An Interview with
The guest editors of this special issue of
SchoolArts saw the magazine itself as an opportunity
to examine the design decisions that shape each
page. SchoolArts designer Julia McCandless
kindly agreed to answer a few questions as a way of providing readers with insights into how she, as a graphic
designer, orchestrates images and text in the layout of
Paul Sproll: Would you share with our readers where you
trained to become a designer? Did you know when you
were in high school that you wanted to be a designer or did
that decision emerge during your college years?
Julia McCandless: In high school I decided that my major
in college would be biology, but once I took my first course
of college biology I realized that I lacked any passion for
the subject. I had always had an interest in art, so I decided
to take an art history elective. After the first few classes,
I was so engaged and excited about art that I changed my
major to art history. I never believed at the time that I
could create art, so I decided the next best thing would be
to study the history of art.
Once I graduated, I found a part-time job as a customer
service coordinator for Davis Art Images (a division of
Davis Publications). Every day I had the pleasure of looking at images and slides of art and helping art educators
find the images needed for their lectures and classes. To
promote special offers, I began designing flyers, which was
something I really enjoyed, but I felt I needed more design
training, so I enrolled a certificate program in graphic
design at Clark University here in Massachusetts. After
three years of working in Davis Art Images, I applied for
an open position as the designer of SchoolArts.
PS: At what stage in the development of the magazine do
you get involved?
JM: Once the production editor collects and organizes all
of the materials sent by the editor, she gives me folders for
each article. These folders include the text of the article
and all of the images. Once I have all of the content I can
With design comes change: Julia today, Julia one month
ago, Julia one year ago, Julia five months ago.
PS: Would you briefly describe the process you go through
when developing the layout for an article?
JM: I first read the article, then I look at the images and
choose the images that best illustrate the article. Other
factors like the quality and size of the images affect which
images I choose. Then I create a small (thumbnail) sketch
of how I think the article should be laid out. At my computer, I first place the images on the blank page to make
sure it is balanced, then I place the title and play with different colors and font sizes and weights. After the title is
placed, I bring in the text. Of course I may rearrange the
entire article after this process. I know it is complete when
it feels right—that feeling has come with experience.
PS: As I review an issue of SchoolArts, I see that individual
articles tend to have a visual character all their own, but
the magazine itself works as a whole. If this is indeed so,
what are the key design elements that make this possible?
JM: Restricting the text in the magazine to only two fonts
helps to maintain a cohesive look. Also I try to use large
images to balance with the text. Although I enjoy giving
each article its own look and style to help represent the
variety of the artwork, I try to keep in mind the magazine
as a whole.
PS: What advice would you give to potential SchoolArts
authors in regard to the visual material they submit to
illustrate their articles—what would you like to receive
that would give you greater design opportunities when
developing a layout?
JM: Being a visual person, it is all about the images. My
perspective is that the images will initially draw the
reader in. When taking pictures of your students‘ artwork,
use the highest quality setting on your digital camera,
make sure the lighting is not too dark or too bright, and
make sure the area around the artwork is plain. It is best
to send us your original photo. Just be assured that I will
make your students artwork look the best it possibly can.
Also, the more photos you can send, the better range I have
to choose from. Finally, I want to personally thank all of
the art teachers out there who submit articles to
SchoolArts; you are doing an amazing job. Every month I am in
awe of what your students create. Great work!