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Patriotic Art & Design

Airman Magazine is the official magazine for the U.S. Air Force, and is just one of the publications from the U.S. Department of Defence -- which by the way, when combined, represent one of the largest magazine circulations in the world. Airman is a medium of information for Air Force personnel in the U.S. and all around the world.

This magazine holds a special interest to me because it was one of the DOD (Department of Defence) publications included in a series of annual seminars I had the pleasure of participating in. Myself and Alex White (noted design expert, educator and author of many design books including "Type In Use"), met with the designers, illustrators and photographers of the DOD publications to critique and facilitate makeovers. Fortunately, they've left me on their mailing list, so over the years, I've been able to watch the magazine as its design matured and flourished. They didn't realize I was watching. But I have been.


Epitome of Patriotic Design

Obviously a publication for and by a government's armed forces would naturally be patriotic. However in many ways it could be overdone and objectionable. Design Editor Steve Ingram, along with Director of Photography MSgt. Lance S. Cheung, Senior Photojournalists MSgt. Scott Wagers and MSgt. Efrain Gonzalez and a dedicated staff make it their duty to see that this publication is anything but objectionable. In fact, their passion for visual story-telling has made Airman a real treat to see and read.

A background of Red and White

The June issue features 22 Air Force athletes who have trained for the 2004 Summer Olympics as part of the World Class Athlete Program. While the theme is certainly built on a patriotic stage, the graphics for this pictorial take on an 'understated' show of colors. The cover illustration (at right) is a collaborative photo construct by Master Sgt. Efrain Gonzalez and Patrick Harris mixing real photography with a beautifully illustrated Olympic 'rings' logo, blazing with fire against an actual backdrop of the American flag fabric. The banner is subdued in a gray to match the dimly lighted 'whites' of the flag, so that only the typography "Olympic Dreams", the highlights of the fire and the athlete's suit are allowed to gleam in pure white. This crafty cover uses those whites to push the athlete forward, and pop him right off the background. But more about covers in a moment.

Olympic spread

Inside, the photo story repeats the same muted flag colors for photo backgrounds but introduces a ghosted photo of Greek architecture in full page bleed for each page of the story. While the layout changes from spread to spread this background carries the theme. The pacing is nothing less than ingenious starting text heavy and building to a photo montage crescendo. Go ahead and click that link and notice the visual flow as the photos help your eye move from image to image. Nice work!

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