Awards
Magazine Publishing Improvement: Lake Forest College - Gold Medal

Category 23A: Magazine Publishing Improvement
Lake Forest College, Spectrum Magazine

Contact: Lindsay Beller, editor, Spectrum Magazine, 555 N. Sheridan Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045; Phone: 847-735-5019; e-mail: beller@lakeforest.edu

Objectives: Spectrum’s mission statement says: “Spectrum is a vehicle for stimulating thought, expressing opinions, and exchanging information about the people and events that help shape Lake Forest College.”

Lake Forest College is a 1,400-student liberal arts school located about 30 miles north of Chicago. The college is 150 years old and matriculates students from 47 states and 55 countries. With such a rich history, diverse student body, and liberal arts learning environment, our objective is for Spectrum to reflect the vitality and culture of the institution.

We aim for the magazine to marry content and design in a way that highlights Lake Forest College’s vibrant and engaged liberal arts environment and puts a human face on the personalities, events, and actions that define the institution. We want to make the magazine a more interactive experience for readers by providing content that will spark memories and prompt a response, be it a letter, a phone call, or a class notes submission.

Staffing: The magazine is staffed by one editor who devotes about ¾ of her time to editing, writing, managing freelance writers and photographers, taking pictures, art direction (shared with graphic designer), magazine Web site development, and handling other production and budget issues; one in-house graphic designer who devotes about 30 hours per issue; and a production coordinator who bids out the projects to and liaises with printers, and coordinates mailings. Freelancers write articles, take photos, proofread final layouts, and edit Class Notes, as story selection and budget permits.

Audiences: Alumni, faculty, staff, parents, donors, students, and friends of the college.

Frequency: Twice a year

Average Pages per Issue: 48 (Honor Roll of Donors issue: 40 pages of content and 32 pages of Honor Roll names)

Circulation: 13,500

Annual Budget: $106,000 (also covers production and mailing of two eight-page newsletters and other publication costs)

Average Cost: $24,362.42 per issue; Unit cost: $1.80

Response and/or results:
Objective #1: We aim for the magazine marry content and design in a way that highlights Lake Forest College’s vibrant and engaged liberal arts environment and puts a human face on the personalities, events, and actions that define the institution.

Result #1: The redesign includes deeper coverage of college events and news and more profiles along with a navigation and layouts that are easier to follow and more enticing to read.

Objective #2: We want to make the magazine a more interactive experience for readers by providing content that will spark memories and prompt a response, be it a letter, a phone call, or a class notes submission.

Result #2: After establishing a “letters to the editor” page, Spectrum has gone from no letters to a page full of letters in the last two issues. We received both positive feedback on the redesign and responses to articles, indicating that we are making headway in our goal to better engage readers and spark their memories from college.

Examples of positive feedback to redesign:

  • “You are to be commended for an outstanding spring 2006 issue of Spectrum magazine. Through an effective and user-friendly layout, colorful photography, and enjoyable and informative content, you have conveyed a sense of vigor and excitement that underscores the continuing broadening of the campus experience. Reading the magazine (actually went through it twice!) reminded me how we are positively impacted by the Lake Forest experience.”
  • “At long last Lake Forest College has an external publication with style, class and a bit of life which gives it a creditable presence in the community-at-large.”

Examples of responses to articles:

  • [In response to a piece about the visit of Iran’s former president Mohammed Khatami (Winter 2006 issue) and a sidebar that listed other controversial visitors to the college.] An alumnus from the late 1950s wrote in about his interaction with then U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson: “He wanted to present his view of the recent visit he made to a then Iron Curtain country – Poland…He said to me that he did not want a big press thing about the visit but wanted to inform the citizens of his findings and views on Poland. As Vice President (of Student Congress) I was fortunate to have some time with him back stage before he did his presentation.”
  • [In response to a profile of an alumna who serves as a lawyer in the U.S. Army.] “The courageous Captain Gordon caused me to recall the many dedicated military people I met while serving with the State Department in Iraq from 2004 to 2006. A truly great example of the citizen–soldier…We do not hear very much about alums who have served their country, it was good to see Captain Gordon featured.”

Reason for and impact of the new format: Through the Spring 2005 issue of Spectrum, the magazine focused primarily on institutional stories such as homecoming and commencement recaps, the success of academic programs, and the planned construction or completion of new buildings. Most issues included alumni profiles and occasional faculty profiles, but stories about current students were generally absent. The magazine frequency fluctuated and design lacked consistency and eye-catching layouts.

In conjunction with a revitalized communications department charged with increasing Lake Forest College’s national profile, we embarked on an examination and subsequent magazine redesign to add more human interest stories, better engage alumni, and highlight the college as a vital institution with dynamic connections to the outside world.

An alumni survey conducted in April 2004 told us that a majority of alumni received information about the college from Spectrum. An August 2005 online reader survey revealed a wish for more news about students, alumni and what is happening at the college. A majority of respondents wanted a letters to the editor page.

We followed current magazine trends and developed a consistent infrastructure designed to integrate news from the college with profiles, feature stories, alumni news, and class notes. For example, each issue features a profile on a student, faculty member, and alumnus who have gone above and beyond, such as an alumnus who is Alaska’s writer laureate and a wheelchair-bound student who worked with the college’s administration to improve building accessibility on campus.

Feature stories are digging deeper into campus life, including a retrospective on the student newspaper and radio station and how students and faculty recently revitalized them. We covered the visit of Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami – invited by one of our faculty members – and included student reaction to the controversial figure.

All schools can point to examples of outstanding faculty and student achievements, programs, buildings, campaigns, and other news. What distinguishes Lake Forest College are its personalities, learning environment, and history. The redesigned Spectrum now reflects the look, feel, and experience of Lake Forest College.