Leanne Macaspac | UI/UX Designer

M / UI/UX Designer

Branding & Editorial

Abstract Magazine: Wake up the North

Abstract Magazine

Abstract Magazine is a concept print and web publication that showcases local artists, photographers and writers that use their talent to address socio-political issues. The editorial is meant to empower and keep mature readers (post-secondary education, young adults) informed of the urban landscape.

Abstract Magazine print
Abstract Magazine: Web Experience
Abstract Magazine: Web Experience

Abstract Magazine print covers

Defining the brand

I analyzed competitors in print and web (including Pound Magazine, Manifesto, Respect, Rap Season, The Fader and Complex) to help me think about how I wanted the brand to connect with readers.

Abstract’s personality should come from thought-provoking content and bold visuals. The publication is meant to educate readers in a way that explores their own thoughts and ideas, help them understand what is happening in their community and how they can take action to help. The brand is in the integrity of the content.

Abstract Magazine: logo process

Several iterations of Abstract's logo

Creating the logo

Abstract’s competitors use variations of boxed logos and bold, uppercase logotypes, many of which are black and red. While it shows strength in structure and colour, I wanted Abstract to stand out by introducing a logo that shows flexibility in personality. The urban arts is abstract: it’s a free form that allows a person to define themselves in their own way with purpose, through every beat, word and movement.

The editorial experience in a digital space

Translating a print editorial into a digital space made me more aware of how users interact with publications on the internet. Users are less inclined to subscribe or go out of their way to visit a blog because social media outlets like Twitter, Reddit and Facebook make it easier for them to access and digest content, whether it’s a post from a friend or suggested/advertised posts.

Interviews and personas

I spoke with some friends (and potential target users) of Abstract. Knowing that they interact with my competitors’ content on a regular basis, I asked questions about how they discover new music and news, how they keep up with trends in music, fashion and lifestyle and what they liked and didn’t like about the current reading experience of competitor websites.

I found that all personas discover most of their music/lifestyle news via social media and don’t actively keep an eye on specific blogs. When they do read an article, they tend to explore other parts of the website once they finish reading, mostly because of related articles. Music platforms like Spotify make it easier for them to find music (Discovery Weekly, related artists, Release Radar), instead of digging for music that’s buried in artist news on blogs.

Abstract Magazine: user journey

Mapping out how some of my interviewees interact with competitor blogs

Discovering pain points

With the help of some friends, I mapped out how readers currently interacts with some of the competitor blogs to define any pain points a reader might have from the time that they click on a link on social media, to the time they leave the website.

Most of the pain points are found when the reader is interacting with an article (“why do they insist of having me subscribe?” “Where’s the share button?” “Where can I read more?”). Other pain points are things that speaks more to the integrity of the brand (“Is this clickbait?” “Is this a trusted source?”).

User Journey takeaways

Subscribing should be inviting, not intrusive. Readers are more inclined to follow brands on Twitter or Facebook so that it's integrated into their social media. Instead of having a full-screen takeover, we can ask our readers to subscribe in a way that's less intrusive, like asking for an email at the end of an article.

Sharing is caring. Hip hop is built on a community that thrives on debate and discussion and Abstract should emphasize that. A comments section after an article would not be useful for the publication because it often invites unwarranted and unfiltered banter. Music is subjective and the discussion is not always inviting with strangers that have strong opinions. Instead, sharing a link to social media should be readily available and easy to interact with. The most valuable dialogue for readers are on social media, with peers that share the same hobbies.

More food for thought. The experience should allow readers to find new content after they finish reading an article so that readers may stay longer and read more articles.


As I began to wireframe the digital experience, there were a few things I wanted to keep in mind after discussing with target users what worked and didn’t work with their favourite blogs and my own list of inspiration:

Abstract Magazine: wireframes

Approached the organization of articles by panel, leading with Featured Articles, Music Discovery, then Latest News so the reader can continue to load more news if they are interested.

There are three things a reader is likely to be looking for on the home page: latest news, new music, and featured articles. I surfaced the featured articles first because these are the thought-provoking articles that speak most to the brand. Having the Latest News section at the end of the home page in a list makes it easier for people to scan news that might be relevant to them.


This project helped me discover that content drives the success of a publication. Brands speak to their target audience through their language on social media and their articles. Readers don’t frequent specific websites when looking for news, but instead look to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. In the future, I’d like to explore more ways that I could help users share content faster and easier.

Next project

Faux Food: The labelling and production of genetically modified food