Twixl in the Classroom

Creating Native Content for Mobile Apps

Twixl Publisher is in the classroom this semester at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The content creation tool for mobile publishing is allowing students to design native content for mobile-apps.

Amara Aguilar is associate professor of professional practice in digital journalism at USC Annenberg. Her expertise includes: digital journalism, emerging media, mobile storytelling, information and communication technologies, news apps and the changing news industry. Having developed and teaching courses such as journalism for mobile and emerging platforms, and interactive media design for publishing, Amara is an expert on content creation and consumption trends.

Amara sat down to discuss how Twixl Publisher is helping the to the next generation of content creators think mobile-first, with a course focused on mobile app creation.

What are you teaching students in terms of content creation?

At USC Annenberg, our philosophy is human-centered storytelling, and presenting story-centered content based on a user-first approach. We are empowering content creators by providing the skills and tools necessary to successfully connect with audiences.

How did you select Twixl, and how are you using it in the classroom?

Twixl was selected because it is an amazing industry standard tool. It provides a mobile mindset for photographs, writing, designing and the user experience. What is nice about Twixl, is that you have the flexibility to create a mobile app with or without coding. Many of my students have coding knowledge. So it is appealing to them, to have the option to apply that knowledge to mobile app building. They really like working with Twixl and are enjoying seeing their work on a mobile platform.  It is a great tool for teams with diverse skillsets.  Everyone can contribute, and create a well-designed app, whether they can code or not.

The course is focused on designing for a native mobile app experience.  It’s a valuable skillset and so relevant today as more people access content through their phones. People know if they are viewing content on a non-native platform, and it often leads to a negative user experience, which can hurt your brand. Content creators need to design native user experiences across platforms.
This class is focused on mobile apps, but content creators need to be focused on the user experience of each platform. The right software is vital to empowering content creators, so they can build user centered experiences across channels. It is also important that software keeps evolving as content consumption changes. Twixl and Adobe are leading the way as industry standard technology.

What makes designing for mobile unique?

It’s a more personal experience, with a focus on visuals and engagement measured in tapping through the content.  Snapchat Discover is a great example of maximizing the use of visuals in a mobile space.

Marcolina Design Discusses Immersive Storytelling Through Interactive Design

For over 25 years, Marcolina Designs has provided innovative design for print, digital, mobile and web. The agency works with regional and national companies to share their brand and story, by delivering unexpected, memorable design solutions that are cohesive across media. Owner, Dan Marcolina, sat down with Nervous Pixel, a division of MEI, Creative Director Will Steuber to discuss how Marcolina Design brings content to life.



Can you tell us a bit about your design philosophy? As a firm, we have a more conceptual approach, striking a balance between look and feel. Whereas a more traditional design firm will just focus on the look.

For me, good design creates an a-ha moment. It’s something we always strive for in our work; some unexpected twist that visually or verbally brings home the client’s message. It makes the subject more memorable. I was a magician as a kid, and have carried that love of magic over to my design work. I want to provide an element of surprise. My goal is to surprise and engage viewers.

Dan Marcolina, Owner, Marcolina Designs

How do you leverage content to shape the user experience? When a project comes in- either digital video or print- we anticipate and promote to the client how we might translate the content to other channels. It’s more than replicating the look. It is translating the essence and utilizing the medium to its fullest potential to extend the relationship and dimension of the brand.

The experience is guided by the platform. In print, you can try to guide the viewer through layout and visual pacing, but they could easily start reading from the middle or end; completely missing all your “choreography” work.   With web, you are never sure how the viewer will access the content. The speed and size of the screen all vary so you have to design for the lowest common denominator. This can be very limiting and complicated from a code stand point. But with tablet, I can design with confidence and really shape the viewer’s experience. I can anticipate most of the variables, like speed and size of screen, and can add unlimited types of visual enhancements like video, sound, and interactive. That’s where you can build in those surprises. The little moments to create an experience through the look and feel. For me, designing for tablet is the most satisfying and where you can come closest to delivering the design vision.

So you are designing the story for the vehicle, right? Exactly. Replica apps are just delivering the same content across platforms. It falls flat. There isn’t a chance to offer those little magic moments, because you don’t know how the viewer will access the content. Content should coexist across platforms, not mirror each other.

