Graduates / Journalism skills / Natasha Slee

Finally, the end! By Natasha Slee

So here we are. This week I walked out of the London College of Fashion’s doors for the final time, having handed in ALICE magazine, my final major project.

As with every hand in of my academic life, it was a pretty anti-climatic event. Our class hung around for longer, in time for a group photo, and our course leader bought us all a drink in the local pub, but apart from that it didn’t feel like the final academic achievement it was meant to be.

Hand-in day

Hand-in day

I had felt greater senses of achievement, and had reached more emotional milestones, during the long months of production. Sometimes these were small moments, insignificant to outsiders, but squeal-level exciting for me. Others were more noticeable, and my tutors were pleased.

Most Memorable ALICE Moments:

Finding the ALICE visual style

With only my amateur creative skills to hand, I set about designing the entire magazine alone, much to the discouragement of my tutors. I knew I wanted the lay out to be minimal and simple, not patronisingly bright and colourful with ‘teen fonts’. But when it came to it, I started to panic that maybe minimal wasn’t enough. I didn’t have the skills to produce anything complex, and it all became frustrating and demoralising.

A creative direction tutor assured me that minimal was ok. As long as I stuck to two fonts, and kept to basic graphic rules, I’d be fine. Boldly I went, laying out page after page just how I had imagined it all along. For days I just stared at each page internally shouting: “I did that!”

Designing the ALICE pages

Designing the ALICE pages

When the words just come

Some pieces, however much you love the topic, are a pain in the ass to write. The words just don’t seem to come to you, however long you sit there staring at the blinking cursor. However many cups of tea you drink.

At times like these I find it best just to write something, anything, even if it is the worst thing you’ve ever written. If it makes you cringe with embarrassment, brilliant, because that means you’ll work hard at editing it later, you just need to get something down now. Start with basic sentences. If you’re stuck on the intro, just simply say what the article is about, or who you’ve interviewed. Something better will come to you later.

These times were challenging, and it felt great to turn a crap piece into a piece worth reading, but the best times were when the words just formed themselves as you typed in a frenzy of inspiration. Occasionally I’d be halfway through my research when a cracking opening or sentence would come to me. I’d type it up, and suddenly I’d written half the piece. They were eureka moments. Definite ‘I deserve cake for this’ moments.

Picking up the test print

I had scheduled in a test print a week before the final print run. This meant I had plenty of time to check colours, spelling and grammar, and make any necessary corrections and adjustments.

I had the majority of the magazine finished in time for the test print, except one or two adjustments I had thought were minor…. Colours in print and colours on screen are different, and in order to ensure you get the right colours for your images they need to be in CMYK format. To make sure they don’t pixelate, images need to be over 300 dpi. I knew this, but for some ridiculous reason I didn’t make the necessary adjustments as I went along. I decided I would convert every single image at the end, after I had got the ‘more important stuff’ out of the way…

The night before the final PDFs were due to be sent off for test print, I sat down to convert the images. By 11pm I had barely scratched the surface. By 1am I was making steady progress. At 4am I moved to my bed, and continued the monotonous conversion process from the comfort of my duvet. At 7am I began to feel weary, my click-type-click robotic actions slowing. By 9am I had finished, and pressed send.

It was my first all-nighter, and severely damaged my concentration levels for days afterwards. Holding the test print three days later, fresh from the print press, it did feel worth it. I did a little dance and celebrated with a Magnum.

Picking up the test print

Picking up the test print

As part of the hand-in we had to write a 2000 word reflective essay on our learning process throughout the project. I closed with this:

‘I am very proud of ALICE magazine, and this project as a whole. I am aware that my personal positive attributes of organisation and conscientiousness allowed me to use my journalism and creative skills effectively. Even when my skills were basic, such as with InDesign, my personal determination towards the project overcame this and my skills developed as a result. It has been commented throughout that I am surprisingly calm, and I think this only shows how much I enjoyed the process.

Naming the magazine after a girl definitely has its advantages: I have a personal connection and commitment to ALICE, and she has become a character, which those who have read the magazine say speaks to them from the page. This has given me great hope for my ability as a writer, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me next.’

Beginning to end: from proposals to final print

Beginning to end: from proposals to final print

And next? The real world! Keep an eye on Jump for Journalism: I’ll be blogging all about the highs and lows of the job search…

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