rEvolu-evolu-Resolu: shunning the rules of design Print publishing (story of cmyk)

Direct Mail (4/25/95)

Open and shut 

Prior to CMYK Magazine there was Spec, a magazine idea for creatives to showcase “spec” work. Although the idea would eventually launch a far more colorful publication a year later, Spec didn't survive beyond the original estimates for printing, prepress, paper, Federal Express (aka FedEx), UPS, USPS, designers, writers, and editors, lighting, phone, gas, food, and office rent. Two staffers escaped and pursued successful careers in tech and design. The third would find himself in a chance meeting with an emerging design graduate, and the design industry would never look at "student work" the same again.

Original Logo (11/1/95)

In Living Color

CMYK was conceived on Nob Hill atop a two-ton, metal, 1950s teacher's desk - propped-up 12 feet above on a questionable plank landing about to buckle in a shared corner studio apartment/art gallery/magazine office overlooking the southwest corner of Clay and Mason, at the intersection of San Francisco cable cars and the landmark Fairmont hotel. CMYK's defining mark gave life to the project as a true representation of what it was as an upstart, independent design magazine: young, passionate, fearless and doing whatever felt right at the time. Art students now had a creative voice they could use to be properly celebrated for their work.

Page Grid (11/30/95)


We weren't quite sure where this would lead us, but we did have a map to keep us honest. The Layout Grid was the designer's sacred scroll, hand written on papyrus. The CMYK staff showed caution not to spill coffee on it, or let it fall to the rage of the office canine. By the time each issue of CMYK Magazine went to press, this sheet resembled more of a mistreated pub menu than CMYK's path to success. That is actual ballpoint ink from a Bic pen.

Jeff Goodby Letter (1/31/96)


Deep within the San Francisco Ad Ghetto of the mid-1990s, Jeff Goodby of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, along with partner Rich Silverstein, were quickly becoming the "Michael Jordans" of advertising with work for the California Milk Advisory Board, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Porsche, Isuzu, and Sega. In the fall of 1995, CMYK mailed a letter to Jeff inquiring if he might consider offering a testimonial for CMYK that we could use in our direct-mail brochure. Nobody expected a response, but it was a shot we had to take. A few months later we received this letter from Jeff. Not only did the man accept it, but he read it, replied to it, signed it, and mailed it back. This selfless act of encouragement was something all start-up businesses need to keep moving forward. Classic Goodby.

CMYK #1 (6/15/96)


Break the mold. Fly free. CMYK 1 was a 64 page, 9.24 ounce beast of a publication featuring the 85 portfolio works in advertising, design, illustration, and photography from 25 different art and portfolio schools, design programs, creative workshops, and university departments. Cliff Freeman, Michael Osborne, Terry Heffernan and Maryjane Begin were the judges. We did it. We kept to our script. We had the support of amazing educators and advertisers. And we launched at the right moment. Design education icon Norm Grey of the Creative Circus said CMYK's first issue looked far better than the first issue of Playboy.

CMYK #3: (12/13/96)


CMYK didn't allow fourth-cover advertising for the first 14 issues. Covers, front and back, were punctured, burnt, shot, red-penned, even transformed into Scantron test form. It made sense to put a hook through a magazine because CMYK baited with plenty of freshly caught student caught from our globe's most excellent ad schools, design departments, and self-teaching incubators.


Back cover

It's all about the follow through.

CMYK #7: (6/10/98)


This pencil sharpener was on loan from the art director's seventh-grade algebra teacher, who happened to be teaching at the same school all these years later. CMYK 8 proved to all of us that as long as we kept sharpening our skills and published that which was worthy of the expensive Strathmore White it was printed on, we'd have plenty to write home about.


Back cover

Keep grinding.

CMYK #13 (2.13.01)


Get out your No. 2 pencil and shade-in the number the corresponds to the piece of artwork you like most inside this issue of CMYK 13. You must select 12 pieces total out of 300 works across three different issues. Then, be so kind as to scan the cover and fax us the results. Good luck.

CMYK #14 (6/12/01)


CMYK 14 was the spark that the publication needed, as the next issue, CMYK 15, would reveal an inspired new look and focus that would carry CMYK Magazine through the first decade. CMYK would join forces with the likes of designer Martin Vanezky, and include the direction of writer, critic, curator Glen Helfand, to expand the editorial model to include Yves Bahar, Steven Heller, Milton Glaser, and many more industry influencers. Moving forward, it was student artwork on the front and advertiser artwork on back.

CMYK #14


Close cover before striking.

CMYK #19 (7/16/01)


"Sarah" by Shelly Reese of Portfolio Center, Atlanta, GA, exemplified CMYK's use of a single image on its covers. Selecting a single visual concept from hundreds of projects in design, illustration, photography, art direction and copywriting that were submitted into CMYK's Top 100 New Creatives contest was no joke. Cover needed to be strong both in concept and the ability for the work to be resized to fit the cover. 300dpi is what you really hoped for.