Do you see what you are doing as immersive storytelling? Absolutely. It comes back to my early desire to bring print graphics to life. It is what I am most interested in: creating engaging and immersive experiences for audiences. It is bringing the content and message to life in surprising ways, and making the experience interactive.

What are working on now? Over the course of your career, what medium have you worked in most? Over the course of my career, I have probably done the most work for print, but right now, a lot of my work is focused on motion graphics and augmented work. I am hoping to do more for tablet.

One of the reasons I enjoy designing for tablet so much is that it combines everything I have learned over the course of my career. It is where motion graphics, print design, and video converge.

Adobe Senior Art Director, Russell Brown said you cross mediums from print to interactive to motion very well, and therefore represent a good example of the New Designer. Do you have any advice for young designers? What knowledge do you think designers today need to have? My advice would be: learn 3D and After Effects. Designers today have to speak the language of print, digital, mobile and web. So you need a lot of tools in your toolbox to be able to successfully deliver your message across those platforms. The more skills you can develop the more flexibility you have to be creative.

I’d also recommend Twixl Publisher for tablet and app design. It’s an affordable option and does not require coding knowledge, so it’s more accessible. You can convert DPS content and create the same type of overlays; it’s a great tool for designers. We actually create our promotional pieces using Twixl.

Marcolina Design Inc. founded and operating since in 1990 by Dan and Denise Marcolina. Marcolina Design is a digital experience agency, with a portfolio that includes print, interactive, video, and augmented work. Clients include: Adobe, Johnson & Johnson, Discovery, and Fox Sports. Marcolina Design is based in Ambler, Pennsylvania.


Network Media Partners Shares Insight into Digital and Print Magazine Production

Above photo by Matthew Rakola

Network Media Partners, LLC is a business services firm for associations, specializing in: customized media sales, design, event planning and management, and marketing services. For more than 30 years, Network Media Partners has provided award winning design services. We sat down with Vice President of Creative Strategy, Jen Smith, to discuss their process for efficiently producing digital and print magazines.

Jen Smith, Vice President, Creative Strategy
Jen Smith, Vice President, Creative Strategy

Can you provide an overview of Network Media Partners (Network), and your publication design work? Certainly. Network works exclusively with associations. Our services include: advertising and integrated media sales, publication design, and marketing and event management services. We work with local, regional, national, and global clients. Most recently, we partnered with global organization MCI to become part of MCI USA. This partnership increased our capacity to meet clients’ growing sales, event, and publishing needs. Our design services are almost exclusively publication design. We do a lot of re-designs and new publication launches.

Right now we regularly produce nine magazines, in addition to the clients we provide initial set-up support and design for. We work in partnership with our association clients, from the early stages of content planning. Network is part of the content strategy discussions for the magazine, and helps develop the right content strategy for the magazine, be it an app or print media. The challenge for associations is how to produce content for all platforms, within a restricted budget. Our work is focused on multi-channel delivery, so we are thinking about visual communications for print and digital simultaneously. We are looking for opportunities to maximize all assets across platforms.

Are your clients focused on print or digital? There has been a big evolution for digital over the last four years. As an industry the idea that everything could be digital seemed really enticing, especially to our client base of associations. Now you are seeing a boomerang. The reality is that you need to be able to provide print and digital components. The questions are: where does your audience expect to find you, and how often do you need to be in front of them? We have one client that launched a magazine as digital-only, then moved to print. They discovered the print magazine was more successful in readership and revenue (i.e. ad sales). For many, the right strategy now is a strong print component with a strong digital component.

What is your workflow strategy? Each client has a different workflow, but from the beginning we are thinking about print and digital, and are involved in early content planning meetings. By being involved early in the process, we are able to identify opportunities to expanded on content from print to digital. For example, if we learn a photographer is being sent out to cover a story, we may ask for video, which we can use in the digital version. This gives digital consumers a little something extra, which is the expectation.

Templates are very important to efficiently produce content. There are certain rules to build consistency for a magazine, but there is also room for creativity. We use style sheets, grids, and grid options based on the components of the articles, any standing content or page elements.

