A Conversation with our Award-Winning Journals Designers

Design is an integral feature of Duke University Press journals. Sue Hall and Kelly Andrus work together as graphic designers to design beautiful, thoughtful covers and interior layouts that feature images that are reproduced to the highest quality possible. Make sure to view the gallery of several redesigned journals at the end of this post!

How would you describe your job?

Sue Hall

Journals Designer Sue Hall

Sue: Graphic designers are not decorators, we’re there to make the content as readable, appealing, and accessible as possible. Our job is to make the issue seamless and to the point, where the reader doesn’t even think of the design, but still enjoys reading it.

Kelly: The reader would notice if the design weren’t there.

Tell me about your day-to-day work on images.

Kelly Andrus

Journals Designer Kelly Andrus with her award-winning cover of Hispanic American Historical Review at the 2014 Association for American University Presses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show

Kelly: A lot of what I do with the images, you only see the printed page after I’ve refined and cleaned up the image. You don’t get to appreciate all the work that went into the artwork before I got started. A good example of this is Theater. Theater is very art-heavy. I often receive four-color images that need to be printed in black and white. When you change the image to grayscale, you lose a lot of the distinctions.

Sue: We could just run them as-is—because it would be quicker and easier—but it would be one of those subliminal things that would give the reader an impression of lower quality.

What are the differences between design for print and design online?

Kelly: For the black and white art, which is most of what we do, it’s pretty straightforward. What goes to the printer can also go online pretty seamlessly. For color art, we color correct and look at white balance and give every piece a nice neutral base. That has to be done in RGB color mode so, when it goes online, the computer monitor will display it correctly. But then, in print, it needs to be in CMYK. So I have to make a duplicate version of the file for the print version.

Sue: And they don’t ever match each other. Usually you have to do something to make a person not look like an Oompa Loompa either in print or online.

Kelly: Right. For example, with Tikkun, there might be groups of images that will display on a printed page very clearly, like Part A and Part B. But online, that’s not necessarily the case. We will have to combine A and B into one single image file so they display together online with a single caption that describes both of them.

Sue: And we just don’t have the permission to run some images in color online, so Kelly has to make a grayscale version online even if the image is printed in color in the physical journal. It gets complicated.

So each journal is completely different?

Kelly: Yes.

Sue: And each issue is different.

You also occasionally redesign journals. Can you tell me about that process?

Sue: I enjoy the redesign process because I feel like I’m collaborating with a couple of people. One is the original designer of the journal, because I try to retain the things I think are successful and workable. I like the idea of the redesign being an evolution and not just a sudden change. To make it feel like an evolution, it needs to have a sense of continuity. I provide options to the editorial offices depending on how comfortable they are with a departure from the original design.

I always design a journal from the inside out. I start with an article and throw in all the parts that can complicate a layout—single and multiple epigraphs, prose and verse extracts, interviews, images in a variety of sizes and shapes, poetry, and extracts in the footnotes, to name a few. I’ll show several broad-stroke options to the editorial office and once they choose a direction I will design the table of contents, front matter, reviews and peripheral parts, and then I will start on the cover. That includes a wordmark/logo and the editorial office by then has decided whether or not they would like art for the cover or want to have a typographic cover. We discuss color and art per issue and volume. It’s fun to see the pieces start to come together.

Everything ends up being defined by a typesetting and layout template, but we try to give each issue within the volume its own identity. That might be through color or imagery. We try to make the spines distinctive, because that lets them stand out on a bookshelf. Thinking about the journal as a beautiful object instead of an ephemeral quarterly publication keeps me excited about the design process.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Sue: I have been here for just over 20 years, and I am amazed at the variety of content that I get to work with. I love collaborating with different editors and also being part of the Journals Production team that puts these journals out in the world. One of our newest journals, TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, has never existed before and it’s such a great time in the world for it to exist. It has been exciting to be a part of that creative process. The editors have been awesome to work with: sharing their knowledge and also letting us do what we’re good at.  

Kelly: My favorite aspect of the job is getting to focus and be challenged in different ways. I love cover design because it’s creative, and it lets me explore and play, and that fulfills the right side of my brain. But going back to what Sue was saying about teamwork and collaboration, that’s where my left brain comes in. I’m a problem solver. I’m always looking for a way around a wall, trying to find an efficient solution to a problem.

How would you describe a Duke University Press journal?

Sue: Each journal has a unique identity. They all look and feel differently and reflect their audience. The editing and design and printing is as honest and correct as it can be.

Kelly: There is a thoughtful attention to detail. I don’t think there’s any aspect that is overlooked.

View a gallery of several redesigned journals:

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Learn more about the process of publishing journals by following along with our Journals Publishing Series.


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