OORAH! Always up for a challenge, we were psyched when we learned in spring 2006 that the Marine Corps League had chosen Hammock Inc. as the new publisher of its bimonthly magazine, sent to the organization’s nearly 70,000 members. The publication had been around more than 26 years and needed a fresh look, so Hammock designers and editors drafted a battle plan on how to ramp up from a quarterly to a bimonthly publication and revamp the magazine so it appealed to members and trumpeted the organization’s purpose.
The major challenge to us, as explained by the admittedly skeptical executive director, was whether a group of non-Marine and non-veteran writers and designers could successfully capture the deeply ingrained bond, camaraderie and warrior ethos among Marines.
Defining a rhythm and pace was the first step. The old version lacked organization—it was hard to distinguish a feature from a department. By establishing a clear framework, Hammock helps readers navigate through the magazine. Adding full-page photography in the front and back of the book (an industry term for “magazine”) and sticking with audience-appropriate fonts and colors gave the publication more visual interest.
We spent considerable time talking with the director as well as other Marines and reading widely about America’s premier fighting force. We proposed a bold strategic move: The publication had been called The Marine Corps League magazine—we suggested changing the name to Semper Fi, the Magazine of the Marine Corps League to tie into the Corps’ motto, Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful).
We found ways to hold onto sentimental favorites (such as illustrations used in every issue of the older magazine that were provided by a Marine vet who was a WWII combat artist), while adding fresh aspects that give the magazine a strength it lacked before.
The new design referenced Marine colors and imagery, including its eagle, globe and anchor symbol. It also tapped into Marine Corps terms, such as “Attention on Deck,” “Roll Call,” “Once a Marine” and “Recon” to identify sections and departments. Strong, masculine fonts and an orderly, “squared-away” format gave it a clean, straightforward and contemporary appearance.
Editorially, we included not only a roundup of League activities, but also selected articles about today’s Corps—written by Marines who work for the Corps’ excellent news service—and features on a variety of topics, from personality profiles of Marine veterans to articles on Corps history, to personal recollections of members.
The results have been outstanding—the Marine Corps League reports that its members love the new look and feel, and members continue to send in compliments and rave reviews. We’re satisfied that our work is appreciated by a group of the bravest men and women we know.
Each issue expands our knowledge and increases our already great admiration for the men and women who comprise the U.S. Marines, who are Marines forever. We look at it as our small contribution to thanking all of them for defending this country and the cause of freedom since 1775.
(“How’d we do that?” is a continuing series that examines the creative ways we do things at Hammock. Sometimes, it’s hard to make things look easy. Warning: Don’t try these at home — call us.)
Back in early 2007, when we started talking about creating a new Hammock.com, we determined that it should be a laboratory in which we would test various approaches and technologies and demonstrate the results — especially approaches to web development about which we are enthusiastic, but maybe not quite ready to recommend to our clients. That’s one of the reasons you will — if you look closely — see us constantly adding and removing things from the site.
As part of our laboratory approach, we decided to do two things:
We’ll be sharing several examples of such approaches in future “How’d we do that?” pieces, but it seemed obvious to us that this first look behind the curtain should be at how we’re using the photo sharing service Flickr on Hammock.com — and on Flickr.com/hammock — in a wide variety of ways that help us tell our story in a creative, efficient and, excuse our boasting, extremely cool way.
First, it might help to explain Flickr and why we chose that service to use in our experimentation. Now owned by Yahoo!, Flickr started out as features that were part of a multi-player online game. It may look like a place simply to post photos, but the service’s DNA is all about community and sharing and story-telling and discovery. We started using Flickr early-on. Blogging pioneer Rex was enthusiastic about the blog-like approach the service used to re-think how a photo-sharing service can work (reverse chronological display, commenting and RSS feeds were conventions Flickr launched with). The photos Rex hosted on his Flickr account — like, for instance, his photos of Nashville Greenways — have been viewed over 200,000 times.
At the same time, Patrick became a student of the way in which Flickr allows its data to be accessed and displayed in a wide variety of ways utilizing RSS feeds and (sorry for the geeky acronym) third-party developers who use Flickr’s API. For those not schooled in web-tech alphabet soup, that simply means Flickr allows its users to pull data (i.e., the photos stored there) and to display that data on other websites. The more open a service’s API, the more creative a web developer can be with data from that service. And Flickr is a good service when it comes to allowing a developer to build on its API.
Here are just some of the ways we’re using Flickr:
We’re hosting many of the photos seen on Hammock.com at Flickr.com/hammock. Typically, a web developer places images in a file, hidden away on a server somewhere. We decided that we wanted to use Flickr.com as another platform to show off our work and people and so, when you visit Flickr.com, you can browse around and get a good look at hundreds — and soon to be thousands — of images. In almost every instance, those images are also used here as part of our galleries or, well, almost anywhere you click.