Our process is to work through all the milestones of the print schedule, then while the issue is at the printer, the digital version is produced. TruEdit’s TruAuthor HTML content authoring component has been very instrumental in quickly producing responsively designed HTML content that can be plugged into the app. This allows us to easily have print and digital go live at the same time.

Explain the major difference in managing content for print and digital? This is something we consider a lot. It’s really about using the same content asset, but applying a different approach to suit the medium. The designer will use the same art and give it the same feel, but the presentation will be different. We are designing content for the way it is consumed. With a mobile layout, it’s much more templated so the text is easy to read. The smaller the screen, the more focus is placed on text.

Network’s publication design in both print and digital formats have won numerous awards, including Folio: Eddie and Ozzie Awards, The Apex Awards, and Association Media & Publishing Excel Awards. They are based in Hunt Valley, Maryland. For more information on Network Media Partners, please visit their website.


Upgrading to vjoon K4 Version 7 Offers Approval Process, Automated Template Elements and Storage Engine

Whether you’re installing from scratch or upgrading an older version, there’s never been a better time to make the move to the vjoon K4 Cross-Media Publishing Platform. From everyday end-users to behind-the-scenes administrators, your entire editorial team will see an increase in efficiency and productivity.

Here are just a few of the options available in version 7:

K4 Approval Manager and K4 Web Editor ICML Advanced

The K4 Approval Manager client license is a new option that speeds the review and approval processes in your workflow, with advanced capabilities accessible in a standard web browser.

Once the license key with the desired number of K4 Approval Manager licenses is installed for the K4 system and users have the corresponding access rights configured for them, K4 Web Portal is extended by dedicated menus, commands and panels, and the K4 Approval Manager functions are enabled. K4 Approval Manager allows users to log into the K4 Web Portal (from either their task list in a Query panel or from a URL in an assignment email), and accept approval tasks for articles as well as layouts.

Approval tasks can be incorporated into layout and article workflows, with rewinds built in to automatically set back the workflow to a previous task and assign it to the user/group that is responsible for the necessary corrections. For layout changes, the corrections are always made using K4 Layout in InDesign.

A user can also accept approval tasks for InCopy articles placed in the layout, and indicate approval or rejection for each text object in the article. Additionally, the user can make changes to the text (based on responsibility and permissions) within the K4 Approval Manager preview using K4 Web Editor ICML Advanced. By selecting a text object in the layout and choosing to edit it, a K4 Web Editor ICML Advanced window opens where the text – including tables – can be revised. Clicking away from the editing window to anywhere on the layout automatically updates the layout view to reflect the change to the InCopy text. Alternatively, the user can simply not approve and not modify any text object and rewind the article back in the workflow to the applicable user/group to make the corrections in K4 Edit in InCopy.

Related Post: Approval Management – Time saving new feature in vjoon K4 version 7

vjoon Storage Engine

vjoon K4 7.0 offers a new configuration option that stores your binary content files in a managed file system instead of in the K4 database – with automatic snapshots taken of the data. This reduces database sizes up to 90% or more, eliminates the long backup routines, and provides high data flexibility and availability by creating restorable publication states for speedy data recovery and business continuity.

vjoon Storage Engine (SE) allows you to flexibly determine for each publication where its data is stored, and where its snapshot areas are stored. Storage and snapshot areas can be in a local file system, in a remote file system, or in the cloud. It is recommended that snapshots should be on separate hardware and/or in a separate location. You can use snapshot rules to create snapshots automatically at certain points in time – for example, for daily, weekly and monthly snapshots – and assign them to a configuration and its associated publication. In addition, you can create instant snapshots any time on demand.

There is no downtime or performance degradation as the Storage Engine functions. If there is a need to roll back to a snapshot, data restoration is prioritized by the system, with working files restored first. Using the Storage Engine, there is no need to wait for a database backup to be fully restored before users can resume working with their files.

Related Post: vjoon K4 Storage Engine and Remote Hosting in the Cloud

K4 Universal Seat

When a K4 Universal Seat license is purchased, it allows a user to connect to one K4 server from any of the available K4 client application licenses – K4 Edit from InCopy, K4 Layout from InDesign, K4 Web Editor ICML, K4 Web Editor ICML Advanced, K4 Approval Manager, K4 Web Editor HTML, or K4 File Manager – depending on the access rights configured for the user. If a Universal Seat connection license is used when logging into the K4 Web Portal, K4 Web Editor ICML Standard/Advanced and K4 Approval Manager automatically include access to K4 File Manager and K4 Web Editor HTML.

