Pavel Kedich is a web-designer in a multi-disciplinary agency VCG. This is a story behind “MOON” — a series of his design experiments with Readymag, the result of a simple aspiration to materialise certain skills and long kept thoughts.
It all started with a desire to experiment with Readymag’s functionality. I’ve noticed some skepticism about R/m from my colleagues, so I wanted to prove them wrong and implement a certain number of living examples, demonstrating the capabilities of the Readymag tool. I didn’t have any particular source of inspiration, maybe just a set of visual clichés and moves that I wasn’t able to implement or try earlier because of the nature of commercial projects I was working on. So the main motivation was my curiosity and my personal interest in Readymag’s capabilities.
It is difficult to isolate a specific area of my interest, I would just say that I like “fast” projects. For me, it is important to see the results quickly, since in the ‘long run’, unfortunately, I may lose focus and interest. I’m really fond of working with text, aiming for the final text in the layout to be interesting and sophisticated at all macro and micro levels. Often it turns out that the design of internal pages may be more interesting and much more successful than the home page of the project.
The pilot issue
I was always curious about the topic of the Moon exploration, but I couldn’t boast of having a great depth of knowledge. So I decided to take advantage of this experiment to study the question in detail and eventually share this information. Honestly, the positive feedback and the overall interest in my Moon publications have appeared to be a pleasant surprise.
The pilot issue came out of the desire to collect sort of a school fact sheet about the Moon. I started with the Wikipedia pivot table about the Moon, I felt like I needed to divide the information into sections and combine them in some kind of a system. Googling the most simple queries, I started to shape a picture in my mind, a form that would be interesting and easy to perceive. In most cases, I used direct borrowings of text, historical moments and facts that would be great to mention.
The result of an improvisation was to become only this page :
Just a composition of some blocks with small portions of knowledge. But in the process I became so involved and enthused that only while already putting the other sections in some logical order, I realised that the publication is already way ahead of a one-page design.
In the flow of improvisation, I had no sketches at all. Almost all of the designs were made in the browser. I was curious to check what would be the minimum amount of use of third-party tools, as a result I only used Ps, and just to cut out some of the photos and make the timeline for the Soviet and US missions. That is a big value of Readymag — If desired, you don’t have to use anything else apart from the browser.
Certain graphical parts were edited simply by improvising, without any finished concept in my head. I put the timeline with 38 US and Soviet space missions very fast, just to have a quick idea of how the timeline will sit in the layout. The footer with a panoramic Moon surface seemed like a fantastic find.
The preview of the pages impressed me a lot because they were the living layouts, which can be published at any second. This effect and the feeling could never be reached with static models.
The grid for the first issue wasn’t more than the relative alignment of objects on the grid. I allowed myself to deviate from certain principles. Compositionally it was important to make pages dynamic, here I was simply guided by the overall feel from the layout. I wanted to make it rich in details, so it will be understandable if someone finds the 1st and 2nd editions a bit “overdesigned”. But even with this approach, the snapping of the objects and the guides options in the Readymag editor really helped out.
While making typographical decisions, I had lots of doubts whether such complexity and variety of styles was justified, and once again came to the conclusion that I can afford it in a sense of an experiment. I had never worked with font superfamilies before. It was interesting to experiment with Freight, combining its styles. It was a pleasant discovery of how good the Freight Micro works in small size — it has a friability, and at the same time a nice density, and in a set of leads, wherein the font size is slightly larger, it’s chopped details become even more impressive.
Obviously, reversing is not the best solution for reading, but these were my micro-experiments. Reversing was primarily all about the atmosphere. It was difficult to imagine the page about the Moon with dark text on a light background. I wanted to set a certain mood with these visual effects. Plus it helped make the moon itself and other objects literally implanted into the page. It came out pretty successfully in the part where the temperature data is set on the moon itself, and the text “the dark side of the moon” is under its outline. I was delighted by the fact that I can afford to control the transparency of each letter.
I do suffer from a lack of consistency in my design approach and, for sure, a knowledgeable person can find lots of shortcomings in terms of the structure of each of the issues. But I was moved by some other force — to share a portion of the acquired knowledge immediately, as simply as “explored — published”.
As the basis, I took an article on Wiki and quickly ran through the subheadings of the article to define the zones of interest. I sought confirmation or extension of the facts on nasa.com, space.com, history.nasa.gov or simply in a search engine for key words and immediately inserted it all in the publication. Of course, some places were subjected to minimum editing to achieve a geometric shape of the block, for example. I checked all of the textual content with Grammarly, which I had learned about from the Readymag blog. But I still think that not everything is OK in my publications in terms of grammar.
Every single photograph in the archives or galleries of NASA is a masterpiece. They are valuable and interesting in themselves, without any design. To be honest, the self-sufficiency of the content is a big part of the overall impression of the publications on this topic, I think.
Since, I didn’t want to dedicate the issue to US research results only, it was an unpleasant surprise that there are almost no open visual materials about the Soviet missions. It turned out that some high-quality photos can be found in the archives of the European Space Agency, but not in Russian resources. But for the most part it was simply impossible.
Talking about the multimedia, the very first thing I did when started the design process — checked the possibility of using video as the background and yes, it was there. I found a suitable video, studied the peculiarities of the license holder, cut off the desired part and that’s it. There was no doubt that this is, though ordinary, but relevant and effective touch.
Icons were also a big part of my experiment with Readymag’s functional as I wanted to use them to bring an additional layer of details. How often do you use the icon of a lunar module? But yes, it was there in the icon library and in several variants.
The photos with fixed position work as combining elements for sections on the Soviet and US missions, also giving a sense of the dynamics and layering of the pages when scrolling.
Another pleasant discovery was the full-width option. With its help came a greater feeling of the fullness of the layout, allowing the photos to take the entire width, which emphasised their importance, plus full-width slides work as content dividers.
If you analyze in detail, starting with the first issue, I tried to check out and touch all the tools. I can say that I was inspired and impressed by Readymag itself: the range of opportunities in working with the font and style, pleasant and flexible in its configurations grid… I could go on and on about every piece of its functionality.
At the moment there are 4 publications in the moon.kedzich.com series. I plan to publish a few more issues till the end of 2015. I’m trying to contact the authors and researchers who would be interested in publishing their materials. I would like to go beyond the borrowing of texts from popular science resources, and find a way to work with a little more complex forms of content, improving my skills of presenting information.