We not only pull photos from Flickr, we pull text: We decided to use Flickr.com as a content management system (CMS) to handle the names and captions that accompany photos on Hammock.com. In other words, rather than entering text twice — on Flickr.com/hammock and on Hammock.com — any person on our staff can name and describe a digital photo, then upload it to Flickr. By utilizing Flickr’s APIs, we then display all of that information whenever a user clicks on a photo. Also, by thinking of Flickr as an easy-to-use content management system, we’ve now got a way that everyone — and we mean everyone — who works at Hammock can manage photos that appear on their people page. No one has to give any photos to a webmaster (what’s that, anyway?) to post or know anything about posting to their page. By just dropping a photo in a set on Flickr, their photo automagically appears on Hammock.com.
We decided not to reinvent the slideshow wheel. On the last iteration of Hammock.com, we had areas where a user could view our work as a Flash slideshow. We’re not big fans of having Flash all over a website, but we know, used correctly, it is a great story-telling tool. Because we were in the mindset of utilizing the tools already baked into Flickr, when the topic turned to displaying our work in Flash, we decided immediately to skip building out that feature ourselves.
There are a few other Flickr tricks sprinkled throughout Hammock.com — and we’re adding more all the time. In the future, we’ll use another “How’d they do that?” to review them.
For now, just smile and say cheese.
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution has published a member magazine in several different forms since July 1892. At that time, DAR had only recently started its work as a patriotic women’s organization, dedicated to its three guiding tenets of education, historic preservation and patriotism. As an internal publication, the magazine was sufficient for the membership, but generally did not reach out to communities not yet touched by the DAR.
In 2001, some 109 years after its inception, the DAR magazine underwent a radical transformation. The magazine was split into two separate publications: Daughters newsletter, which focused on NSDAR news and notices; and American Spirit, a 52-page glossy, bimonthly full-color publication.
Hammock Inc. was hired to produce American Spirit in July 2002. One of the first things Hammock’s editorial and design team did was try to define the audience and the mission for the magazine. One thing we all agreed on—American Spirit should be the kind of magazine you’d want to leave out on your coffee table. The design should rival any commercial magazine, the articles should be intriguing and informative, and the writing should be fresh and vibrant.
Since the revamped American Spirit was intended to reach out to potential new members, we had to make some assumptions there—concluding that this group would likely be younger, with careers or families or both, and were probably accustomed to brightly designed magazines with a variety of topics.
Originally, American Spirit’s editorial lineup called for articles on women’s health and financial affairs. The more we talked with members, the more we felt readers could, and should, go elsewhere for that information, to magazines that exist to focus on those topics. American Spirit should focus instead on the National Society’s core concerns: history—especially women in history—genealogy, education, patriotism and preservation.
More than focusing on the details of long-ago battles, the magazine strives to tell the American story through the women and men who lived this history. Beyond Revolutionary history, American Spirit shows the human side of American life from Colonial times to the present, with articles ranging from features on historic homes, collectibles and Americana to regular articles on historic travel, timeless crafts and preserving family history.
In the past few years, we have changed the editorial mix in response to reader feedback. Under the current DAR National Magazine Chair, Denise Doring VanBuren, we have increased the focus on DAR goals of education, patriotism and preservation. We have also added more articles about individual members and the DAR itself, including departments such as:
And Hammock is always searching for even more creative ways to reach the dedicated members of the DAR, and spotlight the myriad ways they enhance their communities and their country.
Until 2003, the American Watercraft Association published a magazine known as Jet Sports. Professional watercraft racing enjoyed a boom in the early 1990s, and racing provided much of the content. By the end of the 1990s and early into the 21st century, racing had considerably diminished. PWC had come under attack from environmentalists, and the downturn in the national economy exacerbated a drop in sales.
AWA asked Hammock Inc. to redesign and relaunch the magazine from stem to stern. The design was dated, the photography and production values mediocre, and the magazine said little about recreational riding.
This sport is about fun, Hammock’s writers and designers said, so let’s make it look like that. Also, PWC can be used for touring, fishing, snorkeling and diving, even scientific research (and delivering pizzas, we learned later), so let’s talk about that. And let’s give it a new name that embraces all these things—why not just call it Ride PWC Magazine? It’s a noun and a verb, and a command as well—go out and Ride!
Drawing upon surfing and boating magazines for inspiration, yet recognizing that our readers ranged from 20-somethings to 80-plus, we designed a publication that looks like it’s at full throttle there on the coffee table, with clean lines and a shipshape distinction between departments, features and association news.
We applied nautical terms, such as “Waterfront,” “ShipShape” and “Wavelength,” to departments and gave them a distinctive black frame to set them off from features. Editorially, we mapped out five primary uses for PWC—family togetherness, performance, racing, escape and utility—and through the course of a year, we plot coverage of each of those areas.
Since relaunching the magazine, we have added a section for first responders who use PWC in rescues. We’ve also added profiles of corporate and dealer sponsors of AWA, whose support enables the association to continue its mission.