K4 Universal Seats can be purchased as additions to expand client functionality in the system, and/or existing K4 client licenses can be upgraded to K4 Universal Seats.

More software and services available with a vjoon K4 version 7 upgrade:

  • K4 Integration with Single Sign On (SSO)
  • K4 Integration with Twixl Publisher
  • MEI Project Planning, Oversight and Administration
  • Upgrade Installation and K4 Admin Training
  • On Premise Storage Engine Installation and Asset Transfer
  • K4 Workflow Reconfiguration and Validation
  • End User Training for K4 Upgrade
  • Rollout Supervision After K4 Upgrade
  • Integrating K4 Publishing System with Amazon Cloud Services
  • AWS Cloud Configuration Consultation
  • Storage Engine Installation, Amazon S3 Integration and Asset Transfer
  • Amazon EC2 Installation/Configuration with S3 Integration and Asset Transfer

Download the vjoon K4 v7 product brochure

Request the vjoon K4 v7 Storage Engine White Paper

vjoon K4 Storage Engine and Remote Hosting in the Cloud

With the K4 Publishing System version 7, vjoon offers a new configuration option—vjoon Storage Engine— that stores binary content files in a managed file system instead of in a K4 database, with automatic snapshots taken of the data. Use of the Storage Engine can significantly reduce database sizes, eliminate long backup routines, and provide high data flexibility and availability by creating restorable publication states for quick data recovery and business continuity.

vjoon Storage Engine (SE) allows storage and snapshot locations to be determined for each publication. Storage and snapshot areas can be in a local file system or in the cloud. Snapshot rules can be set to create snapshots automatically at designated points in time—for example, daily, weekly and monthly snapshots —and assign them to a configuration and its associated publication. In addition, instant snapshots can be created at any time on demand.

With these options, K4 systems can now be partially or fully virtualized on Amazon Cloud servers, potentially reducing server hardware and maintenance costs.

There is no downtime or performance degradation as the Storage Engine functions. Using the Storage Engine, there is no need to wait for a database backup to be fully restored before users can resume working with their files. If there is a need to roll back to a snapshot, data restoration is prioritized by the system, with working files restored first.

vjoon Storage Engine is available as two modules:

  • vjoon Storage Engine (SE): The base module for defining storage and snapshot areas.
  • vjoon SE Integration with Amazon S3: An extension for adding cloud support for storage and/or snapshot areas.

K4 7’s integration with Amazon EC2 and S3 cloud, the vjoon Storage Engine, offers expanded configuration options with respect to deployment of the K4 system applications (including Adobe InDesign Server), the SQL databases and the storage and snapshot areas.

  1. K4 system applications and database(s) remain installed on local servers. Storage and snapshot areas are deployed locally using the vjoon Storage Engine.
  2. K4 system applications and database(s) remain installed on local servers. Storage and snapshot areas are deployed on Amazon S3 using vjoon Storage Engine.
  3. K4 system applications and database(s) are deployed on Amazon EC2. Storage Engine snapshot and storage area are deployed on Amazon S3.

To ensure full understanding of each available option and the optimum use and full functionality of the Storage Engine and integrations with Amazon Cloud Services, planning must occur that considers each configuration option with respect to goals, resources and costs. Further, implementation must optimize use of each component of the system to provide maximum benefit.

To get more information and see MEI’s considerations for a Storage Engine installation, download MEI’s White Paper on the vjoon Storage Engine.

TMBI uses Twixl Publisher and MEI to deliver digital issues of Reader’s Digest and 11 other popular titles

A global media and direct marketing company known for brands like Reader’s Digest and Taste of Home, Trusted Media Brands, Inc. (TMBI) has 40 million readers and 60 million social media followers. In 2017, the company adopted Twixl Publisher to create and publish their digital magazine issues with a more efficient and cost-effective mobile app platform. MEI is the primary North American distributor of Twixl Publisher and for installation, training and entitlement services.


When digital magazines first made a splash on the early versions of the iPad, TMBI immediately began working to deliver their titles in digital formats.

