Off the Page, with Gracia Lam and the Spot Illustration

Gracia Lam, by Gracia Lam.
Gracia Lam, by Gracia Lam.

Off the Page is a regular interview series produced by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. Today we’re chatting with illustrator Gracia Lam, whose work has been published in Maisonneuve, The Walrus, More, Corporate Knights, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and others. At last year’s National Magazine Awards, Gracia won both the gold and silver awards for Spot Illustration for two pieces of work published in Maisonneuve, the first illustrator ever to achieve that distinction.

NMAF: The spot illustration holds a special place in the makeup of a magazine. Diminutive, often playful, sometimes underrated in comparison to larger elements of artwork. What do you think makes spot illustration such a fundamental component of a magazine story? 

Gracia Lam

Gracia Lam: I think that spot illustrations are a splash of colour within a sea of text, constructing direction or a break for the reader’s eye. Within a confined space, it is carefully conceived to enhance the content of an article. It assists in the creation of tone and mood, and is used purposefully to amplify a reader’s senses and experience.

NMAF: You achieved an unprecedented feat at last year’s National Magazine Awards, winning both the Gold and Silver medals in Spot Illustration for two different works published in Maisonneuve. The jury awarded gold to your spot illustration accompanying a story called “The Elite Yellow Peril,” which is a very evocative work. What was your creative vision for this piece, and was it created specifically for the text or did you have a broader idea in mind when you created it?

Gracia: I often describe my two-dimensional pieces of illustrations as a short film. In film, the story is narrated through multiple frames and over a time period; my illustrations reveal the climax of a story in one frame.

My vision for the “The Elite Yellow Peril” was to create a connection with the viewer that is immediate and impactful. To achieve this, I created an illustration with imageries and representations as closely related to the text as possible.

NMAF: The article that featured your Silver winning spot, “The Tar-Sands Trap” dealt with the highly controversial, nationally debated topic of the Keystone XL pipeline. As a spot illustrator, how does your level of awareness on the associated story influence your creative process? Before you begin working on an illustration, how does your familiarity with the topic guide your conceptualization process?

Gracia: When working on any assignment, I allow the story to directly inform my creative process from conceptualizing initial sketches to final colourization. During the first read through of the assignment, I take notes and highlight bits and pieces of writing that round up the theme.

For “The Tar-Sands Trap” article, I needed to familiarize myself with specific elements of the story such as its location, the visualization of its landscape and environment, and the pipeline.

When the Art Director gives me complete freedom, I approach the conceptualization process with how I think the mood should be represented—which is to portray the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline as a danger to the community.

NMAF: Your work has appeared in a large number of magazines, including many National Magazine Award-winning publications. Is there a “Gracia Lam” style that is boldly consistent throughout your work in various publications? And what is the process of adapting that style to align with the vision of the art director or of the textual part of the story?

Gracia: My visual language is created using mixed media, combining hand painted and drawn elements along with digital execution. I love to delight the audience with wit by reimagining everyday objects, mundane environments, and familiar situations with visual puns.

The process of adapting that style is mainly through practice. I am grateful that throughout my career I have been given many opportunities on various topics and stories from business and finance articles to science and health stories. These challenges allow me to identify my strengths and edit out my weaknesses, so each project contributes to the gradual tightening and refining of my work and portfolio.

NMAF: You swept the Spot Illustration category at last year’s gala, taking home both the Gold and Silver awards. Before that, you had been nominated three times since 2010. Winning both top spots within a single category is no small feat. Can you describe the difference in transitioning from nominee to two-time winner? What effect have the awards had on your career since last year’s ceremony?

Gracia: I was absolutely blown away by last year’s awards and want to thank the judges who recognized my work. I have always been excited to be nominated alongside many known names in the field—many of which are my peers and idols. The transition from nominee to winner is humbling because winning any award from the NMAs had been a goal. Since the awards last year, I have been working proficiently to improve on each piece to be on top of my own game.

Gracia Lam is a National Magazine Award-winning illustrator, born in Hong Kong and raised in Toronto. She likes to reinvent everyday objects and mundane environments.. To view more of her work visit GraciaLam.com

Special thanks to Leah Jensen for conducting this interview with Gracia Lam. To view more nominated and winning work, visit the National Magazine Awards online archive at magazine-awards.com/archive.

Check out more of our Off the Page interviews with National Magazine Award winners, including illustrators Byron Eggenschwiler, Roxanna Bikadoroff, Jillian Tamaki and Selena Wong.

