Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Articles How 'Cyberwoman' Regenerated the Issue Covers by Mickie Newton

How ‘Cyberwoman’
Regenerated the Issue Covers
By Mickie Newton

It’s a year since we first started the blog and for our birthday issue we thought it would be great to feature the best issue cover of the year. I had my favourite, as did DJ, as did others and it’s very fitting that the cover that people loved the best was the one that was the ‘first’ true magazine cover I created, the Cyberwoman cover of issue 5. And so I thought it would be fitting to write something about how the new cover idea came about and how it set the precedence for all the covers that followed.

Project: Torchwood wasn’t the first blog or fan site I’d done any graphic design work for. But it was most certainly the first site I have worked on that needs all the imaginative and graphic design skills I can muster. I remember hours of discussion between myself and DJ on what was wanted for the site. Not just banners and backgrounds, but how we wanted individual pages to look and how we really wanted to be as different as possible to other Torchwood blog/magazine sites.

Many don’t have the luxury of having someone who knows their way around a graphic design programme to the extent where they can produce things that look professional (well at least I hope they do). And so more often than not they will copy and paste images, from all over google, and plonk them as best they can on the pages. They will use what ever backgrounds are available on the website they are using, along with the sites banners. And one thing neither myself nor DJ wanted was another blog like that. So for each issues article, fan fiction, mini series, and interview, I design a cover that fits the subject - and then there’s the Issue cover, hopefully grabbing the ‘reader’s’ - and the front page of the magazine - so each issue really stretches both my imagination and skills. Every new issue has new challenges.

The very first cover that I made I loved as it was very different, but like all magazines covers, there needs to be a certain degree of uniformity. You need to keep to a similar ‘feel’. The first cover though great, couldn’t be constantly re-invented as it was firstly, complicated to create and also people would be bored with it very quickly.

By the second cover I was completely unsure what to do. What we did in Project: Torchwood was different to what I’d done in the past, not just in the work we do, but how we work. DJ can give me some ideas, and often they are great, but DJ has little or no idea how I would have to implement those ideas. So much of the design work is left to me so for a short while I was still feeling around, and I was also starting to get very bored with how I was doing the covers.

Firstly, the text was literally the contents page repeated. Why I was doing this, I can’t explain. Maybe it seemed easier. The second thing I was doing was just dotting images around and not thinking too much about what I was doing. Very boring indeed - boring to look at and boring to do. DJ and I had discussed the cover, but we weren’t sure on how we wanted it to change. We just knew we needed to do something different and what we were looking at was something with more of a magazine feel to it. Then one day, as we were in the throes of working on issue 5, I was reading my copy of the Doctor Who Magazine and on the cover was a nice big picture from a featured article.

I found myself grabbing a pen and my note book and re-designing the cover. It must be said, I couldn’t have chosen a better issue to change it in than issue 5 as ‘Cyberwoman’ was the focus episode and it cannot be denied Caroline Chikezie looked amazing dressed as the Cyberwoman. And so she was perfect for a cover as it would add both impact and direction, to the issue as a whole but would also add impact to the focus article.

If you were to ask me where the inspiration for the cover idea came from it would be a combination of the image of the Doctor Who Magazine, Cyberwoman stalking the hub in the episode and a piece of art work called ‘Thrilling Torchwood Tales’ by Kim Sokol that is on Deviant Art. The main focus of her art work is the Cyberwoman fighting off Myfanwy. She wanted to create an imagery pulp fiction cover. I also feel it has a similar feel to the old B movie film posters. I also loved how she’d done the writing at an angle, and so I did the same with ‘Cyberwoman’. When I’d drawn up a rough layout design, I found that Cyberwoman almost filled the page - all I had to do then was find the right image - and decide what to with the space that remained!

Once I had the perfect Cyberwoman image to play centre stage, the rest turned out to be pretty much plain sailing. I chose an image of the Cyber Conversion Unit as the background image. And I scattered other images from the episode around it and the Cyberwoman. I softened off the edges of added images so they blended into the background. And I also added images from interviewees and the Monster from Frankenstein.

I simplified the body text to headlines as opposed to the complete contents page, so things like ‘guest interviews’, fan fiction, our mini series etc, and as we didn’t have as many as we do now, I was able to have these as part of the cover in a much greater way even overlapping the Cyberwoman herself. Today our number of big features have increased and so I can’t do this.

With issue 5 the ‘look and feel’ satisfied all our ideals and there was no turning back - the Project: Torchwood cover was truly born.

The hardest part of designing any cover now is deciding on who will feature centre stage and finding an image that is big enough and clear enough to enlarge. We are very proud of how Project: Torchwood looks, but we do strive to improve it too. As you can see on our blog page, I have now designed a new background that is more fitting and less cluttered. So like any magazine, and the Doctor, whose show brought us Torchwood, we are for ever changing and growing. So let’s see where we shall be in another year from now. The cover style may have even been regenerated, who knows.

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