“We dove in and spent a lot of time producing digital editions of our magazines,” says Kerri Balliet, TMBI’s Vice President of Content Operations. “They were robust and interactive, however scaling that business was challenging and not cost efficient.”

TMBI needed to find a more cost-effective mobile app platform that would enable them to create high-quality digital experiences across tablets and smartphones.


Balliet and team began evaluating other tools in the marketplace and discovered Twixl Publisher. “In reviewing other digital publishing tools, we discovered that Twixl had very comparable functionality to the other digital publishing platforms on the market. It certainly had everything we needed to publish our titles at TMBI.”

The cost was a big draw. “Twixl was a fraction of the cost of our legacy digital publishing solution,” she says, “so not only could we create the right customer experience, but we could realize significant savings as well.”

TMBI implemented Twixl Publisher, which has allowed them to deliver a consistent, immersive reading experience that includes interactive versions of their popular Word Power and Around the World with One Question features in Reader’s Digest.

So far, TMBI’s development team has transitioned 9 of their 12 titles to Twixl. “By moving to Twixl, we could standardize our digital titles across the board,” says Kate Unger, Business Analyst for TMBI. “We believe this standardization will allow us to scale more easily in the future.”

TMBI has found MEI to be a valuable partner as well. “Our team was new to Twixl Publisher and MEI was instrumental in bringing us up to speed and helping us navigate some complicated waters,” says Kerri Balliet. “They’ve provided us with expert support throughout the process, so we’ve been able to resolve issues quickly and stay on track with development. We look forward to continuing to work closely with them as we bring more of our titles to Twixl, and we’ll count on them to help us expand the features of our digital magazines so we can keep engaging and inspiring our loyal readers.”

See TMBI titles and more in the Twixl App Gallery


A Thing or Two About Supporting a Content Project or Two

I’ve been working for MEI on the Customer Success team for approximately six years. My primary responsibility is to provide software training and support for our customers using TruEdit and the Twixl Publisher and Adobe Experience Manager Mobile app building platforms. The range and depth of knowledge that is required to stay on top of responsive content authoring and these mobile app platforms can be astounding. My challenge is to communicate detailed and complex software configurations, techniques and best practices in a clear and cogent format for experienced and new users. My typical day includes leading remote training sessions, calls with clients to work through issues ranging from problems with an image in an InDesign file to techniques for displaying fonts on an HTML page, to providing assistance with building and submitting applications to iTunes and Google Play.

My role here at MEI requires that a majority of my time is spent working and interacting with clients. This gives me a unique insight into their challenges when working on their publishing projects. I have built great working relationships during the many hours of training, troubleshooting and just shooting the breeze. I enjoy this part of my job and I think the clients do too. One of my clients once sent me a “Sweet and Salty” gift basket as a thank you, which I think was meant as a comment on my patient but thorough training style. Another client based in Utah was so gracious as to track down a local pizzeria and send me a surprise pizza lunch to the office. I like pepperoni pizza by the way – for future reference.

I’ve trained hundreds of people across dozens of companies. I’ve answered hundreds of support questions and I have reviewed even more. Through all of that, I’ve discovered that the biggest challenges I encounter with clients are not necessarily about technical skills or software – rather it is providing assistance on the transition from traditional publishing to digital publishing. Here are a few pointers that I always share:

Mobile must be part of the strategy

Mobile devices reach into every corner of home and business on the planet. We willingly bring them along with us on our daily routines and more often than not these devices consume a great deal of time in our daily routine. According to studies, the average U.S. consumers now spends up to 5 hours per day on their mobile devices — that’s 35 hours a week, which is just shy of a typical 40-hour workweek! It’s critical for a publisher to adapt a mobile and content strategy that enables them to create, update and deliver mobile-friendly content.

Don’t treat your mobile content initiatives as an afterthought

One of the first hurdles is the process for transitioning content intended for print production by massaging it into a format that is optimized for a tablet, phone, or a website. Treating your digital “mobile” friendly content as an afterthought in your print workflow doesn’t work. Stop thinking about how to make a double page spread look good on a phone and start thinking about how the elements can fit together on mobile screens to best convey the story. It does not mean that you stop designing pages, it just means you don’t need to rely on a print layout as your starting point.