The nominees for this year’s National Magazine Awards will be announced right here on the NMA blog on May 4. This year’s awards gala is June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. 

2015 National Magazine Awards Gala to be held at the Arcadian Court in Toronto on June 5

The National Magazine Awards Foundation (NMAF) announced today that this year’s 38th annual National Magazine Awards gala, presented by CDS Global, will be held on Friday, June 5, at a new venue—the stylish Arcadian Court in downtown Toronto. [Version française]

Originally opened in 1929 and long cherished as one of Toronto’s most dazzling and dynamic event spaces, the Arcadian Court is managed by Oliver & Bonacini Events & Catering, which will cater this year’s gala, and sits in the heart of the city’s thriving Queen & Bay bustle. Featuring more than 8000 square feet of contemporary gala space, the Arcadian Court was recently named Best Ballroom in Canada at the Bizbash Event Style Awards.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Canadian magazine industry to this exquisite new venue for the National Magazine Awards. Our annual gala attracts more than 500 of Canada’s best magazine publishers, editors, artists, journalists, marketing and sales teams, and other members of our industry from across the country. We look forward to celebrating with you this year at the Arcadian Court.”
— Joyce Byrne, president of the NMAF

Tickets for the 38th annual National Magazine Awards go on sale on May 4, the date on which the NMAF will announce the nominees for awards in 43 categories recognizing the best in Canadian magazine publishing, writing, photography, illustration and design from 2014.

This year’s Master of Ceremonies will be announced in May. The date of the 38th annual National Magazine Awards gala is Friday, June 5, 2015.

Visit magazine-awards.com for information about the gala, awards and nominees.

For sponsorship inquiries please contact Barbara Gould, NMAF Managing Director, at staff@magazine-awards.com.

Off the Page, with Judith Pereira & Report on Business Magazine

Off the Page is a regular interview series produced by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. Today we chat with Judith Pereira, senior editor of Report on Business magazine, winner of 5 National Magazine Awards last year and one of Canada’s leading business and investigative publications.

NMAF: It probably isn’t surprising to your readers that Report on Business is a juggernaut of magazine journalism (gold medals for Business journalism at six of the last eight National Magazine Awards; also gold medals for Investigative ReportingScience, Technology & the Environment and Magazine Covers, to name just a few). How would you describe the mandate of ROB to its readers, and its commitment to editorial excellence?

Judith: Our mandate at Report on Business magazine is simple: We engage the best journalistic talent in the business to report on the successes and failures, the breakthroughs and breakdowns of the most intriguing players in Canadian business at home and around the world.

Our experienced team of writers, photographers, illustrators, editors and designers focus on three main audiences: firstly, business leaders across the country—that’s why you’ll find a copy of Report on Business magazine in almost every executive office in Canada; secondly, the new-generation superstars who love an aspirational read; and finally, all those who are interested in the people, trends and brands that shape the way we work and live—as part of The Globe and Mail, we are attached to a well-respected brand that can open doors to a general-interest audience.

"Where Asbestos is just a fact of life" by Stephanie Nolen and John Gray, Report on Business, September 2011. Nominated for a record 5 National Magazine Awards, winning 3.
“Where Asbestos is just a fact of life” by Stephanie Nolen and John Gray, Report on Business, September 2011. Nominated for a record 5 National Magazine Awards, winning 2.

NMAF: How does winning a National Magazine Award help raise the profile of the magazine, with respect to your readers, your journalists or your bottom line?

Judith: When Report on Business wins awards, it shows that the magazine is one of the best, if not the best, in its field of business journalism. This kind of acknowledgement is a big boost for the sales team when they explain to advertisers why Report on Business magazine is a good buy.

Winning magazine awards in a variety of fields also gives the magazine a cachet among award-winning journalists, who want to see their pieces published in a respected publication that consistently garners nominations not just in business, but also in categories like science and technology, humour, arts and more. Similarly, Report on Business magazine attracts top photographers from around the world—names like Neil Wilder, Chris Buck and Matthu Placek—because our design and photography awards signal that we take those areas seriously.

"The Smartest Guys on the Planet" by Eric Reguly, Report on Business, December 2013. Nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards.
“The Smartest Guys on the Planet” by Eric Reguly, Report on Business, December 2013. Nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards, winning 1.

NMAF: Are there any particular ROB stories in the past couple of years that you’ve been especially proud to see recognized by the National Magazine Awards judges, and why? 

Judith: We were really pleased to see Greg McArthur and Graeme Smith get recognized for their investigative work on SNC-Lavalin [“Building with the Brigadier”; Gold Medals in Investigative Reporting and Business, Silver Medal in Politics & Public Interest, 2012]. Staffer Ted Mumford also deserves credit for his editing of it. They spent a lot of time and energy getting to the bottom of that story, and it paid off.

Eric Reguly’s piece about the insurance industry’s decision to tackle climate change  [“The smartest guys on the planet“; Silver Medal in Politics & Public Interest, 2013] was a good example of the magazine’s determination to cover important international stories even if they aren’t specifically Canadian.

We were also thrilled to receive recognition for our coverage of asbestos—a joint effort between John Gray in Canada, Stephanie Nolen in India and photographer Louie Palu [“Where Asbestos is just a fact of life“; Gold Medal, Business, Silver Medal, Politics & Public Interest, 2011]. Our magazine is one of few Canadian publications still covering international stories with any depth, and these nominations show that we need to continue putting them out there.

Our Larry Fink cover, photographed in black and white by Anya Chibis, was one of our most unusual covers. Most top executives balk at the idea of getting playful in front of the camera, and Fink, who runs a $3.7-trillion fund, is no different. But the talented Chibis pulled off what is arguably one of our best covers of all time. The photograph of Fink crossing a Toronto street as he gestures to himself was an off-the-cuff moment that Chibis captured and it not only ended up on the cover–and winning the National Magazine Awards for Magazine Covers and Portrait Photography–but also graced Fink’s 50th birthday cake.

[Editor’s Note: Read our previous interview with ROB Art Director Domenic Macri about the Larry Fink cover.]

To discover more about Report on Business and many other great Canadian magazines, browse the NMA Archive for full-text articles and images of nominated and winning work from past years.

Read more Off the Page interview with National Magazine Award-winning editors, writers, illustrators, photographers and art directors.

The final deadline to enter this year’s National Magazine Awards is Monday, January 19. Enter online at magazine-awards.com.

Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the awards and year of the story “Where Asbestos is just a fact of life.” The post has been updated.]

Last Chance: National Magazine Awards Early-Bird Submissions

Enter online at magazine-awards.com by midnight on Sunday, January 11, to qualify for the Early-Bird rate for entries to the National Magazine Awards.

You need only complete the online application (including uploading required PDFs) and submit payment by the deadline to qualify for the Early-Bird rate.

If you are paying by cheque, you must complete the online application and generate your invoice by the deadline, but the cheque itself can be received next week.

Any required hard copies can be received next week without affecting your Early-Bird rate.

All material (including cheques and hard copies) must be received by January 19.

Last-minute questions? Consult the Categories, Rules, and FAQ.

Or email us at staff@magazine-awards.com.

IMPORTANT: Our offices will be closed on the weekend (so please do not drop off packages in person). But we are available by email to assist you.

En marge, avec Nicolas Langelier

Nicolas Langelier (Photographe : Maxime Leduc); Nouveau Projet numéro 6
Nicolas Langelier (Photographe : Maxime Leduc) ; Nouveau Projet numéro 6

Nicolas Langelier, cofondateur, éditeur et rédacteur en chef de Nouveau Projet, a accepté de répondre aux questions de la Fondation dans le cadre de notre série d’entretiens « En marge ». Nouveau Projet s’est illustré lors de la dernière édition des Prix en décrochant plusieurs mentions honorables, en plus d’être nommé finaliste au titre le plus convoité, Magazine de l’année.

FNPMC : Les membres du jury ont encensé le côté audacieux et original de Nouveau Projet, tout en soulignant la qualité exceptionnelle de la direction artistique et du design. Quelle fut votre réaction lorsque vous avez appris la mise en nomination de Nouveau Projet au titre de Magazine de l’année?

Nicolas Ç’a été à la fois une grande surprise et une immense fierté. Pour un petit magazine indépendant qui compte seulement deux années d’existence, d’être finaliste au titre de Magazine de l’année, c’est un honneur inespéré.

Je me souviens aussi d’avoir ressenti une très grande reconnaissance envers les Prix du magazine canadien, pour arriver ainsi à prendre en compte des publications aux ressources et clientèles aussi diverses.

FNPMC : À quels facteurs attribuez-vous le succès remarquable que connait Nouveau Projet?

Nicolas : Je pense qu’il y a d’abord notre obsession pour la qualité, dans tout ce que nous faisons, du choix de nos sujets jusqu’à notre présence sur les réseaux sociaux. Nos lecteurs ressentent ce souci constant, et considèrent que c’est quelque chose pour lequel ils sont prêts à payer.

Et puis il me semble que nous venons combler un vide qui s’est créé dans le paysage médiatique. Avec la tendance générale vers des textes plus courts, des sujets plus sensationnalistes, du travail fait plus rapidement, s’est libérée une place pour des gens offrant justement une contre-tendance à tout ça.

Beaucoup de nos lecteurs nous disent que nous leur faisons du bien, et je pense que c’est parce que nous offrons quelque chose que beaucoup de publications considèrent que les lecteurs ne veulent pas, ou ne veulent plus.

« Faux-self mon amour » par Fanny Britt (Nouveau Projet) ; Médaille d'or, Journalisme personnel, 2012
Faux-self mon amour, par Fanny Britt (Nouveau Projet) ; Médaille d’or, Journalisme personnel, 2012

FNPMC : L’excellence de votre travail vous a valu plusieurs mentions honorables aux Prix du magazine canadien. Quelle incidence cela a-t-il eue sur votre carrière et sur le rayonnement de Nouveau Projet?

Nicolas : C’est certainement quelque chose qui a eu un impact positif pour nous. Peut-être plus au niveau de notre perception par les autres membres de l’industrie que par le public comme tel, parce que ce dernier (au Québec du moins) ne les connait pas nécessairement beaucoup—mais cette reconnaissance de nos pairs, des annonceurs et des collaborateurs actuels et futurs a une grande valeur pour nous.

Et j’ose aussi croire que cela a permis à Nouveau Projet de commencer à avoir une certaine visibilité au Canada anglais, ce qui est important.

FNPMC : Vous avez contribué à de nombreuses publications québécoises. Que fait la singularité des magazines québécois et canadiens, selon vous? En quoi se distinguent-ils par rapport à d’autres publications internationales?

Nicolas : C’est déjà un exploit d’arriver à survivre dans un marché aussi petit, qui pourrait être envahi par les publications étrangères. Je pense que ça en dit long sur la persévérance et le courage des gens qui composent cette industrie. D’arriver à produire des choses de grande qualité dans des conditions aussi difficiles, c’est quelque chose dont on peut être fiers.

« Solstice +20 par Nicolas Langelier (Nouveau Projet) ; Mention honourable, Essais, 2013
Solstice +20 par Nicolas Langelier (Nouveau Projet) ; Mention honourable, Essais, 2013

FNPMC : Vous participez fréquemment aux Prix du magazine canadien, et êtes membre de notre jury bénévole. Alors que vous étiez président de l’Association des journalistes indépendants, vous avez créé les Grands Prix du journalisme indépendant. En quels termes qualifieriez-vous le rôle essentiel que jouent les programmes de prix?

Nicolas : Ils sont essentiels. Bien sûr, ils ne sont pas parfaits, chacun a ses petits défauts, ses angles morts, ses chouchous. Mais d’avoir ce genre d’institutions qui valorisent l’excellence et tirent l’ensemble d’une industrie vers le haut, ça me semble absolument nécessaire. C’est vrai pour les éleveurs de vaches, les architectes ou les artisans qui fabriquent des magazines: nous avons besoin de ces incitatifs à nous comparer aux plus talentueux et rigoureux de notre industrie, et à sortir le meilleur de nous-mêmes.

FNPMC : Votre maison d’édition, Atelier 10, a récemment lancé la collection « Pièces ». Quel avenir souhaitez-vous pour Atelier 10 et pour vos publications? Quels sont vos objectifs à plus long terme?

Nicolas : J’ai envie que nous devenions une référence pour tout ce qui est culture et idées au Québec—et dans le reste de la francophonie, éventuellement. Publier les meilleurs auteurs et artistes visuels, et les faire découvrir à nos lecteurs. Produire différents types de publications, mais toujours avec une grande rigueur, et un souci constant des moindres détails.

Je crois encore beaucoup au papier, en tant que médium pour transmettre des idées, des informations, des valeurs, et j’ai envie de prouver qu’ils ont tort, tous ceux qui prédisent la mort de l’imprimé. Cela ne veut pas dire que nous négligeons le numérique pour autant: tout ce que nous faisons est aussi disponible en version numérique. Mais le papier a une place spéciale dans mon cœur, et je pense que c’est le cas aussi pour la majorité du public. Aussi bien en profiter!

Sinon, ultimement, je souhaite que notre travail ait un impact positif au niveau culturel, social, intellectuel. Si nous faisons tout cela, malgré les obstacles et les conditions difficiles, c’est parce que nous croyons que des changements sont nécessaires, dans notre société, et nous croyons aussi que les médias continuent d’avoir un rôle primordial à jouer pour faire avancer les choses, dans tous les domaines. Oui, les dernières 15 années ont fait mal à notre industrie, mais c’est à nous de trouver les manières de continuer à jouer notre rôle, en dépit de tout ça. Ce serait extrêmement dommage pour l’humanité, si un simple changement de contexte économique la privait de ce moteur essentiel que sont les médias de qualité.

Nouveau Projet numéro 3, direction artistique par Jean-François Proulx. Mention honourable, direction artistique de l'ensemble d'un numéro, 2013.
Nouveau Projet numéro 3, direction artistique par Jean-François Proulx. Mention honourable, direction artistique de l’ensemble d’un numéro, 2013.

Découvrir plus sur le magazine Nouveau Projet au nouveauprojet.com et sur Twitter @nouveau_project

Textes signés par Nicolas Langelier, à lire dans les archives de la Fondation :

Solstice +20, Nouveau Projet. Catégorie Essais, 2013
Le sida a 30 ans, ELLE Québec, coécrit avec Martina Djogo. Catégorie Société, 2011
De l’utilisation du mot pute par la jeune femme moderne, L’actualité. Catégorie Essais, 2007

« En Marge » : Lire d’autres entretiens

Last Call for Entries: National Magazine Awards

Happy 2015 from the National Magazine Awards Foundation! There is but one week until the Early-Bird submissions deadline. January 11 is your deadline to save on entry fees.

Submit your best work from 2014 for awards in 45 written, visual, integrated and special categories. The final deadline is January 19. Visit magazine-awards.com to enter.

[ Categories ]  [ Rules ]  [ FAQ ]

Early-Bird Deadline Tips: To qualify for the Early-Bird discount on entry fees, you must complete the online portion of the submission process by midnight ET on Sunday January 11, including payment.

You do NOT have to submit hard copies, where required, by January 11. Only by January 19. If paying by cheque, you still must complete the online application by January 11 so your invoice will indicate the Early-Bird rate.

REMEMBER: No More Photocopies: All written categories except Editorial Package no longer require hard copies. Submit only single-spread 8.5×11 PDF versions when you complete the online application.

There are 21 Written Categories, 10 Visual Categories and 7 Integrated Categories. Additionally there are 7 Special Categories:

Magazine of the Year
Magazine Website of the Year
Tablet Magazine of the Year
Best New Magazine Writer
Best New Illustrator or Photographer
Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement

… and our newest award:

Best Magazine Brand

Enter today at magazine-awards.com. Don’t miss the deadline.

The National Magazine Award for Best Magazine Brand

We know that magazine publishers work hard to extend their brand across multiple platforms to attract readers and grow their business, and this year the National Magazine Awards Foundation will recognize this ingenuity with the award for Best Magazine Brand. Whether you’re advancing your publishing mandate with mobile apps, radio and television broadcasts, live events, SIPs, social media campaigns or other innovations in audience engagement, we want to recognize your work and showcase your brand to the industry.

CRITERIA
The award for Best Magazine Brand will go to the publication whose brand best delivers on its editorial mandate through at least three platforms. The platforms may include but are not limited to a print or digital magazine, a website, SIP(s), mobile app(s), tablet edition, social media, television shows, radio broadcasts and podcasts, live events, innovations in print or digital media and other forms of audience engagement.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS
Publishers must complete the online application and submit in hard copy four (4) copies of a submission package which must include:

  • a) A cover letter of maximum two pages summarizing the strength of the publication’s brand identity against its editorial mandate and the achievements during 2014;
  • b) Any print edition of the magazine from 2014, if applicable; and
  • c) Any supporting documentation (such as links to social media, summaries of research, event materials, products, etc.) that attests to the success of the brand in 2014.

FEES AND DEADLINES
The application fee for Best Magazine Brand is $175 +HST. All supporting materials must be received by January 19.

FINALISTS AND WINNER
A shortlist of three finalists will be announced on May 4 and all finalists will receive a certificate and recognition in NMAF publications and at the awards gala. The winner will be announced on June 5 at the 38th annual National Magazine Awards and be promoted to the Canadian magazine industry and public in a promotional campaign whose goal is to showcase the winner’s branding strategy as a benchmark of excellence and an inspiration to others.

Submit today at magazine-awards.com. Final deadline: January 19.