SINGULARITY

Singularity: A beautiful, low-cost magazine aimed at tech-savvy South Africans.

While considering my options in what to create for my senior research project at the conclusion of my undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Town in 2014, I was struck by a profound insight from a close friend: “Technology (in media) is interesting, but ultimately traction-less in South Africa.”

Inspired by this idea, I took the notion to heart and outlined my vision for a tech magazine that would be incisive, interesting, and tailored for the South African tech market.

I was struck, in this regard, in considering how the lack of a consistent design amongst the larger and more established tech magazines in South Africa – for example, Stuff – leads to a low level of recall amongst consumers in even the most ardent tech-loving circles.

Through these thoughts, a manifesto that would become Singularity fell into place; an easily legible and beautifully designed technology magazine that while feeling like a quality product, did not have to be positioned at the price of one.

How was Singularity made?

I created Singularity through several means over a period of a semester. Text, design, and layout of the magazine was created and managed in Adobe InDesign. Photographs were taken on a Nikon D5100 DSLR, and edited in Adobe Lightroom. Content was written and edited in Microsoft Word and Apple Pages.

How does Singularity read?

Before beginning to write Singularity’s content, I spent a great deal of time considering in what tone to write. I felt that while the vernacular used by Stuff was male-centric, simplistic and often used repetitively, I felt cautious to veer too far into the other end of the spectrum and produce a magazine loaded with verbose jargon. In this regard, I decided to write Singularity’s content with the intent of explaining technical content simply, efficiently, and peppered by unassuming humour. My mantra, which is shared by Singularity’s slogan, was to be informative and incisive.

As products in the tech market are produced, sold and updated regularly, I decided to focus my writing on products that were either new to the market at the time of writing (late July, early August) or, in the case of Singularity’s long-term review, had been on the market for a mid-term period of six months.

Further, I decided to add a profile component to Singularity to accommodate a measure of human interest. I profiled Steven Norris, the editor of the tech news site Gearburn, with the intent of illustrating an interesting account of a high-profile player in the South African tech market, as well as providing his own opinions (and therefore, not my own, as the editor) on a wealth of different topics, such as the future of wearable tech.

What does Singularity look like?

singularity

My first task with Singularity – before even having written any content – was to establish a timeless and consistent design. While many tech magazine design their features around a particular aspect of the product or service in question, I decided to create a design that, while versatile, is fundamentally recognisable; the thinking guiding this decision was “if a consumer opened this magazine at a random page, they would know what magazine they were reading simply by the layout and design of the page.”

To achieve this, I considered designs of magazines, products and systems that were famed either for their consistency or recognisability. I drew inspiration from several sources – my choice in font, in this regard GeoSansLight for headings, and Helvetica CY for body text, was driven by Microsoft’s Windows 8 design language. I felt that these choices reflected an easy visibility and readability throughout the magazine, and through their simple design complemented other subtle elements of the publication such as gradient backgrounds, and large full-page images without distraction.

From Apple’s mobile operating system iOS 7, I drew inspiration in the form of light transparencies which I have used throughout Singularity. Apple’s operating system uses transparency to highlight text and important information, while allowing a background wallpaper or colour underneath he transparency to create a subtle sense of personalization and uniqueness. In this regard, I used transparency to highlight changes in colour throughout the publication to bring attention to a variety of diverse tones and gradients throughout what is essentially a consistent design. Through this, I aimed to greatly reduce any possible sense of ‘tiredness’ throughout the publication while retaining a ‘signature’ design.

While creating Singularity, I was faced with the challenge of drawing attention to text while background and photo colours were typically vivid and overpowering. To achieve this, I implemented a ‘standard rule’ in which I used a 1mm drop shadow to afford a level of depth in the magazine’s presentation. Through this, header – and in some cases body – text is lifted from a ‘static’ or ‘flat’ presentation and is given a subtle 3D effect. I felt that this decision afforded a pleasing level of reading immersion within the magazine, without interfering with the eye’s focus.

My decision to establish a consistent font size was driven with online-access in mind. Due to Singularity’s nature as a tech magazine, I felt that it was evident that Singularity’s consumers would most likely read the magazine on mobile devices or in an online format provided by Singularity’s website, www.singularitysa.co.nr. I decided to introduce a standard .11pt font size for body text, with the intent of rendering text visible and easy to read chiefly through online means, and additionally in print. Singularity’s font size accommodates for easy readability on Apple’s iPad, for example, without the need to zoom in to effectively read an article. I felt that this decision complemented the notion of an accessible tech magazine which all audiences – regardless of how they accessed Singularity’s content – could easily follow the magazine’s text.

What inspired Singularity’s imagery?

singularity

While producing Singularity, I came to realize that using colour and vividity would balance the strict black-and-white tonality of the publication. In conjunction with this, I sought to break the ‘spotless’ presentation of products photographed in a controlled flash booth, as is common in other tech publications. In this regard, I opted to showcase major products either reviewed or discussed as in-use, back dropped by an interesting environment. While photographing, I used a small aperture (f1.8) to achieve a strong background blur to empathize colour, as well as draw singular attention to the main subject of the photograph.

I asked two personal friends for help in modelling my major review items, who assisted me unpaid on the condition that they keep my photographs for their model portfolio. I sought a male and female model to balance the depictions of gender in Singularity, rather than pander to a male-dominated audience. While this decision may not reflect a position which is advocated in a business sense, I felt that an equal representation of gender was vital for publication and sale in a country where transformation is a key debate. I am aware, in this regard, that my publication has in this instance used solely white models; this was not done through any intent other than that I felt that the friends I had asked, irrespective of their race, where the most suitable for the task, and that to hire a model of a different race was beyond my budget at the time of production. Further, I sought through this to open Singularity’s readership to a female audience of tech-consumers who are often underrepresented or not represented entirely, and kept this mind-set as a fulfilment of my manifesto outline to place Singularity’s focus on technology and products, rather than on a human element.

Would you be interested in seeing Singularity?

I’d love to show it you! Please contact me and I will arrange to send you the final concept. Images, content and the overall design are my own property, so please be nice and don’t steal.