Magfest: The Perfect Start to Your MSc.

As my fellow students gather data and research their dissertations in the final trimester, I find myself looking back to the start of this frantic, informative and fully immersive course. September last year was the beginning of the MSc Publishing and MSc Magazine Publishing courses – and not just because it was induction week.
A few days prior was Magfest #03, Innovation – a magazine-centric, one day conference run by PPA Scotland, the membership organisation for magazine publishers. Located at Surgeon’s Hall in Edinburgh, this jam-packed celebration of all-things magazine publishing was the perfect gateway to this fast-paced, ever evolving career path.

On arrival, I was alone, completely new to publishing and not entirely familiar with Edinburgh. Little did I know how much impact the next eight hours would have. Greeted by some of last years’ graduates, I was introduced to some of the strategic partners including representatives from Allander Print, 20/20 Productions and Virgin Atlantic (planes will be surprisingly relevant to your publishing career). Upstairs, some of my future colleagues were finishing off a special networking workshop with Heather Campbell (CommsMasters) and I bumped into the first of many at the Edinburgh Napier stand, laden with copies of 2014’s buzz magazine and iPads featuring Publishers Inc 2014. Then my education began – straight in at the deep end with people and faces I had never heard of, but would swiftly learn their importance in the industry.


Ellis Watson, CEO of DC Thomson
The day centred around several keynote events in the largest hall, with smaller breakout sessions throughout the day, all interspersed with ample refreshments and comfort breaks. Speakers included Ellis Watson (DC Thomson) and Diane Kenwood (Woman’s Weekly), Chris Phin (MacFormat) and excitingly for me, Wyatt Mitchell (The New Yorker). There were panels discussing industry troubleshooting, the definition of magazines and their evolution (James Brown being his own brand of adult entertainment). Suffice it to say the theme of ‘innovation’ was thoroughly explored, and I left with a great feeling of being in the right place at the right time.


Wyatt Mitchell of The New Yorker
 The magazine publishing community is strong and supportive, interested in sharing their ideas and blazing new trails. It was clear that this was a time of opportunity and that Magfest is and will continue to be a hub for many of the best innovators and businesses in magazine publishing. The MSc courses are all about opportunity – and being involved in Magfest is one of them. Volunteers and ideas are always welcomed by Nikki Simpson, who represents PPA Scotland and may often be found behind piles of magazines at Merchiston Campus and presenting guest lectures. 

James Brown expands our vocabulary…
September 18th is Magfest #04 – Create Inspire Evolve. To MSc Publishing and MSc Magazine Publishing students old and new, I cannot recommend this event more. Come and meet us (we’re super friendly!) and get your face ‘out there’ early, because the rewards of being proactive from the get-go are immeasurable.
Nikki Simpson, PPA Scotland… look out for her at Merchiston Campus!


Degree Show 2015

Last Thursday night was a milestone for students on the MSc Publishing and MSc Magazine Publishing courses: our degree show finally launched!

Just before opening…

Thursday was a special invite-only event for friends, family and industry professionals. After a gruelleing trimester of intense live projects and academic essays, weeks of preparation and crossing the finish line for our outstanding deadlines, we were thrilled to be able to show off all our hard work and discuss the projects in detail.

All four live projects had their own exhibition space, featuring;

A cheery PubInc2015 team with their tutors… cheers!

Publishers Inc 2015 on the big screen and iPads.

buzz magazine showing off some of their gorgeous spreads with plenty of issues of the free Edinburgh lifestyle magazine to take home.

buzz magazine’s airy exhibition left space for visitors to write their thoughts on the magazine

The Adventures of Martin Rattler, showing off their production, editorial and marketing achievements that went into making a stunning new children’s book.

The Rattler team had an immense body of work to show off!

Walking Masterpiece – a  pioneering collaboration with Polygon, the ebook team displayed some beautiful previews of the rich, exclusive content to be found in the upcoming interactive ebook celebrating  the life and work of Norman MacCaig.

A proud #projectmaccaig team could finally show off their talents after weeks of working on this highly secretive project..!