CMYK #25 (4/16/04)


Textless covers continued with this work titled "The Epic Journey" from illustrator Kevin Klein/California State University, Fresno. For about five years, the square masthead would roam across the cover as per the position of elements in the artwork. Challenge was not to cover-up any essential elements in the piece. CMYK would soon reconsider its cover policy at the next rest stop.

CMYK #31 (3/7/06)


A big, green cover. Because we could. CMYK Magazine eventually got it together and added content copy to its covers so readers would know a little more about what they'll find inside. "Monkeys Among Us" by designer-illustrator Clint Martin of Texas A&M University-Commerce was one of the first covers to bring back the shiny gloss cover stock after several years of matte.

CMYK #33 (5/19/06)


The advertising renaissance of ’96. The dot-com boom of ’98 and the dot-com crash of ’01. 9/11. New York’s blizzard and blackout of ’03. The housing boom of ’06. Reality television. We survived it all. With CMYK 33, CMYK had published over 3,000 pieces of creative from over 2,500 aspiring professionals across the globe, handpicked for publication by 150 of the most celebrated creative professionals in communication art. So how better to celebrate this major milestone than by putting on the cover a photograph of "O-Nin Yhbt5," an alien onion, by photographer Ian Aleksander Adams of the Hallmark Institute of Photography.

CMYK #43 (4/17/09)


A dozen or so years of using a single image on our covers. We had to let go, but not after we published "Clothesline Baby" from photographer Matt Beardsley of the Academy of Art University's photography program. Luckily, this young man in the photo would keep his grip long enough for CMYK to grow up a bit with CMYK 45.

CMYK #45 (11/21/09)


CMYK 45 began the most experimental period in the publication's printed era. Tyler School of Art at Temple University graduate, Ronald J. Cala II, was discovered by CMYK after his work was published in CMYK 37, 38, 40, 42 and 44, and brought on to help CMYK to undergo a total redesign. This style would evolve over the next ten issues until CMYK 55, the final paper edition CMYK would published.

CMYK #47 (6/16/10)


CMYK 47 saw the magazine work with industry icons as contributors. Artists Roberto De Vicq De Cumptich designed the masthead here. CMYK 47 launched a trend that continued through its 55th issue. CMYK is honored to have worked with David Carson, Art Chantry, James Victore, John Langdon, Mary Kate McDevit, and Roberto De Vicq De Cumptich.

CMYK #50 (5/1/11)


To celebrate this gravity defying milestone, CMYK decided to transform its cover into a kitchen-table sketchbook using a pencil to draw "50" in 50 different ways. The tenacious graphite approach was quite a test for our designer Katy Hatz, but her efforts produced some wild results. CMYK got even crazier by adding a spot metallic silver to its masthead. The party continued inside with the publication’s first “Posters-Only” contest; a one-on-one with design legend Woody Pirtle; and a custom infographic by up-and-coming designer-typographer Jessica Hische on the age-old dilemma, “Should I work for free?”

CMYK #53 (10/24/12)

catching a MAVERICK

The legendary David Carson was the feature interview for CMYK 53 and the designer of our cover. The surfer in this photo is also David. It was David Carson's wave and we were happy to share it.

CMYK #57 (11/18)

4/C TO 16,777,216c

Today, CMYK is back with what made the print publication such a popular hit with design professionals, teachers, and students alike: our Top New Creatives design competition. It's all here on all screens in a dual-purpose beast of a website developed to house both contest portal and winners' showcase. This site is dedicated to new artists looking for an opportunity to have their student work celebrated and recognized on a platform recognized for celebrating student work.


CMYK#58 Cover (2/19)

100 artists/29 schools

CMYK 58 celebrates the official return of CMYK's Top New Creatives Showcase featuring the online collection of more than 100 design projects from 70 students across 29 schools in five different "students-only" competition categories.


CMYK was born in San Francisco at the epicenter of the great design-industry revolution.

Groundbreaking work was being produced. Design jobs were a dime a dozen. The San Francisco 49ers were coming off another Super Bowl victory. And Nash Bridges was on Friday nights. Above all, design schools, portfolio programs, college and university departments, and creative workshops were brimming with promise and potential. And in May 1996, CMYK launched its first "Top 100 New Creatives Showcase."

As a quarterly contest juried by top industry professionals, CMYK recognized in print the outstanding portfolio work of aspiring art directors, copywriters, illustrators, photographers, and graphic designers. For nearly two decades, CMYK published the work of over 6,000 award-winning "art students" per the choosing of more than 250 of the day's most successful creative professionals. CMYK was synonymous with "student work" and became one of the most popular "art school competitions," publishing work from an average of 30 different schools, departments, programs, and workshops in every contest.

