Designs that stick


Client: Israel Philatelist —

[Jake Widman is a writer and editor who lives in San Francisco. He’s been covering the intersection of computers and graphic design for about 20 years now—since back when it was all called “desktop publishing.”]

The Israel Philatelist is the membership journal of the Society of Israel Philatelists, an organization of stamp collectors who have a particular interest in the Holy Land. Founded in 1949, the society, based in the U.S., has no connection with the State of Israel, though its logo is based on the logo of the Israel postal service. It’s open to anyone—the only requirement is an interest in the subject matter.

The society’s 1,500 worldwide members receive The Israel Philatelist by mail. The journal is printed on high-quality white paper in full color; a typical issue is 40 saddle-stitched pages long. According to the editor, Don Chafetz, the journal has three purposes: to educate members, to retain existing members, and to recruit new members.

But Chafetz thinks the journal could do a better job, especially at that last task, if it were redesigned. When he became editor in 2003, he also became de facto designer, and while he thinks the magazine looks a lot better than it did then (when it was black and white, and the cover just featured the name, issue number, and logo), he says, “I’m frustrated that I can’t make the covers pop more.” He usually uses several images on the cover relating to the stories inside and the background is always the same blue. He says the membership is happy with the current look, but he’s not.

“I’d like it to look lively and attractive,” he says. “I want it to make people say, ‘Boy, I want to read that.’” He particularly wants potential members between the ages of 40 and 60 to read it because that’s the ideal time to catch someone who’s thinking of starting a hobby. Chafetz also wants to make sure the journal doesn’t make stamp collecting look like an old man’s activity.

With that in mind, we gave three designers the cover and an interior page from The Israel Philatelist and asked them to make it look like it would be fun to be a member of the society.


Designer: Ari Miller —

The existing cover shows the effort to produce a professional look, and the interior pages are clean and easy to follow. The editor has also done well in laying down the foundation of branding by being consistent with both the Old English font logo and the use of what I call “Hebrew blue” in the cover design. What the magazine needed was a face-lift to bring the look up to date.

The first thing I addressed was the logo, which felt dated and had no real tie to Israel or stamps. I chose Herculaneum, a font that feels more “Middle Eastern” while avoiding the cliché of mimicking Hebrew. I also brought the tag lines up from the bottom and incorporated them into the logo. The second tag line introduces the font used throughout the publication—Helvetica Neue. The clean sans serif helps to modernize the look of the publication.

In calling out the main stories on the cover, I tried to maintain a clean, professional feeling. The “wet-floor reflection” effect used on the envelope and Star of David, together with the gradient background, adds depth and softness. The sombrero/yarmulke adds a bit of light-heartedness, and the daffodil was turned so that the petals suggest a Star of David.

For the interior article page, I wanted to take the design to the next level. Each page wouldn’t have to be this heavily graphic, but you must give the reader a visual reason to stop and taste the article. The value of the content takes over from there.


Ari Miller is a graphic designer and photographer operating Perception Arts in Lincolnton, North Carolina. He has been a graphic/Web designer for eight years and in business for himself for just under three. He has also been teaching digital photography classes for the past couple of years and has had more than 100 students so far. His photography has placed in numerous local and national competitions. He has 48 pieces on permanent display in the local main branch of First Charter Bank, as well as the local cultural center.

Ari says, “One of the greatest things about my job, other than having the opportunity to express myself creatively, is the freedom I have to be very closely, if not continuously, involved with raising my young girls, Karyna and Dylyn.”

APPLICATIONS USED: Adobe Photoshop CS3 and Adobe InDesign CS3


Designer: Alison Dovidio —

Don Chafetz, the editor and designer, stated, “I’m frustrated that I can’t make the covers pop more.” For that reason, my main objective was to create a look with rich color and design. For the magazine cover I used graphics with a tasteful, modern edge in hopes of generating excitement and attracting people to the magazine who might not typically be drawn to the hobby.

The magazine has been around for many years, so the redesign needed to incorporate some of the old elements to allow users to easily form a connection between the old and new designs. I included the cyan color that was originally used in excess and applied it as an accent color. Additionally, I used an Old English-style font—Anglo-Saxon Caps—but with a slightly modern twist, and I kept the original logo. I turned the logo white, put it against the dark gradient background, and added a reflection to give it that pop that Chafetz was striving for. The other cover font is the clean, modern Trebuchet MS, also used for the folios inside.

I also thought about the magazine’s subscribers and decided that like most avid hobbyists, they probably kept their past issues. So I added the bright blue slice of color in the top-left corner of the magazine displaying the issue’s date, volume, and issue number. This will allow the members to easily search through stacks of archived magazines and find the specific issue they desire.

On the inside page, I organized the Sharon article so it was more inviting. I divided the article into three columns so each line would be short and easy to read, and I added a little bit of variety to the grid by inserting images at an angle. I feel this added a bit of interest in the design to draw the attention of the reader. The text font is good old Times New Roman.


Alison grew up in Hubbardsville, New York, and now lives just north of Boston in Stoneham, Massachusetts. From a young girl who loved to draw, paint, and create arts and crafts, she now finds herself in a corporate environment at Osram Sylvania where she works as an e-marketing specialist responsible for maintaining the company’s 10,000+ webpages, managing the content, and having full creative responsibility.

Alison graduated in 2006 from Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, with a degree in marketing and a minor in digital media. She’ll also receive a master’s certification in graphic design and Web development from Clark University in Woburn in May 2008. Alison continues to take on freelance work; expand her knowledge within the creative industry; and embrace any experience, adventure, or opportunity that comes her way.

APPLICATIONS USED: Adobe Photoshop CS2, Adobe Illustrator CS2, and Adobe InDesign CS2


Designer: Josh Jackson —

My redesign is meant to be easy and functional, allowing the editor to produce a crisp, consistent-looking edition on short time or notice. I used three standard Adobe fonts throughout: Felix Titling (nameplate), Myriad Pro (all sans-serif text), and Adobe Garamond Pro (all serif text).

I started by replacing the nameplate font with something more modern and increased its size to give it more prominence. I also took the original circular logo and fashioned it to look like a stamp. Not only is the logo now a part of the nameplate, but it also can be used in company collateral.

To get that “pop” the editor is looking for, it’s key to pick one thing that rules the cover and make everything else secondary. Here, I bumped up the cover story headline, making it the dominant text on the page. I framed the text and aerogrammes on a giant postage stamp, complete with vector postmark created in Illustrator, and reduced the opacity in InDesign. The contrast of using such a normally small item so large is sure to catch the reader’s eye. The secondary stories on the cover were each given equal weight and color, and I added an extra element by using the byline for each story.

For the inside page, the redesign was a bit trickier. The approach focuses on a typographical hierarchy that I would carry throughout the rest of the magazine: byline above headline, spaced intro text, and color subheads. I used a stock photo of the area described in the story and paired it with the Hebrew text to further draw the reader into the story.


Josh received a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Alabama and has worked for newspapers as a reporter, copyeditor, and designer. He and his wife, Sarah, live in Savannah, Georgia, where he works at the Savannah Morning News.

He has twice won an award from the Society of News Design for outstanding page design, and for consecutive years has been awarded first place for page design among all papers in the Morris Communications chain.

When he’s not designing news pages, Josh is busy reading up on the latest design trends, studying various design texts, and teaching himself CSS and HTML using Dreamweaver—everything he has learned about design has been self-taught.

Josh is looking to take on freelance print design and logo opportunities, and is always looking for new projects to sharpen his skills and diversify his portfolio.

APPLICATIONS USED: Adobe Illustrator CS2 and Adobe InDesign CS2