While Hammock Inc. is known for providing a wide array of outsourced services related to media and community strategy, creation and management, we are also a “user” of a wide array of outsourced services to do our jobs and manage our business.
For example, in a typical year, we will work with around 150 freelance writers, photographers, illustrators, videographers and web developers. We also outsource a long list of administrative and technical support services ranging from managing payroll to keeping our color printers humming.
Being a customer of outsourced services has taught us a lot about being a provider of outsourced services. For the most part, these lessons have come from taking what works in one experience or relationship and applying it to the next similar challenge. I’ll admit, with much regret, that some of these lessons have come from our being “bad clients.”

The cover of a magazine—its colors, words and images—determine how quickly a reader will pick it up off of a newsstand or coffee table. With this in mind, editors and designers look for an inspiring or provocative shot to grace the cover—something that represents what the audience wants to see or read about the most, or speaks to a particular demographic. So what happens when there are two (or more) equally compelling stories that are cover worthy? When faced with this dilemma, some editors are choosing multiple covers for one issue.

Space is a premium in most magazines, but filling up all available nooks and crannies on a page is rarely the best design solution. To give your design a little room to breathe and to keep a reader focused on what’s most important about a layout, the most effective choice is often wide-open white space.

Written and Doodled by Rex

Earlier this summer, at the annual conference of our client, Association Media & Publishing, I enjoyed a presentation on “visual thinking” by Dan Roam, author of the best-selling book, Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures. As you can see in the photo on the right, I got into the spirit of the presentation and took notes about his presentation on the back of a napkin — more on that in a minute.

At Hammock, we’re constantly challenging ourselves — and the photographers, illustrators and videographers with whom we work — to tell stories visually, not just to think of their work as something to support the words in our stories. It’s true what they say about pictures and a thousand words — but for some reason, people don’t feel comfortable with trying to solve problems and develop strategies with pictures.

Ever admired the sturdy, classic capitals stamped across Time magazine, or the curvy vintage nameplate on the cover of the Rolling Stone? Does the fanciful feel of New York magazine or the luxurious look of Vogue entice you to open it up and dive inside? If so, then the typeface of that magazine has done its job. Though typeface — the style of printed characters on a page — might sound like design jargon, it plays a starring role in how a story, design and publication are received by its audience. Each comes with a family of fonts in bold, italic, condensed and other forms. With the right fonts, designs can tell a story, express ideas, evoke emotion and engage readers. With the wrong ones, they can distract or confuse readers, enough to prevent them from finishing an article or picking up a publication ever again.
When selecting typefaces for Web or magazine projects, our designers consider everything from the amount of text to the message, emphasis and style of a publication. Many of these typefaces are chosen early in the process and draw from a family of fonts, which are used throughout our publications repeatedly to create continuity.

When you reach for a cover on a magazine stand, what is it that grabs your attention? Is it the photography? The enticing cover blurbs? The color?
Editor Megan Pacella sat down this week with our design team to talk about just those questions and one of our own publications. Let us know what you think!

At Hammock, we tell stories about people from all over the country, and photography plays a big role in the way these stories are told. Through the years, our art director, Kerri Davis, has built an amazing cross-country network of freelance photographers who conduct photo shoots of small business owners, soldiers, preservationists and other subjects featured in our magazines and on our Web sites.

When I asked Kerri what makes a freelance photographer stand out in her mind, she immediately thought of Eric Millette, a San Francisco-based photographer who does a lot of shoots for MyBusiness magazine. When we find a photographer we like, we’ll use them as often as possible! Here are five characteristics that Kerri looks for in freelancers.

1. A creative, simple, well-designed website to show your work. Check out this site for a great example.

2. Initiative and willingness to jump right into a project. With all the photo assignments that flow through our art department, it’s nice to be able to hand off an assignment and not worry about it until the proofs come back, Kerri says. She tries to give photographers “as much info as they will need so there aren’t a lot of questions.”

3. Organization. We appreciate photographers who can offer an easy way to view the shoot, especially through something like a Web gallery. Providing high-res files promptly is also a plus.

Here’s an example of the type of Web gallery we like to use.

For this “Beating Burnout” story, Eric did a few setups. One was a tightly focused candid portrait of a small business owner relaxing; another was a wider shot of his messy, hectic office. The juxtaposition of the two captured the essence of the story perfectly.

4. A creative approach. The most important part of the whole process is getting that perfect shot. A photographer who is willing to shoot at least three different setups will often walk away with something original. “I like to see something unexpected when I get the shoot back,” Kerri says.

Small children are often hard to photograph, but Eric was able to keep this young subject happy and focused long enough to get this great shot.

5. Flexibility. This is a big one for our designers who art direct from a distance and know little about what the location will be like. “You expect the photographer to be able to make judgment calls on the spot and make the best of the shoot no matter what curveballs get thrown at you,” Kerri says.

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Not sure when you’d use that word in print, but if you did, you’d probably have a dilemma on your hands (i.e. where to break it).
Adobe InDesign, the program we use to lay out the pages of all of the publications we publish here at Hammock, gave up immediately when I just typed the mega-word into a four-column page. Instead of helping me figure out the best place to break the word, it just made all the words in that text box disappear (Thanks, InDesign). So I’m on my own. Here’s how I would do it:

We’ve Got You Covered
Posted in Design, by Hammock Inc.
April 3, 2009

This week, Hammock’s design team let me pick their brains about the covers of our favorite magazines. After taking a look at 10 titles, each designer picked their favorite and explained why. The verdict?
For Lynne Boyer, the great photography and simple design of Garden and Gun is a winner. Kerri Davis was drawn to the big graphics and creative cover blurb placement of Texas Monthly, and Ben Stewart was drawn to ESPN‘s unique photo of basketball star Kobe Bryant kicking a soccer ball.
Check out the video and they’ll tell you more—and reveal which big-name magazine cover they didn’t care for.

Two of our magazine projects—the DAR’s American Spirit and the Marine Corps League’s Semper Fi–regularly include book review sections. Although publishers happily send cover images, we’ve found that photographing the books adds–as you might expect–a custom look to the page.
While several of us have done this job, lately we’ve called on designer Ben Stewart to handle the tasks. There are a couple of reasons for this: Ben originally minored in photography at Middle Tennessee State University before switching to graphic design, and his Canon Rebel EOS is ideal for capturing the quality images we need.