The independent design magazine that could did, until it could no longer do it like it was doing it to or else it would be done. By 2013, the print industry was thinning on top and browning at the edges, and after publishing 55 talent-rich collections of the largest, most scholastically diverse "student design," CMYK stopped the presses and stepped into the future. CMYK never gave up on the dream. Today, as CMYK officially transitions from DPI to PPI, we've taken what shined in print for all those years and made it glow on-screen in a living, breathing monster of an online portal.

Where once you could flip through pages of CMYK, now you can tap, swipe, and click through a bold, confident, invigorated platform for our ever-expanding collection of art and design from aspiring and emerging artists, designers, illustrators, art directors, and copywriters. And while the medium has changed, the concept remains the same. To our supporters in the past: you were the reason we didn't eventually give up on coming back. To our fans today and tomorrow, this is just the beginning and we plan to give you every reason to bookmark our site.

CMYK 1.0: 1996–1999

1 in 10. Those were the odds of an independent design magazine making it past the first year. Fortunately, in the mid-’90s, the advertising and design industries were experiencing a renaissance in New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston, Portland, and Seattle. In San Francisco, the dot-com boom sparked a creative gold rush with agencies like Saatchi and Saatchi; J. Walter Thompson; Leagas Delaney; Lowe & Partners/SMS; Mad Dogs and Englishmen; and Hal Riney offspring like Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; and Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners. In design, you had award-winners in Landor and Cahan & Associates, and the Three Michaels (Mabry, Osborn, and Vanderbyl), among many other notable firms and artists. Not to mention Nash Bridges. San Francisco was also an epicenter for magazine start-ups with names like Cups, Spec, Speak, Mas Moda, Emigre, and Critique.

CMYK’s publishing niche is it's Top 100 New Creatives "student design contest" and the showcasing of outstanding creative from the student-graduate level. Fortunately, nationwide the art school scene abounded with plenty of established and emerging art-design schools and programs, all thriving in their niche. Academy of Art University, Art Center College of Design, and Portfolio Center, among many others, were staples in communication-arts education, while Miami Ad School was but a year old and The Creative Circus, VCU Brandcenter, Chicago Portfolio School, and Brainco were opening their doors. This period in CMYK history introduced the magazine as the voice of the new creative class: an independent publication supporting and promoting the talents of those on the verge of inheriting the future of successful advertising and design. To best give full prominence to its work showcase, CMYK’s design template was all about clean white space with a straightforward column editorial format. CMYK’s design flair took shape in its spray-painted logo and award-winning cover concepts—magic 8-ball, gas pumps, giant fishhook, acupuncture needles—that quickly became the magazine’s design signature.

CMYK 2.0: 1999–2009

CMYK underwent its first complete redesign to become more of an inspiring design magazine. The goal was to update the CMYK brand aesthetic and strengthen the foundation and infrastructure. In other words, do well for business. A new label-style logo and high-concept layout were adopted as was featuring a selection of student work on the cover for each issue.

The redesign proved successful, spanning an entire decade with subtle issue-by-issue improvements along the way. This period would also see two evolutions of its website. The steady growth helped establish CMYK as synonymous with inspiration. Editorial content was expanded by adding a calendar and book-review section and reporting focused on those doing breakthrough work at all levels of visual communication. CMYK would also add more pages to our aspiring creatives showcase. The publication established a standard of integrity and excellence, and CMYK would see its business model become one of the largest and most sought-after creative contests.

CMYK 3.0: 2009–2014

With an ailing economy and a new set of challenges at the forefront of our minds, CMYK saw an opportunity to reinvest in its product and emerge ready to face its next phase. With a solid foundation, CMYK was looking to emphasize what had set it apart from other design magazines and at the same time improve on what it is that today’s readers would appreciate. Growth was the goal with the new redesign, an expanding of the audience and authority of the magazine both visually and content-wise. The new look would need to extend beyond aesthetics and called for a bolder statement: a stronger pride and dedication, change and commitment—more of a scream than a shout.

To help with this task, CMYK hired award-winning designer Ronald J. Cala II. Selected for publication in five different issues of CMYK, it was Cala and his unique design style and devotion to the art/science of impact that caught the attention of CMYK as precisely what it needed to achieve its new look. The goal was to give the magazine a more fluid, cohesive feel as a singular product, to tie it all together—cover, front, middle, back. A new tagline was adopted to define better the functionality of the magazine’s model: create, showcase, inspire. From there the CMYK logo was altered by closing the spacing between the letters. Covers would summarize more of the content of the magazine with a more calculated focus on getting the reader to open the book.

Inside, we wanted to make good use of CMYK’s namesake colors throughout the guts of the publication. The editorial—with expanded international coverage and a more personal, confident, from-the-source voice—would flow together and stand on its own and fit into the whole scheme of the magazine. CMYK would reach 65,000 Facebook fans and also launch the fourth incarnation of its website.