Living hand in hand with nature


All too often, the environment is mentioned in a fearful tone. Images of melting icecaps, dwindling forests, and species loss spring to mind. Overstory Magazine is a quarterly publication instills the reader with a sense of belonging to the natural world, repositioning human beings as part of the solution.

Solo Project

Skills

Print layout
Typography
Content curation
Copy editing

Tools

InDesign
Photoshop
Illustrator

Timeline

10 weeks

Problem?

City life is marvelous: it is convenient, connected, and industrious. However, urban life takes a toll on city-dwellers, who long for a break from the daily grind. Many people wish they could live more sustainably—but don’t know how.

Solution.

Overstory: an oasis of calm and hope in the maelstrom of city life. It features stories that inform, inspire, and expand the vision of the natural world with a restful and contemplative layout. It's like a microdose of forest bathing that you can bring on the bus.

Landscape

Overstory Magazine seeks to remove the sense of separation that most people feel with nature. To do so, Overstory embraces the human element and celebrates the people who are striving for a better future through innovations in art and science.

Accessible to novices and experts alike, Overstory offers a breather from urban life, reintroducing the reader to the nature that they are a part of so that he or she may imagine how to live in greater harmony. In the same way that going into nature reinvigorates the mind and body, reading Overstory bestows
the reader with renewed sense of wonder in the natural world.

Articles highlight developments in science, conservation efforts, ecological discoveries, ethnobotanical studies, culture, art, literature, and healthy living practices, without the doom and gloom. Each issue connects readers to overarching themes as well as practical resources (news, literature, recipes and tips) that they can bring into their daily life.

The tribe

Who reads this magazine? While curating the content, I kept the magazine's readers at the front of my awareness. Drawing from real-life conversations and interactions, I created a set of personas to describe Overstory's audience. These characters describe different approaches to the dialog of sustainability, each with person with his or her own complex circumstances. The fact that they are based on real people made it easier for me to put myself in their shoes and to fine-tune the layout and content to address their preferences.

The core of Overstory readers consists of working professionals. Most will have some notion of sustainability and are trying to incorporate sustainable practices into their lifestyles. However, most do not feel that they are doing enough, nor are they sure how to learn more. Preoccupied with work and home life, most readers are not able to spend much time in nature or live up to their own ideals. All yearn for more connection with nature, given their urban reality.

On one hand, there are readers who have accompanied the ecological movement for decades. On the other hand, there are those who only have a faint understanding of what ecology is. Overstory needs to be relevant to both extremes—and to those who find themselves somewhere in between.

The common factor among all of these audience members is wonder. No matter how much someone knows, there is always a chance to see nature in a new light. Overstory offers the chance to spark interest in nature or rekindle hope for a greener future in anyone who pauses to pick up a copy.

Roberto

Born in São Paulo, Roberto lives in the Bay Area with his family. He is the director of an environmental nonprofit that also works with indigenous peoples. He spends half of his time at and half traveling to meetings, conferences, and for work, especially in South America.

Most magazines don't interest him because he has so many years' experience and has so much to read for work. He is a National Geographic subscriber and already has a large library. Since he spends so much time sitting, he would rather be hiking or climbing in his free time.

He has seen the social and ecological impacts of climate change firsthand and spends every waking hour thinking about how to save the environment. Yet, at a time where the environmental crisis is more dire than ever, he is beginning to loose hope for the future and longs for the fervor that he felt when he became involved with the environmental movement as a college student.

Anya

Anya is a naturopath from New York who is setting up her practice at a clinic in the city. Rent is high and natural medicine is a niche market.

She works six days a week and has a set routine: attending patients, managing her growing business, studying natural health, and sitting in traffic. She lives in a studio apartment furnished from IKEA. On weekends, she goes to the farmers market or for a walk in the park, but that is as close as she gets to spending time in nature.Anya is the first person in her family to become interested in the environment.

She isn’t involved directly in any ecological causes, but she is involved in her spiritual community and the alternative healthcare world. Although she subscribes to magazines for her waiting room, she doesn’t necessarily read them. She hasn’t stuck with any subscription for long, since she would rather be reading a book or watching Netflix.

Tito

Tito is attending Portland State and lives in a dorm near campus. He is Ecuadorian and was raised in Miami: this is his first time living away from home and he is still dependent on his parents. He is taking prerequisites while he searches for his vocation. So far, he has had a few inspiring professors who have encouraged his interest in biology and environmental science.

