Lights Magazine, created on the mag+ mobile publishing platform, is a creative mobile publication that recently took center stage at the Dallas ADDY awards. Four golds, and one ‘best of show’ award later, we asked Troy Myatt, design director of Tamarack Publishing, to give our readers some tips on what it takes to create award-winning design in the mobile space. Here is what Troy had to say.
As designers, we anguish over every aspect of our projects in order to get the best results for our clients. At the same time, we want the affirmation and approval of our employers, colleagues and peers. One of the most public forms of recognition takes place at the many award shows sponsored by the design, marketing and publishing communities.
Of course, there’s no sure-fire formula for doing well in these competitions, since they’re judged by experts who make decisions based on their own biases and experiences. However, there are certain things you can do to maximize your chances during awards season. Since I’ve had the good fortune of winning several honors for the mobile publications I’ve designed, mag+ asked me to share a few pointers for award-winning design.
1. Keep your team small and focused.
I’ve found that it’s not about the number of people you throw at a project – it’s about the quality of the team you assemble. I prefer to work with a very small team, rather than committees or competing groups. Here’s the key: be sure that everyone on the team is a subject matter expert, from content creation to design to programming. Mutual respect and honest communication between team members can also be big factors in the final results.
2. Take full advantage of the mobile medium.
When print publications are translated to tablets or smartphones, the results are often less than stellar. Usually, the publication simply uses a PDF or jpg format, with no consideration given to the many advantages of the mobile medium. This forces the reader to pinch in and out to read small blocks of copy or navigate columns that work well in print but fail miserably on mobile devices.
With the two mobile publications I’ve designed – RANGE Magazine with the team from the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association and Lights Magazine for Corporate Magic, a leading events production company – I wanted readers to realize immediately that we understood the mobile medium. For this reason, each feature story contained a subtle but surprising reveal at the very beginning. After that, the content took the lead and design elements were kept to a minimum to increase readability. Working with this idea, I also found it easier to translate the design from tablets to mobile devices, where you have less real estate to work with.
3. Let the content dictate the form.
In other words, don’t create cool effects for their own sake. Instead, invent interesting design flourishes that work in tandem with the content. Take a look at Lights Magazine and you’ll see several examples of this. The cover and table of contents incorporate a “fractal face swipe” that instantly communicates to readers that this is not your ordinary mobile publication. For a story on creating miniature figurines of people through 3D printing, the opening graphic quickly illustrates the main idea. For a story on the eternal battle between creativity and budgets, visual metaphors reinforce the struggle. A story on a legend in the music and event production industries offers a harmonious mix of musical motifs, photos and type. To see these examples for yourself, download the publication for free on Apple devices or on Android devices.
4. Keep your interface simple and don’t overwhelm your readers with effects.
While mobile does open up many design possibilities, don’t overdo it. A publication that’s packed with flashy design tricks and interactive effects can be as off-putting as a boring PDF flip book. Make smart choices and keep your reader engaged and wanting more.
5. Gain inspiration from other digital publications.
All of us in this industry are inspired by the outstanding work of others, and mobile design is no different. I always enjoy seeing the work of the award-winning team at Garden & Gun, including their excellent covers using full cover videos. I also admire Richard Branson’s pioneering publication Project. One of my favorite covers features Jeff Bridges promoting the movie Tron: Legacy.
6. Chose an excellent mobile publishing platform.
I’ve used mag+ digital publishing software for all of the mobile publications I’ve designed. Its ease of use, awesome customer support and trend-setting updates allow me to re-think how publication design can be applied within the tablet and mobile space – without having to focus entirely on coding. The ability to quickly share updates with the team is another big advantage.
Design for mobile publications is still somewhat in its infancy, and the possibilities are practically unlimited. I encourage you to exploit all of the potential of this new medium and develop something that achieves your clients’ goals and receives high marks from award judges. Good luck – I can’t wait to see what you create.
About the author:
In his career, Troy Myatt has worked for ad agencies, in-house marketing groups and Fortune 500 companies. Recently, his digital design for Lights Magazine won “Best of Show” and four Gold Addy Awards at the 2015 AAF Dallas American Advertising Awards. Another publication, RANGE Magazine, has won multiple awards, including honors from the Western Publishing Association Maggie Awards, AIGA Texas, the Dallas Society of Visual Communications and HOW. Currently, he is developing digital and print publications for a new company, Tamarack Publishing.