Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Q&A with "Magazine Addict" and Alberta Magazines Conference Keynote Ina Saltz

MagaScene 67 - January 2010

Q&A with “Magazine Addict” and AMC Keynote Ina Saltz

A big part of Ina Saltz's job description involves judging a magazine by its cover. It's a task the self-professed magazine addict clearly loves. The multi-talented Saltz is an art director, author, photographer, design critic, professor and magazine judge (for the National Magazine Awards—US) bringing her expertise to Calgary for the first time.

Saltz is teaching Pace Yourself and CSI: Creative Scene Investigation seminars at the 2010 Alberta Magazines Conference, as well as presenting the Luncheon Keynote: Covers Uncovered. AMPA spoke to Saltz about what gets a cover noticed, common design mistakes and how magazine design has evolved over the years.

AMPA: What's the first thing you notice about a cover--good or bad--and why?

Ina Saltz: I notice whether it is graphically powerful, i.e., sending an immediately clear message with images and words working together seamlessly. And that is the same thing the readers will notice, too, though they might not be able to articulate exactly why the cover isn’t compelling. No matter what the subject matter, if readers don’t “get” the idea in a couple of seconds, you are making them work too hard and they’ll just move on.

Who should attend your sessions and why?

IS: Anyone who is involved in the decisions made on a cover should attend my session CSI: Creative Scene Investigation, if for no other reason than to learn how to avoid making serious cover mistakes. You would be amazed how often even the largest magazines with the biggest budgets overlook obvious problems. And I promise to give you plenty to think about, including ways you can improve what you are doing on your covers at no additional cost.

You have worked for many years as an art director, critiquing both large and small magazines. What is one design mistake that you consistently see?

IS: I see a less-than-perfect marriage of words and images. The level of conflict may vary, but if the cover’s main message is confusing because they don’t go exactly hand-in-glove, it’s a missed opportunity. Every magazine is different, but whatever your subject matter and your audience, you must be direct and speak with clarity to your audience in the way that appeals to that specific group.

How has magazine design changed from when you started in the biz?

IS: I am happy to say that it has changed for the better. Overall there is a greater level of typographic finesse, as young designers are experiencing what I call a new “golden age” of type,and stock resources have exploded so there is wider availability of quality images that are not original, commissioned artworks. What has impressed me most is the high quality of even small circulation city and regional magazines, especially since they often contend with limited budgets, fractional ads, and tons of listings. Navigation aids and clear organizational hierarchy are key.

REGISTER for the 2010 Alberta Magazines Conference--Western Canada's largest professional development conference for magazine professionals. Early-bird ends February 16th, so don't delay!