By Esther Liu
Word Magazine is published by students in a UC Santa Barbara course that explores life in Isla Vista, the neighborhood next to campus. This Interdisciplinary Humanities course produces film, theater and restaurant reviews as well as features on local businesses— and even poetry and student musings.
As current Art Director of the magazine, Alaska Yokota is one of a team of students who writes for the magazine and designs its layout.
Yokota will soon graduate with a major in Psychology and a minor in Art. In a recent interview, she discussed her experience with Word Magazine as well as her views on the future of digital humanities.
How did you get involved with Word Magazine as an art director? What responsibilities come with your position?
I started off as a photographer for the magazine in the Spring quarter of 2018. At the end of the course, the directors at the time as well as the instructor approached me with the opportunity to consider an art director role after seeing strong communication and leadership skills. I went through the interview process and got the position!
As an art director, I have the responsibility of overseeing every student’s piece. I also can talk to people one-on-one to let them know if something doesn’t quite fit with the magazine. It’s cool to have the final say before the magazine is sent into printing. Besides that, directors select the overall color theme and style for magazine as a whole.
In addition to the basics - laptop and camera - what kinds of digital tools do you regularly use in your work?
Directors must know or be quick to learn applications from the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. InDesign and Photoshop are primarily used to compile everything and set up a design layout. As an avid photographer, my go-to app is Lightroom. It’s extremely helpful for touch-ups, lighting adjustments, and so much more. I came into this class with knowledge and experience with Lightroom already.
What does your work aim to say?
As a psychology major, I am passionate about anything that makes people feel better. Mental health has been a large focus for me this school year. I especially love seeing pieces on topics such as DIY treats, better sleep and eating habits, how to turn a bad day around, and so forth.
When I was younger, I absolutely loved seeing small happy quotes posted in public. Something as small as seeing a sticker “SMILE” on the wall brightens my day; I hope it does the same for others!
What does digital humanities mean to you? And what does the future of digital humanities look like?
It’s critical to understand how to adapt the idea of humanities into an art form - something that is modern “2019” - so that it becomes more accessible to more people. Sometimes, it’s frustrating to hear harsh criticisms when comparing STEM fields to humanities topics. But I believe there is value to both.
Almost everything is digitalized now. Even Word Magazine puts up all the past issues online. It’s cool to see all the different inspirations of media out there. Technology is taking over the world. I would love to see humanities ride along with the tech boom to reach a wider audience. Personally, I get a lot of ideas and inspiration online from places such as Pinterest or RookieMag.
Any advice for students who are interested in taking the class?
Build up experience in either art or writing first, since this course is highly sought out - long, long waitlist numbers. The only way for new members to join is by demonstrating a high expertise in a certain area or having applicable experience.
Once a part of the staff, students must decide between the writing and art team. But the bottom line is, if you love art, can demonstrate your passions for it, and you want to share it with the world, chances are you’ll find a way to get into the class. Best of luck!
Check out past magazine issues at https://www.wordmagazine.org/
Esther Liu is a second-year student at UC Santa Barbara, double majoring in Communication and Music Studies. She conducted this interview for her Writing Program course, Journalism for Web and Social Media.