He is still adapting to the lifestyle and culture of Portland, but it has opened up his world view and
he is trying to adopt a more ecologically-conscious lifestyle. He spent a semester abroad in Peru and the trip made him hungry for more. He dreams of backpacking, visiting the Amazon, and traveling the world to see what is out there and to meet people from different cultures.

In the meantime, he spends most of his time in lectures, studying at the library and on field trips. He volunteers at a local community garden and visits local cafés. He has never subscribe to any magazine, but would purchase a copy if it caught his eye.

Needs

Every aspect of Overstory Magazine arose from these users' wants and needs. Although they lead disparate lives, their interests in an ecological magazine are similar. As such, they give the magazine's appearance and format a clear direction.

For example, Anya's need for more literature and Robert's wish for an uninterrupted read inspired the in-depth articles, the marginalization of advertisements, and the calm, objective typography. Tito's desire to see more of the world meshes with the other users' need for relief from city life, necessitating soothing nature photography.

Overstory's sections are centered around these readers' interests as well. The front of the book informs readers like Roberto who need facts and reassurance. The feature articles introduce Tito to his ecological heroes, and the back of book articles inform Anya about the practical, healthy living articles.

Overstory's sections are centered around these readers' interests as well. The front of the book informs readers like Roberto who need facts and reassurance. The feature articles introduce Tito to his ecological heroes, and the back of book articles teach Anya how to live in greater harmony with nature.

The magazine strikes a balance: its goal is for everyone to come away from an article having learned something, regardless of their background. Although Robert is accustomed to reading scientific literature, Tito is not. Articles, therefore, must be informative, but not exclusive. Compelling narratives and vivid imagery make higher-level topics like mycorestoration more accessible to newcomers and more relevant to experts.

Every page is softened by colors that are sampled from the natural world. The white of the page is tinted to creme, while the text is desaturated to a deep purple. Muted yellow, pink, and green punctuate opening spreads and special features without stealing the spotlight.

Unobtrusive, minimalist graphic elements supplement Overstory's contemplative tone: rules create structure for the content without drawing attention away from it. Organic textures are used sparingly, referencing nature and handcrafts.

Intentional photography makes reading Overstory an immersive experience. Whether viewed up close, from afar, or from a new angle, Overstory's imagery is used to make readers consider their surroundings in a new way. The magazine's restful layout frames natural textures and patterns with carefully balanced white space to draw the reader into the scene.

All of the type was selected for its refinement and humanity. The body text is set in Chaparral, a distinctly American take on a traditional text face, which sums up the magazine’s pioneering mentality. Sans serif headings, running heads, and captions add dashes of objectivity and clarity while Ivy Journal graces the masthead and opening spreads with a calligraphic flourish.

Overstory's minimalist layout features generous margins and long passages of uninterrupted text. This conservative layout allows the reader to leave the clutter of the urban world behind and immerse himself in the stories. Navigation is aided by thoughtfully-named and clearly-indicated sections that are
also referenced in the footer.

A forest is an ever-changing, living organism.

The magazine is organized according to the levels (strata) of a forest: Understory, Canopy, and Emergence. Although a real forest is far more complex and varied than these three tiers, they indicate the magazine's structure while educating readers about the workings of the natural world.

Understory

Understory: the ground floor. Rich with underbrush and a diverse array of creatures, as well as nascent plant life destined to grow to great heights. This is where it all begins.

The same goes for Overstory: the front of book is where the table of contents and a selection short articles are found. This first section gives the reader the chance to inform herself on recent events and trends without committing to a longer read.

Canopy

The tapestry of treetops that towers above the forest floor, the point where the forest meets the sky: the canopy. The leafy crown, also known as the overstory, is a forest ecosystem's most prominent feature. Canopy is also the name for Overstory's feature article section, which focuses on in-depth portraits of pioneers at the intersection of human culture and ecology.

Emergence

Above the canopy tower a few spires: the emergent species. In a thriving forest, a few species stand out on the horizon, bridging earth and sky. Emergence is the name for Overstory's back of book section, which is the bridge between the expert and the reader. This is where literature reviews, sustainable living tips, and poetry live; kernels of nature's wisdom that readers can bring into their everyday lives.