It’s finally here.
This month, we published the first issue of the new Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. As the new issue hits mailboxes this week, longtime readers will recognize Vol. 88, No. 1 as a big departure from the magazine of recent years. It has a new look, a new structure and, we hope, a new vitality.
This redesign traces back nine months, to May of 2011, when I took over as editor of the magazine. The President of the Alumni Association, Joe Irwin, IM 80, and Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Renee Queen, charged me with re-imagining a cherished publication that has chronicled the accomplishments of Tech and its alumni since 1923.
While the magazine still had much to offer, it had fallen out of touch with Tech’s engineering and technological roots. With Joe and Renee’s blessing, I set out to start from scratch with the publication and ask fundamental questions: What are our goals? How can we best serve the Institute? And how can we best serve our alumni?
We consulted decades’ worth of reader surveys, talked to innumerable alumni and visited with Institute leaders. We also pored over nearly 90 years of Tech’s various alumni publications. Coming out of that research phase, we established nine goals to emphasize the specific actions that would support our magazine’s mission:
- Showcase the news and accomplishments of Georgia Tech’s faculty, researchers, students and staff.
- Focus on technological content to show how the Institute is becoming the technological leader of the 21st century.
- Cover the professional and personal accomplishments of alumni.
- Highlight business and career advice from alumni and Institute leaders.
- Cover a full range of Yellow Jackets sports.
- Inform readers about services and events offered by the Alumni Association.
- Tackle topical issues with technical, financial, political and scientific insights from faculty and alumni.
- Employ a writing voice that reflects the personality of Georgia Tech graduates—intelligent, technically minded, engaged in the issues of the world and with a wry sense of humor.
- Celebrate the Institute’s rich history.
Several of these are obvious, but No. 8 might stand out. We set out to put our finger on the pulse of Tech. In conversations with alumni, faculty, staff and students and surveys of our alumni readers, those four characteristics—intelligent, technically minded, engaged in the issues of the world and with a wry sense of humor—emerged againand again. All are important, but the wry sense of humor stuck with me the most. In recent years, our magazine hadn’t been much fun. Georgia Tech is renowned as a treacherous academic setting that is survived, not conquered. But in spite of that challenging environment (or, perhaps, because of it), Tech’s students have a lot of fun. They blow off pressure in ridiculous ways—just look at traditions like the Reck Parade and the Mini 500. If our magazine is going to be true to the culture of Tech, it has to balance a serious, technological focus with a willingness to be irreverent.
With a plan in place, the next step was the little matter of turning these big ideas into reality. And to do that, we needed to take the visual side of the magazine to the next level.
We went through a broad search for a creative firm to tackle the redesign of the magazine, talking to folks at some top magazines. Fortunately, fates aligned and the choice became an easy one. I knew that Decatur, Ga.-based Paste magazine had folded its print edition recently. I’d long admired Paste’s design, so I immediately checked in with the magazine’s former design firm, Metaleap Creative, to see if they were looking to tackle a new title. Not only was Metaleap interested, but I learned that one of their principals, Nikolle Reyes, MS Bio 99, is a Tech alumna. I knew this was our team.
Over the following months, we worked with Nikolle, her husband, Jose, and the rest of the Metaleap team on creating a visual identity for the publication that meshed perfectly with the character we had established. We wanted a publication that looked and felt more like a consumer magazine (Wired, Scientific American and Fast Company were three inspirations) rather than the more staid design of most alumni publications.
Meanwhile, Assistant Editor Rachael Maddux and I set out to create a new set of content for the magazine, as well as a new structure. We wanted a flexible framework that also created recurring spaces to accomplish the points listed above. That meant developing some new contents (“Talk of Tech,” “Innovate,” “Dollars and Sense,” “@Issue,” and “Tech History,” for example) as well as reconceptualizing existing contents such as “Ramblin’ Roll” and “Alumni House.”
One of my favorites among the new contents, and the piece that most directly exemplifies our dedication to occasional silliness, is the back page advice column written by none other than George P. Burdell.
Inside the magazine, we made some structural changes to create a more logical flow. Campus news and sports coverage are paired together toward the front, while Alumni Association news is paired with class notes toward the back. A new section, “In the World,” covers the accomplishments of the Tech community far from campus. It includes “@Issue,” in which Tech leaders bring their great insights to bear on thorny topics facing the world. In this space, we ask, “What does Georgia Tech think?” a question that is central to the Institute’s new strategic vision.
The magazine’s three features will include a new focus on covering technology and science, and particularly ways that Tech is shaping the world. This issue, contributor Andrew Moseman, online editor of Popular Mechanics, writes about how the Institute is helping to shape the future of space travel.
Our “Alumni House” section has been overhauled as well, now featuring career advice, alumni-exclusive travel opportunities and highlights from our Alumni Networks and Affinity Groups. The back of the magazine now includes a lengthy section on tales, curiosities and legends from the Institute’s history.
One thing you’ll notice throughout the magazine are informational highlights, showing our readers how they can be engaged with the magazine and the Alumni Association.
We want to hear from our readers. We want to know what you think. We want your class notes entries. We want your tales of Tech history. And we want to you to know how you can take advantage of all that the Alumni Association has to offer. After all, this is your magazine.
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