Case Study: UCLA Design Media Arts MFA Entry Guide and Graduate Catalog (2011)
Ed. note: This case study is a selection from the 2012 “Justified” competition, in which an esteemed jury identified submissions that demonstrate the value of design in a clear, compelling and accessible way. It serves as an example of how to explain design thinking to clients, students, peers and the public in general, based on specific metrics.
The publication provides a detailed overview of the UCLA department of Design Media Arts (DMA) and includes information about the MFA program, the facilities, the senate faculty and the work of the most recently graduated MFA class. The aim is to inform prospective students about the department and the MFA program in Media Arts. Additionally, the publication doubles as the promotional poster for the department’s annual lecture series and departmental events in the 2011–2012 school year.
This publication required extensive testing in the design phase. Several dummies were made to come up with the “open” french fold solution; several technical translations were tested on the screen grabs to turn them into grayscale TIFFs to import into InDesign. On press, the density of the silver ink layer over the black information from the publication needed to be checked in order to achieve some level of legibility.
The University of California is confronting extraordinary financial challenges during strained economic times. There was no budget for this project and the department could not hire an alumni student to assist with the project. As chair of the department, I decided to take on this project myself, as a pro bono effort, and tried to cut the production costs as much as possible. The MFA program in Design Media Arts is very specific and it is hard to define what media arts is—the best way to understand the program is to look at the work of students and faculty online, and it is very important that prospective students research the departments’ website. That said, this publication needs to provide a dynamic, comprehensive and clear introduction that is compelling and accessible to prospective students.
Normally, this publication exists in three discrete parts: as two separate booklets for the entry guide and the graduate catalog, and a separate large-scale poster for the annual lecture series. I designed one publication bound with a metal prong that, through a simple folding system, can transform from one booklet into another booklet. Basically, by printing one publication on one side of the paper sheet and the other publication on the backside of the sheet, and using an “open” french fold, the entry guide can turn into the graduate catalog. The lecture series poster was printed on the same paper sheets that the publication was printed on, throwing a silver color field with knocked-out white text over all the text/typography of the two publications. The posters doubled as the dust jacket of the entry guide/graduate catalog publication, when folded and placed around the prong-bound booklet. The publication was created using screen grabs of word files and website screens for the purpose of not only emphasizing the merging of media (so characteristic of the department’s mission) but also to encourage readers to go online and do additional research about the department.
Economy: This project saved paper and press time, and yielded significant financial savings to the department. In addition to lower hard costs for production, because the project was completed on a pro bono basis by the designer, there were no design services charged to the department. The designer personally executed the binding and finishing (adding metal prongs and folding posters into a dust jacket) in order to limit usage of the print house to essential services: offset printing, cutting, collating and drilling holes. Because the poster was printed over the sheets of the publication, the printer could run double the amount of sheets and did not have to change and clean the presses in between.
Environment: Per above, this project reduced paper consumption significantly. Two publications and the poster were printed using half the amount of paper from the previous year.
Culture: The aim of this publication, beyond fulfilling its basic communication goals, was to make a statement by drawing attention to and emphasizing the fiscal constraints facing the department and the entire public educational system in California. The publication needed to look “lowbrow”—almost not designed—using screen grabs and “not set” typography. The silver layer that creates the poster created a chaotic look and feel. Since there were several sheets needed for the publication there are a variety of six different posters, where the effect of the cutout letters are legible in some and less so in others.
The reader can transform the publication from “entry guide” to “graduate catalog” by simply folding over all the pages in the other direction—a 2-for-1 strategy that reflected the current climate in the institution and posed a solution for how to do more with less resources.
Five hundred copies of the publication were printed using two paper sheets (25 x 38 inches) printed on both sides in black ink, fitting all 32 pages for the entry guide and 32 pages for the graduate catalog. For all four print runs in black, 125 copies were printed using only one side of the paper for the posters. Those were printed over with a dark silver ink field with white knocked-out typography announcing the 2011–2012 lecture series and DMA events. The 500 posters in four different variations (showing all of the pages of both publications through the ink layer) were also folded as dust jackets for the publication. The publication format: 6 x 8.5 inches, “open” french fold, 32 pages bound with a metal prong. Dust jacket folded to a 6.5-x-9.5-inch format.