’t happen in one without the other. Another thing that really stands out is this question on why student newspapers are so far behind. Why are we taking longer to catch the futuristic vision of journalism?

Why can’t college students design better newspapers?

So why does AARP magazine design better than most newspapers in the United States and why in the world are college newspapers some of the worst designed out of the whole lot? Tim said during the workshop, “college newspapers are some of the dullest in the country. It makes absolutely no sense.” We have so much talent, flexibility and the lack of “history,” which should make it possible for us to create fresh, modern pages.

1. You take too long to see beyond the rules

This little dude can still see the maze, yet he is no longer trapped by it

Maybe it has to do with the way we are taught journalism. There are set ways to research, write and design for newspapers and we get stuck behind this wall of rules. I’m not bashing my or your journalism professors: I have an awesome journalism professor (you can even see his blog and find out for yourself).

I just think college students need to move beyond the rules sooner rather than waiting until you’ve graduated and find yourself in a position on a 100 year old newspaper that would rather go out of business than be creative. My advice, don’t be blinded by the rules. Learn them, then discover your audience.

2. You satisfy tradition, not your audience

Discover your audience. What? Yeah. How many college students care if you are breaking the rule about “no text on pictures?” Answer: none. In fact, they might unknowingly love you for it due to the modern look you’ve just given your newspaper.

You writers aren’t off the hook either. Who said your story MUST be 500 words or longer? Your professor, but what about your audience? Do they care if you leave out some boring information that you’d previously added just to make a word count? No!

Write and design for your audience. College students have it the easiest too because it isn’t as if anyone is buying your paper. It’s free so be free with your imagination. Oh and did you know that some of the best newspaper designs in the world are breaking all those rules you have been taught about newspapers? I love it!!!

3. You see the past

It’s hard to see the future when you are still trying to figure out the past. That has been hard for me too. I’m still new to all this reporting and newspaper design. There’s SO much for me to learn about journalism and I struggle to take this hazy understanding of current newspapers and develop a vision of where they are headed. Is that what you’ve been trying to do, too? If so, rethink it.

Ditch the traditional and create something for your generation. If  you could design a trendy, popular newspaper or magazine for your coolest friends, what would it look like? Now take that vision and redesign your last issue. I’d love to see what you come up with.

(If you haven’t noticed, this is not the newspaper of the future.)

The paper of the past seen last Sunday

Two down, two more workshops to go

The first two workshops have been amazing! Erika and I love it! There’s so much here that completely changes your perspective on writing, designing and the future of news and newspapers.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Are you focusing on writing or being read?
  • Consider the five paragraph rule.
  • If you aren’t worried about being boring, you are boring.
  • Incorporate technology…multimedia, links and user participation in websites.
  • Smartest business plan is making readers happy.