Create your content in a malleable way from the very beginning

Create your content in an HTML format that is flexible and responsive so that it can be easily adapted for any and all devices as well as for print output. Eliminate the need to create multiple layouts to address various tablet sizes, phone sizes, print pages and web content. If you can produce content that is in a format that is responsive, the time saved by not having to re-create the same content can be applied in far more creative ways. You can create the content once and output to several channels without the need to redesign or layout the content in numerous ways. My value to the MEI clients is based on making them more efficient and focused on the creative and substantive aspects of content creation and design – not manually re-formatting the same content for different output channels.

Don’t abandon the most critical aspects of your traditional workflow process

A content creation process that allows people to work independently or together as a team in order to leverage the many skills and tasks needed to produce great content and be efficient are keys to success. Allowing teams to monitor and control different aspects of a project is critical in a multi-channel production process.

You don’t need give up those tried and true workflow steps that have worked well for your team in your current workflow. Bring those same controls to your digital workflow using a tool like TruEdit.

Every day, digital content creation is changing and I strive to stay on top of best practices.

TruEdit and Twixl Power New NEA Today Magazine App

National Education Association and Network Media Partners Launch New NEA Today Magazine Mobile App—with Workflow Powered by MEI’s TruEdit and Twixl Publisher

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. The Association has affiliates in every state and in more than 14,000 communities nationwide.

This spring, NEA debuted a new version of the NEA Today magazine app, which is now available to the organization’s 3 million members. This launch represents a major accomplishment, made possible by the Network Media Partners design team, and the TruEdit HTML content creation and Twixl Publisher mobile app platforms.

“NEA wanted to increase advocacy and engagement among our members, and we also wanted to reach new pro-public education audiences by expanding our digital footprint into the Apple and Android marketplaces,” says Earline Spence, who led the project from concept to delivery.

The original application was produced using Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite (DPS). That version lacked a number of components that NEA had envisioned, and with fewer than 1,000 downloads during the first 18 months of the apps existence, the project was minimally successful.

“Our annual survey readership results found that very few NEA members realized that an app version of the flagship magazine existed,” Spence says. “The need for a new approach was clear, so we launched an extensive RFP process, during which we selected Network Media Partners for development of the new application, and Weber Shandwick to build a cohesive marketing strategy.”

To boost results, Network created a new content strategy with NEA, and started work on a redesign of the NEA Today app using Twixl Publisher. Network also partnered with Managing Editor Inc. (MEI), provider of TruEdit and North American reseller and support partner for Twixl Publisher. MEI worked with Network to integrate TruEdit and Twixl Publisher to enable Network to develop and implement the new NEA Today app. The results have been exceptional, and more than 1,800 downloads occurred during the first 3 months alone.

“The new app is more intuitive, and we’ve been able to integrate content from many NEA Today vehicles—not just the print magazines. The redesigned app also includes a carousel on the home screen which allows us to continuously publish fresh content on a weekly schedule,” says Spence.

There have been additional benefits to working with Network and for using Twixl Publisher, Spence continues. “Network has been an incredible partner throughout the development process. They came to the table with fresh ideas and provided excellent support and expertise in a way that made things very easy on the client side,” she says.

“Plus, our costs are down 80 percent. The transition from Adobe DPS to Twixl Publisher with Network as partner has been a seamless, win-win situation.”

Jen Smith, vice president of creative strategy for Network Media Partners, cites her team’s intentional design process as key to the project’s success. “The technology allows us to publish continuously and integrate three NEA Today titles and audiences,” she says. “Also, we’ve built content that is specific to each device, so it’s pixel-perfect for iPads and responsive for smartphones.”

With the new digital app up and running, NEA has begun to use it for events, like the organization’s annual conference. Plans for an NEA podcast are underway, and the association will publish digital magazines more frequently, offering custom versions for various NEA audiences, including students studying to become educators, new K-12 teachers, and higher education professionals.

To ensure digital reader adoption rates continue to grow, NEA will continue to enhance the magazine app.

“Network’s creative design and app-building expertise, coupled with the power of the TruEdit and Twixl Publisher platforms, has drastically enhanced NEA members’ digital experience,” says Spence. “We are confident that Network will continue to help us deliver quality digital products to educators in the months and years ahead.”

