Montani Semper Liberi
Our home is West Virginia, a collection of beautiful landscapes, breathtaking wildlife, and hardworking people. Little known fact: On April 20, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation making West Virginia a state, separate from Virginia. On June 20, 1863, WV became a state and the only state created by presidential decree. We find it fascinating that so many around the county don’t realize that WV is separate from VA.
We were beside ourselves when we found out that West Virginia’s Department of Arts, Culture, and History chose our bid to design their 2019-2020 calendar. The next big shock came less than a year later when they picked us for a one-year contract to manage their biannual magazine Details’ designing and formatting. To get to do what we do on a government contract with our home state is pretty stellar.
Historic Preservation In the Mountain State
The Department of Arts, Culture, and History once had a periodic publication dubbed Details. This magazine served as a platform to announce projects, accomplishments, and other vital information. Unfortunately, years had passed without a new edition until WVDAH decided to release a request for proposal (RFP) in hopes of contracting an agency to handle the design and formatting of Details for the length of one-year (two editions).
Step 1: Building An Organizational System
WVDACH already had a number of articles and photography. The first thing we did was develop a shared spreadsheet that outlined each piece and its accompanying info, such as word count and author name. While most articles were around 600 words, some were much larger and in excess of 1200 words. Sorting this data first allowed us to hone how articles would be featured, including which one would get the prestigious placement on the main spread.
WVDACH knew beforehand that they wanted Volume 19, Issue 1, to have twenty pages. With this constraint in mind, organizing all of the data was crucial in helping us decide how to move forward with fitting as much as possible without sacrificing style. A significant part of a professional presentation is consistency. To accomplish this, we also began constructing a branding guide to outline formatting rules for hyphenation, indention, drop caps, and other minutiae for consistency’s sake.
A Calendar Highlighting WV Literature
The calendar’s goal was to highlight the work of West Virginian authors while also showcasing the beauty of various historical places within the state. The team at WVDACH paired chosen excerpts with images and provided us with the files. We featured the chosen images at the above each month’s spread, overlayed with book excerpts in a way that didn’t skew their compositions.
The Fun Part (No, Really)
A study into calendars, including previous editions contracted by the WVDAH, gave us some insight into how to best execute the technical layout of the months, days, dates, and past/next months on each page. From a blank file, we constructed a painstakingly precise structure for each month. Our goal (as it always is) was to have consistency across the project. Each month matched one another, from the structural elements’ alignment to the font typefaces and point sizes.
Problems We Solved
WVDACH’s biannual publication, Details, had been out of print for about six years, and even then, the agency lacked a consistent style and execution. They had the content but needed us to bring it all together and make it look great. For both the calendar and the magazine, the first problem we assessed was the fact that we would be working with multiple files from multiple people within the WVDACH. We created an organizational system to help us keep all the facts and data in order, while also flagging the information we still lacked from the client. We used a similar set of conventions and standards when developing their 2019 calendar.
Aside from making it look great and keeping the projects organized, the finished files had to meet conventional print standards, complete with a minimum 300 DPI for photos, 0.125″ for bleeds, and separate layers for flood varnishes.
Our Favorite Aspects
This project gave us the experience of working remotely with a large number of people as we coordinated content. Of course, for a small creative agency that started in the dining room of an old coal camp house, winning print design contracts with your home state is beyond exciting.
The experience of working with a department of historic preservation professionals has also been rewarding and enriching. There is a lot of great work happening in our state, and we love the storied past and enduring beauty of our Mountain Momma.