We’re thrilled to have been featured on STV’s Fountainbridge Show and to have received stunning feedback from so many industry professionals. Thank you to everyone who attended on our opening night and we hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as we did.

The MSc Publishing and Magazine Publishing degree show can be found in The Glassroom of Edinburgh Napier University’s Merchiston Campus, EH10 5DT. We are part of the Festival of Creative Industries running until 31 May. For more information, please go to

Placement at the Teaching Fellows Journal


The Autumn Issue of tfj online.
As an MSc Publishing student with little or no experience in the industry, I was pleased to discover an opportunity to assist at the Teaching Fellows Journal within a few weeks of starting the course.

Never ones to shy away from being thrown in at the deep end, myself [Rhiannon] and Alessia were given a template for the magazine, a long list of articles, some pictures and a deadline! The 2014 Autumn issue was enjoyable and challenging. It was important for us to maintain the look and quality of the tfj to provide an issue of the magazine that would fit seamlessly into the back catalogue.
When we started, we had not worked with house styles and had only managed a couple of Creative Toolkit sessions in the weeks prior to starting. Learning how the magazine is put together, liaising with a variety of external sources, choosing between a plethora of delightful images and writing by all the contributors, all made for a complete learning experience as we worked towards the deadline.

As students, we were confronted with the difficulties of being in several places at once whilst managing our time effectively between lectures, tutorials, assessments and the placement. Thankfully we were well enough equipped on the course to be able to work remotely and request advice from tutors where the technicalities of software may have otherwise defeated us!

A crash course in layouts, proofreading and InDesign, this early placement was valuable and insightful. As we reach the end of semester two, it is interesting to reflect on the publication and think about how our approach may have differed with the additional knowledge we have attained. It was great to have a placement so early on and it’s a great way to exercise some of those early skills and develop relationships within the University.

We’re so excited… and we just can’t hide it!

Time to celebrate! Our small team of 11 MSc Publishing students have achieved this stunning publishing themed magazine app in just 11 classes!

Publishers Inc 2015 is now available for free download from the iPad app store!

We’re proud to announce that our publishing-themed magazine app Publishers Inc 2015 is now available to download for free in Apple’s iPad app store!

In this year’s edition of Publishers Inc we made a conscious decision to include relevant industry topics in all three sections of the magazine: Industry, Storytelling, and Napier. To balance the learning experience and to reflect industry digital magazine trends, we have a mixture of features, short interactive pieces and everything in between.

We hope you enjoy it!

( or search for Publishers Inc in the iPad app store and download the 2015 edition!
Screen shot 2015-04-25 at 12.34.05

App compatibility and size: Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPad. App file size: 346MB

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Visit to Dennis Publishing

As part of our southerly excursion to the London Book Fair, last week our MSc Magazine Publishing and a few MSc Publishing students had the privilege of a visit to Dennis Publishing, based in Central London.

As the 6th largest magazine publisher in the UK, Dennis also has offices in Glasgow (home of The Big Issue) and a strong  footing in the USA, where they are best known for their current affairs and news magazine, The Week. Throw into the mix their own subscription company and you can imagine how excited we were to be welcomed into their board room, with stunning views over London and a delightful selection of refreshments.

The first part of our morning was dedicated to a matter close to our hearts – how to get past the eagle-eyed recruitment officer and into the world of publishing employment. Leti Taylor supplied us with ample advice, from the structure of our CVs to the best ways to make early contact with the companies you want to work with. The importance of having some kind of online portfolio and social media presence was highlighted (and yes, it’s ok to be occasionally tipsy in those Facebook photos). Even interviews that don’t work out are a positive experience. Remember you’re essentially networking and any feedback you can get from an unsuccessful interview will serve to make the next one more impressive.

Next up in the packed schedule was Tim Danton, Editor in Chief of PC Pro and Editorial Director and Deputy MD of Dennis Technology. Tim talked us through the challenges and pitfalls of starting a new venture, in this case, an online magazine that Dennis will be launching in the near future. We discussed the essential check boxes for pitching a new magazine to the bosses (one of the most important being ‘is it economically viable?’), how digital magazine audiences differ from readers of print magazines and how it’s always good to make a decision “even if it’s wrong”. Ultimately, readerships and maintaining a trusting relationship should be put ahead of all other considerations when running your magazine.