From Letterpress To CSS in Only 22 Years

Kicking and Screaming

I was dragged from the print world into the digital world kicking and screaming. Phones? I’d still have a rotary if I could. Books? I like the paper kind. Video games? I’ve not touched one since our Intellivision died back in the mid 80’s. Nostalgic? Maybe just a little bit.

I was a proud print designer and I had a nice little niche in my professional career. I was the template master. I loved it. I was good at it. I was considered a goddess in certain circles. But in digital publishing, where everything seemed more fluid, more transitory and temporary, was there really a need for exacting consistency? Would InDesign still be relevant in a few years? How would evolving content and design, created for a society on the move, ever be templatized? It kept me up at night.

Baby Steps

I made the jump from print design to digital/mobile design in 2011. I knew that if I wanted to grow my career, I’d have to let go—­or at least loosen my grip—of my singular love of print design. I wasn’t excited about it.

I started with baby steps. I would make prototype comps in InDesign and then hand them over to a web designer to recreate in Dreamweaver/HTML. From this I learned two very important things. 1) pixel perfect design was not possible and 2) our web designer could be bought off with Mountain Dew. At some point I got a hold of some HTML articles for an iPad publication that we were working on and I started pulling them apart to see how it all worked.

Be Still My Heart

At first, I couldn’t really figure out the logic. Why does this code mean that? How can I design with only a few H tags? Then I found out about cascading style sheets. Low and behold, I found something in that CSS file that made my heart skip a beat—patterns and rules.

Patterns of indents, brackets, and codes controlled by rules that were documented and not up for interpretation. Everything that I had done since my 10th grade journalism class had prepared me for this.

Paragraph styles, nested styles, based on styles, object styles etc. It was all basically there in this lovely little CSS file that was magically controlling everything else. I could plan ahead for variations. I could combine style instructions into groups to practically automate the design process. I could make global changes without picking through dozens of files. I found order, consistency, and efficiencies that ultimately gave me more time to get creative.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Over the last year, I’ve spent more time working in HTML than I have in InDesign and I’m actually happy about it. I’m still a beginner and I’m constantly breaking things but that’s how I learn. I never would have believed that I, the letterpress girl from 90s would find a comfortable spot in this digital world. But here I am, doing what I do best, just in another language—HTML—and it only took me about 22 years.

Print vs. Digital: Finding the Right Balance for Associations

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the AM&P NYC breakfast education seminar on April 7th  to hear about the challenges association publishing execs must consider to strike the right media mix between digital and print for their audiences. Michel Winkelman of Leverage Media moderated the seminar which featured Paul Tarricone, Editor and Publisher of Lighting Design + Application (LD+A) and James G. Elliott, President of James G. Elliott Company. Here are some of the insights they shared.

James Elliott emphasized that every media tool has a different purpose and requires research to understand the right mix. Look at your own association’s audience preferences and review what your competitors are doing.

Magazines are not dead and digital is not a panacea: digital magazines are viewed differently by ad agencies than print because of the different analytics used, so they may not be the most productive revenue source for your particular association.

LD+A is the flagship publication for the 8,000-member Illuminating Engineering Society of North America, publishing 13 magazines per year with digital magazine access provided to members-only via a “flip-page” replica. Paul Terricone said their research shows that members are “very loyal” to the print publication particularly with its design focus and older demographics.

LD+A embarked on a major e-newsletter program to increase their readership to new audiences and provide a vehicle for advertisers who were interested in more than digital banner ads. They are now producing 16 themed e-newsletters, three of which are tied to major industry events as well as advertising sponsored, on-demand video newsletters. Because the audiences are different, they are able to reuse content produced for the magazines in the e-newsletter, which helps keep their costs low.  The e-newsletters are being sent to a list of 40,000. Results have been impressive with an average 25% open rate and steady demand by advertisers. These programs have added additional revenue streams while introducing their content to new audiences.

The question to move to digital needs to be weighed by considering the demographic mix and reading habits of your primary audience while also considering your associations goals such as expanding circulation or recruiting new members. Bottom line: conduct research and use the tools that best fit the job—whether it is to increase readership, capitalize on new revenue opportunities or both!