During my sophomore fall, I was in a Publishing class that that first introduced me to the world of publishing and rhetorical decisions. In a group of seven, we worked on the newsletter for Family Abuse Services of Alamance County, a local nonprofit that focuses on domestic abuse and family relationships. We started the project by meeting with the client and discussing her ideas for the publication. They had an existing newsletter, but it was not visually interesting and had not been updated in several years. From there we brainstormed layouts and finally settled on one that incorporated the color purple and focused in articles or information in aesthetically pleasing way. We decided on the colors being shades of purple because that is the color for domestic abuse awareness. Then we met with various department coordinators within Family Abuse Services to interview them about specific programs that we wanted to highlight. We also attended some events including the Candle Light Vigil to bring in pieces that featured the impact of the organization on the community. We decided to group programs together in a way that would highlight different departments each issue and provided enough material for the organization to make two more issues.
Before this class, I had never worked with the medium of design and layout so it was definitely an eye opening experience. It was fascinating to see a different approach to communication practices by using specific rhetorical decisions in our layout and visuals. From the font to the drop caps, every choice was deliberate. We always kept the purpose in the back of our minds and tailored the newsletter to reflect it. We wanted to persuade and educate the constituents and had an informal slogan of ‘get informed, get involved.’ This idea strongly impacted what we choose to include, especially with the highlighted “Get Involved” section on the last page.
We also talked extensively about audience and who we were targeting with the newsletter. Doing extensive research through the clients and brainstorming lists of constituents, we narrowed down the different niches that would be reading the newsletter. This was very helpful for us to decide the tone and what information to include. For example, one group that we identified was business professionals or donors. We realized that the tone had to be professional in order to appeal to them. With this in mind we wrote the articles with a serious language.
This partnership and accompanying class was my first taste of publishing for a real audience. With that being said, I made sure that every decision was for the good of the client and fermented our purpose. This was the first time I saw connections between rhetorical decisions and visual layout. I also experienced first-hand a successful group collaboration that required constant feedback and involvement to produce a product that we were proud to deliver to our client. I learned the importance of communicating with a group and an organization while staying on-track for deadlines. In the end, the clients were very pleased with the newsletter and the document received positive feedback.