Joel Snape, Acting Editor of Men’s Fitness gave us an intellectual workout as we discussed the challenges of adapting magazines to meet the needs of evolving audiences and compensate for the internet being the font of all knowledge. Introducing readers to new ideas and new products, asking questions that they might not have even considered asking and presenting data in digestible and fun ways were highlights. Picking your battles and not meeting competitors head-on were interesting considerations for the students, as we were encouraged to identify what we do best and do it well, whilst filling niches and keeping in touch with the readership.

Back to digital with Holden Frith, Online Editor of, as we discussed how editorial, writing styles and the types of news reported differs a great deal between the print and online editions of this popular international magazine. We discussed the loyalty of readers in print and online and how though a readership might be much greater on the internet, it can be more difficult to connect as many of them may be one-time hits.

Finally, brains well-past full, Julian Lloyd-Evans, MD of Advertising, talked us through the importance of creating communities for readerships and advertisers alike. Encouraging us to love media, engage fully with our passions and  to have an opinion, it was food for thought when we considered the £6bn spend on UK advertising every year and our £2bn worth of media exports overseas. A short personality test later, we were all keen when we heard about Dennis’ 12 week paid internships.

We’d like to express our thanks to the team at Dennis Publishing for making us so welcome and sharing such valuable insights into the world of publishing.

This was one of many fantastic opportunities provided by the course leaders of the MSc Publishing and MSc Magazine Publishing courses at Edinburgh Napier University.

Toucan… You can!

I have one of the best jobs on the Martin Rattler team – I get to draw the pictures! But creating illustrations for a book isn’t as simple as drawing whatever comes in to your head. Atmosphere is also important.

During Martin’s adventures in the Amazon Rainforest, he encounters lots of new species which are described throughout the book. Unless you live in Brazil, you won’t have seen many of these creatures (even if you’ve been to Edinburgh zoo), so it’s my job to show you some of these magnificent animals, and here is how it is done.

You will need: Paper, drawing pencil, eraser, black pen, colouring pencils/pens or paints.

Step 1: Read the book! If you don’t know what’s going on in the book, you don’t know what to draw. Toucans are a very special type of bird that Martin finds and they only live in the rainforest. They have a very distinctive appearance, so they are a good choice for creating an illustration.

Step 2: Research! This is very important. Encyclopaedias, the library, teachers and the internet will all help us find out more about toucans. It helps to know where they live and what they eat, but their appearance is what we are really looking for.

Step 3: Design decisions. Toucan’s bills (another word for beak) come in all sorts of different colours. It’s best to pick one type of toucan and stick with it if you want to be accurate, but if you’re feeling imaginative, you could make up your own!

Step 4: Outline (in pencil). Look at the outline of a toucan and break it down into simple shapes. This will help you get the proportions right. In this case, you can use a narrow rectangle, two large circles and a big banana shape.


Break your toucan into shapes!


Sketch these in lightly, then fill in the details with a pencil. Don’t press too hard with your pencil or you won’t be able to rub out mistakes.


Sketch in the details with a pencil.


Step 5: Once you are happy with your toucan drawing, go over the good lines with a black pen. A fine waterproof marker is best if you’re going to paint it, but felt-tips are just as good if you want to colour in using pens or pencils. Once all your good lines are in black and the ink is dry, rub out the pencil lines.


Trace over the good outlines in black pen.


Step 6: Colour in your toucan!


Try and stay inside the lines when you colour… oops!


Congratulations! Now why not try drawing a whole family of toucans in different colours? Or try these techniques with your favourite animals?

We’d love to see your creations. Send them in to the team before Monday and you could win one of our fantastic prizes. Enter our art competition here –  Martin Rattler Competition.

Keep up to date with all of Martin’s adventures! Follow us on Twitter @Martin_Rattler and like us on Facebook at MartinRattlerbook.

Publishers Inc 2015


A new year sees a new team working on Edinburgh Napier’s MSc Publishing App. You can find out more about the app and the team, including exclusive behind-the-scenes articles here: