xChange '19

Role  |  Lead designer

Time  |  Oct. 2018 - Apr. 2019

Tools  |  Adobe InDesign,                      Photoshop, Illustrator

Team  |  Tim Henderson (me)                Lead Designer

              Josh See 

              Creative Director

The JMU Department of Engineering is pleased to present the xChange, our annual celebration of the joys of engineering. The xChange shares our students’ major engineering work from the past year through presentations, posters, and prototypes, and features our two-year-long capstone projects.


The xChange program exhibition booklet is a project that is near and dear to my heart, and in my third year as lead designer, I was ready to explore a fresh new theme- something simple to contrast the busier looks I'd given it in 2017 and 2018. Kurt, department head of Engineering of JMU, was thinking along much the same lines, and in September he presented a special theme request: The Beatles White Album. As Kurt and creative services expanded upon the idea, it was decided that the cover should feature some simple imagery using clear tone ink. With this in mind, I began to move forward with the project myself, taking influence from the stark and minimalist nature of the records album jacket.

Research.       Brainstorming.       Ideation.


Initial Inspiration board


Excerpt from my sketchbook 

Creating a cover.

Round 1  |  After a round of brainstorming and ideation, I choose my 3 most promising initial cover designs and send them to the client. The gray elements are darkened here for visibility purposes, but would be rendered in clear toner during print.

Upon review, the client responds most positively to the first proposal, but feels the gear imagery doesn't fully represent the multi-disciplinary nature of the program. After discussion, we decide to move forward with the same style applied to the form of another logo from the program (right).


Round 2  |  At this point, we have successfully established the style and content of the books cover, and I am well ahead of deadline. From here, I use my extra time to put the composition through several more rounds of iterations, refining them based on the clients input.

Round 3  |  Based on our previous discussions, the client and I have established that the 'E' should be in negative against a box of crosses, left of the title logo, and I present them with four further options. We decide to use the first.

At this stage, the client raises a final request: to put the xChange logo in the clear toner along with the 'E.' Creative Director Josh and I agree that while this would continue the white album theme, readability would greatly suffer, so we offer the client a compromise. With their approval, I change the logo from black to a lighter silver and add a layer of clear toner over top.

THE BOOK_finalcover.png

With consensus reached, the front cover is finalized (above) and I move forward with designing the meat of the book

Project spreads.

Round 1  |  Now that the cover is finished, I begin the second major section of the design- the project spreads. Each Junior and Senior level engineering group will have a full spread of the book dedicated to them and their project, with a total of 29 groups. These spreads make up over half the book. For this first round of concepts, I experiment loosely with many layouts and pay particular attention to the relative sizes of the two feature photos (one of the group, the other a clip of the project) and the typographic styling. I also experiment with a comprehensive grayscale and justified text. The page numbering style is chosen as an homage to the White Album. As we have not received any of 2019's content yet, I pull info from last years book to accurately placehold.

Round 2  |  After assessing the successes and failures of the designs from round 1, I refine the ideas I've presented  to a more polished final version. The black and white photos don't make the cut, but the justified abstracts stay. The cover image is added as a subtle decoration to each pages background in order to tie the theme together. Their random rotations soften the effect of the rigorously organized text.

In previous years editions, one standard layout was chosen for all project spreads. Each element of the spreads can vary widely in length and size, however, making one layout somewhat ineffective. I decide to try something new, and use all three of the above designs, each emphasizing different elements of the page, to create a flexible theme. This provides depth to the books otherwise simple style.

With these spreads approved, I begin to design the rest of the book. Because we have established a style everyone is happy with, I finish all the rest of the pages together. When the client next sees the project, it will be nearly complete.


About a month after I finish designing the books remaining pages, the content arrives, and I assemble the final product. I also design supplementary materials in keeping with the style for the day of event. What follows is a selection of pages from the completed xChange 2019 book.

THE BOOK_finalcover.png