Aviva Loeb, a senior at the University of Vermont, is this year’s winner of the $2,000 SND Foundation scholarship. Loeb, who is planning to graduate in December, has interned at San Diego Magazine and the Jerusalem Post, and was Layout Editor of The Vermont Cynic, the school’s newspaper that she joined as a freshman. In 2013 she led a redesign of the Cynic.
A panel of five SND leaders selected Loeb for the award based on her answers to two essay questions, the quality of her portfolio, the breadth of her experience, her professor’s recommendation and her strong academic performance. Loeb was among the recipients for travel grants to the SND workshop in Frankfurt in 2014. I asked her to share some details about her design journey:
Tell me your SND story: how did you first learn about us?
I kind of stumbled onto the Society for News Design. My freshman year my editor sent me to the College Media Association’s 2013 New York City conference. In the very first session that I attended Stephen Komives gave a presentation about Alternative Story Forms. He also talked to the room about SND and encouraged us all to join. I actually won a deck of SND playing cards which I still have. I ended up joining SND that fall and applying in the spring for a grant.
I’m so thankful to SND for awarding me a travel grant and allowing me to attend my first conference in Frankfurt, Germany. It was life-changing. I ended up rooming with 3 students from Ball State, who have become my SND family. I met so many inspirational people at SND Frankfurt. I was also so incredibly star struck to be in the same room as some of the most talented visual journalists in the world. SND has been so generous to me as a student and I can’t wait to give back to the organization as I prepare to enter the work force. I’ll definitely be a member for life.
Oh and the Cynic still uses that powerpoint Stephen sent me.
When you joined your college newspaper as a freshman you undertook a full redesign. What was your strategy?
Prior to becoming Cynic layout editor I only had about 3 months of experience doing news design. It was kind of a weird time for the newspaper too, we didn’t have a layout editor so the managing editor was in charge of the page designers. I was kind of in shock when she suggested I run for layout editor. Right after I found out I had won layout editor the managing editor handed me Tim Harrower’s Newspaper Designer’s Handbook and over Thanksgiving break I read it cover to cover.
The photo editor, Natalie Williams, pitched the idea of redesign to me. Over winter break, she messaged me, “The managing editor and I want to redesign the logo, can you have some ideas ready to show us for after break.” I ended up spending most of my vacation sending drafts back and forth with her until we finalized something.
I would break the rest of the redesign down into two parts. There was the initial purging of some of the really bad aspects of the old paper, like the dated colored boxes, all-over-the-place typography and lack of clear rules about spacing. These things were all changed before our first issue was published in January. Once we got back to Vermont in January we had about a week to make all these changes. We set a font package, which included 6 fonts, and updated to the section headers.
Once I really had a handle on how the paper operated and what it needed, and after being exposed to new ideas through CMA and ACP conferences, I was able to make some major changes under the next year’s leadership. We gutted an old section called Distractions and turned it into a page devoted to a visually driven, alternative story form feature. I got this idea after looking through the SND annual and wishing we had more content like in the book.
Last summer I spent a lot of time making a style guide to keep track of all these changes.
You’ve been really aggressive in college pursuing internships and job shadow opportunities. What are the best lessons you’ve learned?
I think the most important lesson that I’ve learned is to take every assignment and opportunity I can get. At the Jerusalem Post I didn’t want to choose between reporting and design, so I would come in at 10 a.m. with the rest of the interns and write stories and then stay until midnight to help lay out the paper.
I don’t think I’ve ever said no to an assignment at any of my internships.
Another really important thing I’ve learned is not to be afraid to put myself out there. I spent a day with Brian Fiddleman and Denise Fuhs of the New York Times back in May. I got to see a big expose about nail salons being designed which was really cool. I felt really connected to that story after that. In July shadowed Greg Manifold at the Washington Post, as well as Amy King, Matt Callahan and Marianne Sergei.
I love that i’ve been able to expose myself to almost every type of publication, from a monthly to a daily, large circulation and small. I’ve learned a ton of technical stuff, especially at my current internship with San Diego Magazine. While I’ve loved working for a magazine and being able to create really creative spreads, I also have realized this summer how much I love newspapers. I love the pace, the puzzle and I love telling stories. I also really like that being a journalist lets me learn so much about the world.
Any plans yet for post-graduation?
Nothing solidified yet no. I’m working on it though, I’ve always been the type of person to plan things out three steps in advance and I think I’m starting to drive people crazy with my constant emails to see if they have openings.