Isaac Nikolai Fox

The Attaché Journal of International Affairs

A new brand identity for one of Canada’s leading undergraduate publications.

Roles

Lead designer, co-editor-in-chief, project manager.

Goals

Create a new way of presenting long-form research that is more engaging for the public.

Design Tools

InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Unsplash.


After working as a junior editor for The Attaché, I took over as co-editor-in-chief and lead designer for the journal’s 2019 edition. Previous editions suffered from a problem hurting most academic publications: they were too text-heavy, and as a result – nobody actually read them.

Before jumping into the redesign, I started by doing preliminary user research to better understand the needs and pain points of the journal’s potential readers. I spoke to a student in the International Relations program, an undergraduate in a different field, and a faculty member, using old copies of The Attaché as reference material. The interviews were informal, brief, and conducted both in-person and via Facebook Messenger.

The key insights I obtained from these interviews were:

  • All previous editions were too heavily text-based to read in-full, and users found they felt cold and uninviting
  • The readers reported burning out very quickly
  • More imagery and variation in the print design would help sustain readers’ attention
  • Professors and T.A.’s want to be able to easily access citations when reading

Armed with this new understanding of the readers, I created vision-boards with images from publications that manage to balance their text-heavy content effectively with imagery and colour, creative typography and structure, slug-lines, and block quotes. These references included The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, National Geographic and The Fader, among others. Using InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator, I created a consistent print structure for the magazine and design assets, to create a familiar-but-engaging feel for readers and establish a strong identity for the journal.

Each article is preceded by a two-page cover spread in full-colour, and then has an ABAC page structure for the article bodies, to balance the variation readers needed with scholarly consistency. Using Unsplash’s user-submitted library of Creative Commons photos, I chose striking images to accompany the body text, and created some assets of my own in Illustrator – such as the vector map of Crimea. I also chose to use in-text footnotes rather than endnotes, to make scanning references easier for faculty members reading the journal.

In the midst of planning the new brand identity, my co-editor and I also recruited and worked with a team of junior editors to rank, select and copy-edit submissions for the issue, and provide revision notes to selected contributors whose work needed clarification. We also reached out to members of the International Relations department for feedback and for the journal forewords.

I also contributed one of my own research papers on the Crimean Annexation to the final print issue. My co-editor and I co-ordinated a release plan with the contributors, junior editors, and the IR Society, and launched the magazine online via Issuu in late 2019.



The Attaché Journal of International Affairs no. 15 is available online.

Using Format