Command D

Command D

Step one: select an amazing photo.

At Popular Mechanics, when designing feature openers, that's usually how it starts. I pow wow with my Photo Director and we pick the photo or photos that tell the story and are just plain cool. My Design Director weighs in, and we go back and forth on what we think will work best. Sometimes the opener presents itself right away. Other times it's a longer process, with me trying different selects until we're all happy. Sure, it's all subjective, but decisions have to be made.

Which brings me to this month's challenge:
Design the third installment in a set of features about Classic PM projects. This series follows our Home Editor, Roy Berendsohn, as he tackles old-school projects in modern times. From blacksmithing to building boats, Roy writes about his experience. Although slugged Classic DIY, our design goal is to make these look fresh and new, to bring what's considered an old craft to a new light.

Who doesn't want to smash a hammer against glowing hot steel?
(The Backyard Blacksmith: March 2009).


And wouldn't it be cool if you hit the lake in your own hand-made dinghy?
(To Build A Boat: September 2009)


This time around, Roy decided to build a stone bench. It's a great story about how his father instilled a sense of craftsmanship. Chiseling rocks and lifting huge slabs of blue stone, Roy built the bench for his dad. Very PM.
I've read the piece, gone over images with my team, and well, I'm stuck. After a few rounds of critiques, I presented these.




It's a mix of photos my PD, DD and I thought worked best. After some more debating, and still no select, I've decided to blog about it. I don't know where to go. Ultimately, we'll have to get EIC approval and then there will be a lot of back and forth on the design, but if I'm going to give this layout as much care and attention as Roy did the bench, I should make the first move soon, and pick an opening photo!

  • David Zamdmer

    Sorry to come to class a little late on this one.

    I totally agree with the decision that was made. There's no reason for showing Roy's entire body throughout all of the feature's spreads. In the grand scheme of things, not doing so keeps things fresh by giving the story some variety and contrast in scale.

    I can't wait to see the finished product, Strav! Sounds like a New Work SPD post is TK, huh?

  • Brandon Kavulla

    Great post, Strav.

    Though it took me a few minutes to get past the fact that you typed the words "hand-made dinghy". (I know…mature much? Not really.)

    I definitely immediately picked the one you all ultimately decided upon.

    It just flat-out makes the process look the coolest to people that have either never done something like that or never would.

    Great stuff.

  • Stravinski Pierre

    And the winner is...

    I've gotten approval from the art team, our EIC and Roy, and we all agree--option one is the way to go.

    After comparing the three options for a few days, the overall sentiment was that the tight shot of Roy laying the stone had to be on the opening spread. Although it doesn't show the finished bench or much of Roy, it's a beautiful, emotional shot that conveys what the story is all about. Option one also worked best when we looked at the mix in our feature well.

    The shot of the two tools should work well next to the hand photo. I may try flipping the images to see how it feels, but on either side, the picture of the tools will allow for a nice headline treatment.

    Speaking of which, I've got the working headline, so the next step is to have some fun! Thank you all for your feedback. Very helpful!

  • Grant Glas

    Stravinski - very good post.

    For the stone bench the top spread is the best. (Tools next to the hand and cement) I think the photo of the hand probably best represents the content and aroused my curiosity. To me that photo portraits the emotional connection between the builder and the bench. However the spread does seem to be missing something.

    For the boat piece you put a non-intrusive title over the left photo "To Build a Boat". Why not try the same thing for the new spread. A light title over the tools. A title that helps connect the tools to the story... which you might be planning on doing anyway. :) Good luck!

  • Bradley R. Hughes

    Strav. Remember the PM motto, form follows function. In that spirit, I might ask, "where's the Bench in those shots?". I love the shot of the tools, but as an outsider looking in, they don't hold much meaning. The shot with Roy's hands and the cement is much more evocative. But, you'll find the right solution I know. Keep up the good work!

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