The Aesthetics of Our Literary Journal

Yesterday, we continued our discussion from last week on the layout of literary journals. This week, our meeting moved from general learning about jargon and the necessary aspects of layout to the discussion of how we would like our own literary magazine to look this year. Each person brought a literary journal in to use as an example and we discussed certain things that we liked and disliked about each journal.

The journal I brought was called Alaska Quarterly Review, which I found in the Colorado State English Department (see the photo above). I brought this specific journal because I liked the shape, which was about the size of a paperback novel, and the table of contents, which was organized by genre and had a very simplistic font.

The most important and primary issue we needed to resolve was the size and shape of journal that we wanted. Last year’s Greyrock was a medium-sized, square book, which I liked for its uniqueness but disliked because of the way it fit on my bookshelf. I suggested that we keep Greyrock simple by making it a thin volume that looks like a paperback book, which would fit well on shelves and blend in with most journals and other books. However, most of the other interns seemed interested in either the same shape as last year’s version or a slightly taller shape — a wide rectangle. We took a vote, and the majority of the group chose the wide rectangle shape, which will be quite large for a book, but one intern made the argument that it will look great on coffee tables, which I agree with.

After the long process of voting on the size and shape of the journal, we spent some time discussing the front matter we want. We will obviously be including the masthead (which describes the role of each intern at Greyrock), a table of contents, a title page, and the copyright information within the front matter. One intern suggested including some art within the front matter, which sounded interesting and was well-received within the group. The table of contents is another important aspect of our layout, which we finally decided would be organized by genre — although the journal itself will not be — without any antiquated dots running from the title to the page number.

One thing that we also had to discuss after deciding on the shape of the journal was whether we want the proof (the author’s work) within the journal to have columns. Several interns mentioned that columns make pages look too choppy and sometimes even confusing. However, we eventually agreed that — with such a large page size — columns would be necessary because huge blocks of text typically appear overwhelming to readers.

Finally, we spent some time discussing where we want our page numbers and whether we want to include running head or feet. We decided very quickly that we would have page numbers at the bottom and outside of each page, and I suggested that we maintain a running foot next to the page numbers. The interns voted to keep this idea, and we will be including the name of the Greyrock Review and the genre of the proof in the foot, which I think will look simple and professional.

There was a lot of friendly disagreement during our meeting, which was productive and added quite an interesting new dynamic to our group. I loved listening to each intern’s unique vision for our magazine. When I received last year’s version of Greyrock, I didn’t consider how much work went into just deciding on how the magazine would look. It became clear to me yesterday that every intern at Greyrock cares about this magazine and how the layout will look. I don’t think anyone chose not to participate in our conversation, and each team member had something to contribute. Even in the disagreements, it was clear that everyone was passionate about creating our journal, and everyone was willing to compromise for the good of the group in the end. I think that this is a caring and engaged group of people who really want to make something unique and important in order to have something special to put their names to when they graduate from CSU.

This week was the most fun one so far, because our team got the chance to sit in a circle and decide exactly how the Greyrock Review is going to look this year. It’s exciting for everyone that we’re starting completely from scratch and we get total creative license over the aesthetic of our magazine. Our task for next week is to come up with two words for the aesthetic that we want to use when creating all the small details of layout next semester, which we will condense at our next meeting in order to get a consensus before we start working on the layout, and my two words are minimalism and color.


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