Helen:
A Literary
Magazine

Multi-format publication and solo-preneur endeavor Helen: A Literary Magazine proposed joining forces with a goal to build a vehicle celebrating creative culture across Southern Nevada.

Editor-in-Chief Jocelyn Kelly and the staff at Helen: A Literary Magazine aspired to develop a feature spotlighting all forms of creatives and their works throughout Southern Nevada – generating an opportunity for local and regional creatives to show off and achieve the coveted status of “published.” To pull this off a handful of design challenges would need to be vanquished in order to deliver the keys to the kingdom.

CHALLENGES:
. platform | delivery – get it in their grubby lil’ paws
. logo rehab – shave-and-a-hair-cut...
. layout | design – feng shui

roles

art direction – print
brand strategy
logo
editorial
illustration

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“Our focus is on expanding the perspective of the city and greater Southern Nevadan area as well as giving a special spotlight to the local and diverse talent living here and originally from here.”

— Jocelyn Paige Kelly
Publisher & Founding Editor

platform
& delivery

Initially, pursuing a strictly digital platform for delivery appeared most enticing, expecting lower overhead cost and a direct to reader platform – options perfect for a new start up. Unfortunately, with digital publishing in its unproven infancy and an outrageous price point for licensing, it proved more costly, with more hurdles than the 100 meter. Disappointed with digital, the decision was made to press on with a local print vendor to produce physical issues.

With the primary method of delivery resolved, the desire to populate the digital space persisted. After another meeting of the minds, the solution came in the shape of a downloadable PDF version of the current issue, while also featuring work directly on the website – Helenlitmag.com. Finding harmony in the madness, there was much joy in Mudville, and it was now time to send that logo to rehab.

PDF preview issue:

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logo rehab

Make it unified. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. 

These three basic rules built the boundaries for streamlining both the type and the iconography. Inspired by a painting of a Victorian era lady reading under a tree, the original mark exemplified the peaceful joys of reading – an important theme. With a boisterous “TIMBER,” the tree was fell and our young heroine reseeded against the foot of the title, balancing the wordmark and cinching the once cavernous gap – who says there’s no drama in logo design?!

As typefaces go, what was initially set in Arial graduated to a combination of Museo Slab and Helvetica Neue, respectively – adding a bit more clarity and punchy distinction, without being prudish.

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layout
& covers

Typically the best way to stand out in most situations is to NOT do what everyone else does, and the newsstand is no exception. Portrait layouts flood the rows of periodical shelves, so in order to establish priority visibility we took a relaxed approach. The landscape layout not only demands a front row seat, but also offers a wider canvas to grab a reader’s attention with big, graphic, wrap-around covers.

Wide format canvases require wide format art. With each issue being connected to a specific theme the only challenge that remained was how to make them captivating. Vibrant colors with curious combinations of shapes and images, weaving mysterious tapestries of… uh… pfft...

Ha, yeah, it really wasn’t that in-depth. It all derived from pulling together aspects of the themes and presenting them with a modern vibe that felt attractive. The editors connected with the approach and appreciated the outcome. All three issues earned a great deal of attention and sold well while stock lasted.

issue themes:

vol 01 | 01: strong female lead
vol 01 | 02: music
vol 02 | 03: animals

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design
& ads

The focus of Helen: A Literary Magazine was never to be on the publication itself, but to spotlight contributors and their work – this means the interior needed to take a step back. No clutter, optimize white space, make it easy to read, and let it breathe. The landscape layout offered plenty of room to feature contributors on an even playing field without stacking them upon each other down the page. Poems and stories flood each page with serif typeface Minion Pro, while a combination of Helvetica Neue and Minion Pro title and credit the author, respectively. The icing on the cake was devising a color coding system to identify the sections, including color coded “H” for Helen tags.

Sparse layouts couldn’t be left excessively blank – I mean, it’s not cost effective to print a magazine that is a third blank pages, we’re not “Elon Musk” rich (...well, seems Elon Musk isn’t even “Elon Musk” rich I suppose.) Nonetheless, instead of poppy, eye-catching, vividly graphical promo ads, a subtle touch seemed explicitly appropriate – remember, focus on the contributors. Muted tones, simple images where cleverness is hinted in the copy. These primally basic calls to action did their jobs soundly, pitching for sales and submissions.

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In its limited print run, Helen: A Literary Magazine received a gracious amount of support and acknowledgment from the local arts community, participating in public events such as the annual Vegas Valley Book Festival as well as being featured in local publications such as Las Vegas WeeklyBLVDSLV, and Las Vegas Seven, and interviewed for KNPR Nevada. Although the publication only actualized three print issues, it continues to thrive in both the digital realm and alternative print formats. Feel free to visit these celebrated laureates at helenlitmag.com

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