Surfaces and Strategies: Week 3 Make a Zine

This week was about working with others and the suggested activity was making a zine. Magazines (mags, zines) have been around for many years and range from glossy publications taking up whole aisles of space in supermarkets to hand made missives with text and/or images for individual use or limited sharing.

Friday and Saturday: Joining a group of course colleagues was the first challenge. Not knowing all the course members and their potential to contribute to this task meant that selection was important. Although I did think about some topics for a zine and could have posted them to entice people to join me I resorted to an easier option having seen an excellent suggestion from T who I knew from the Falmouth workshops. T made several suggestions including breakfasts. I think several people were lured by the early posting of this topic maybe with a sense of wanting to get started (as I was) given time constraints to be completed by Wednesday evening. I was also daunted by the task and I think in retrospect hoped people with more knowledge and experience would be in the group for me to learn from.

Saturday and Sunday: Initial messaging on Canvas and emails through Falmouth resulted in a few missed and mixed messages with the overriding drive to get on with taking photographs of breakfasts. Y set up facilities for us to add images and exchange messages in one place. However the university system only received a few images before filling to capacity.

Monday: The agreed evening conference call was attended by 4 of the group where we looked at and tried to share activity on Madmagz (recommended by the tutor). We agreed one pair would pursue this further and the other try out BLURB the following evening. There was an assumption that T would lead as the topic was her suggestion and T summarised the meeting and the actions we needed to do the next day emailing to all in the group, although we had not heard from several others beyond initial subscribing to join us apart from one who had submitted studio quality images, one of which we agreed should be on our cover. We had agreed images could be presented singly or in a collage and on a black background and that they should be sent to T by 5pm Tuesday in pdf format. We agreed to call it Global Breakfasts and add Issue 1 and June 2018 to the front page and our names and relationship to the course potentially on the back page..

Tuesday: I collated my images collected from friends and family in the UK, Spain, Australia and the USA making each an individual page on Keynote then adding this to Pages. I also prepared suggested text for the cover and introductory page and forwarded to the group with the suggestion that if BLURB and Madmagz were not going to work for us then Pages might be a way forward. I sent my images in pdf format to T.

Tuesday evening:T and I met through email and telephone to consider BLURB (which was immediately dismissed as not achievable in our timescale) and focussed on pages. For the first time I used the share option so that we could work on it together, adding images from others and formatting a front cover and back page copyright and thanks statements. Having shared the result by email we learned that Madmagz was not going to be used, that the version T and I had worked on would be the chosen platform and that tweaks were needed, namely making all backgrounds to the images black. I had a late submission from Australia and added it to the images. I had not realised the Zine should have been in portrait format which meant that the images of two of us (mine included) were in landscape as was the publication format in Pages. Y offered to see how the presentation could be improved and L offered to work on the production using facilities she has access to the following day.

Wednesday: I received and added another late addition from Australia and sent the revised version as well as a version in word to the group by 7am in the hope of making the tasks Y and L were to complete easier if they preferred to use windows. I spent the day determined not to be put off by the initial challenge of working using Blurb and Book Wright to see how far I could get. One of the day’s challenges was reconverting pdfs to jpeg as they had been in the former form ready for Madmagz. In the meantime W succeeded in producing a version in Madmagz while L, Y and T spent time independently converting the edition I had circulated in the morning to powerpoint and adding page turning effects as well as refining the presentation with tweaks to the text. They all successfully made versions using powerpoint, quicktime and vimeo including manually printing then filming a flick through. Finally I managed to upload the Blurb book and have purchased one copy with a pdf version. Having planned to order one for each member of the group I quickly changed my mind when the shipping costs far exceeded the cost of the magazine. I will of course order more if requested.

Learning points and Conclusions

  1. Next time be bold and make a suggestion with some indication as to how it may be achieved in the time scale.
  2. I need to recognise that I do not have possess all the necessary skills and experience in setting myself up front in this way. However, leaders are good delegators and coordinate to pull the tasks together to fruition but are not necessarily the experts in a group!
  3. Identify people with relevant experience to collaborate with when achieving tasks both on the course and following the course completion.
  4. Use individuals knowledge and expertise efficiently and effectively. Of the 6 in the group all submitted images and four focussed on putting potential versions together. In other tasks one might have each member completing different aspects of the activity where this might be considered a more efficient use of time. However in this case we were all learning and unfamiliar with the programmes and production of zines so it seemed appropriate to have ‘all hands to the deck’ in the hope that at least one positive outcome would emerge from all of our efforts..
  5. Identify and set up systems that are accessible to all and have the capacity to cope with the influx of material.
  6. Avoid rushing into taking photographs and spend more time clarifying the specifications for the images, the collation and formatting of the zine, the allocation of tasks according to skill, time available and willingness to learn new things, the publication, marketing and distribution.
  7. Double check specifications before spending time on collation (i.e. in landscape when portrait was preferred by others and as I learned for completing zines).
  8. Make sure the material produced can be shared in webinars where the task is to be discussed. As the hard copy will not arrive for a few days, the pdf of the book will be shareable as will the formats produced by three other group members.
  9. Plan and prepare to spend a lot longer on the task than originally envisaged and then some more!

This felt a little like an “Apprentice” task! I can see that the ‘Apprentice’ contestants have an advantage in living together 24hours a day with lots of resources to hand. Given that we were operating on a tight schedule, online, using quirky and unpredictable systems and programmes that were new to most of us, I am pleased that we have achieved several versions of the same topic using different IT programmes within the timescale required. I did feel at times as if I might be stepping on leadership toes trying to drive an alternative to Blurb and Madmagz forward as a backup and hope that my colleagues did not share this view. Because I do not fully understand the aforementioned systems for book production I went for the way of doing things that was more familiar. Once a pathway to achieving the task was cleared using ‘pages’ and circulating on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning I felt I could relax a little and just get my head round magazine production in Blurb. Overall a useful exercise which in my case highlighted my shortcomings in relation to production skills although I liked the selection, collating, and presentation of materials. I was pleased with the responses to my requests of friends and family for images of their breakfasts and have enjoyed the collaborative experience with such positive and mutually supportive group members.

A quote from my email to the group sums up my reflections:

“This is the pdf of the magazine made with BLURB and Book Wright. I will let you know when it arrives. Thank you all so much for the opportunity not only in learning about technology I have not used before but also from each of you: the knowledge  and positive vibes  and personal styles you have brought to the breakfast table. It has certainly been an intense but enriching experience!”






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