Design, Emigre magazine and the Digital Humanities
by Jessica Barness (MFA Design '12, UMN)
Assistant Professor, School of Visual Communication Design
Kent State University
Just over a year ago, the Goldstein Museum of Design's Emigre Magazine Index was launched to communicate and provide online access to the contents of Emigre magazine issues in the GMD collection. As the designer and author of this project, I shared my research at the inaugural 'Design and the Digital Humanities' panel at the Midwest Modern Language Association 2013 national convention, held November 8-10 in Milwaukee, WI. Our panel examined the role of design and digital technologies in humanities research, and my work was joined by other presentations on data visualization, design education and video poetry.
An important part of graphic design authorship history, Emigre magazine was published from 1984-2005. Its first issues coincide with the early use of MacIntosh computers by graphic designers, and parallels were noted between this and the exploration of digital technologies by designers today.
In the panel discussion I talked about my design process, in which a sketchbook and spreadsheet evolved into a complex website that highlights how form and content are intertwined in Emigre magazine. On the website, colors, typefaces, organizational structure and the many ways the reader can interact with the content are deliberately designed to affect understanding.
Additionally, attendees were introduced to the magazine's size, theme, and format changes, as well as my decisions on how hundreds of authors and contributions were included, ranging from writing, type design and interviews to graphic layouts, sound/video and guest edited issues. In a broad way, this process could be brought into museum collections or other digital humanities projects to create communicative, alternative research tools.
The Emigre Magazine Index is accessible to the public at
Funding for this project was provided by the Goldstein Museum of Design's
Jerome Joss Graduate Internship.