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By Melinda Monk, Charleston Home art director

My friends and family often comment that redesigning a magazine seems like a daunting task. They're right—especially when you only have about six weeks to pull it off (unheard of in the publication "re-design" world). And all the while, designing and putting out several other publications at the same time? It's creative, it's chaotic, it's downright crazy. No need for coffee.

So how do we do it? Here's a stab at putting it into words:

Step 1. Research:
I scheduled many meetings with Ellen, the editor. We talked, and talked (and
talked some more) about the changes we wanted to make and why. From here, we settled on a new "voice" for the magazine—a personality, really, much like a new friend we'd be spending a whole lot of time with over the coming months.

Step 2. The Big Picture:
We plotted out the entire magazine like a map. Ellen and I decided how the reader will begin (and end) their journey and how the experience will feel. All of our decisions, by the way, were based on the kinds of information we know readers want and need.

Step 3. Sketch, Sketch, Sketch:
I've been sketching anytime, anywhere. I even pulled out the sketchbook while waiting in line at a restaurant to have dinner with my family. After several minutes of scratching away with my pen, I looked up to see everyone putting a hard stare on me. I snapped the book shut, and put it away. "Inspiration doesn't happen on a clock," I said.

Step 4. Design Baby, Design!:
I started laying out those sketches as actual pages on the computer. Hundreds of fonts, sizes, shapes, and weights. Which font will say what? How do we help the reader here? Is this headline screaming too much or not enough? Does this page need a larger photo? Yes, but maybe not this one. A million things to think about. Even I find it amazing that it ever gets sorted out.

It's all coming together though, and as difficult as the process is, it's a fun one. Collaborating with Ellen and other creative staff members is nothing like you've ever experienced. We're looking forward to getting that printed piece in our hands. We know that for us, and the readers, it'll seem like a good, close friend who has finally returned home.

Stay tuned for more,