Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 17, 2018

X: The genesis of a new visual-arts journal

Nola Thompson ’18 submitted a piece titled “Grandmother’s fairytale” for X’s Spring Term 2018

It had been several years since the final publishing of Folio, Knox College’s previous visual-arts journal, when Visiting Professor of art Tim Stedman gathered a group of Knox students last year for the creation of a brand new visual-arts journal: X. With the first issue published last Spring, X stays with the same primary direction as its antecedent journal: a focused cataloging and curating of the visual arts produced by the Knox community.

“There wasn’t really a publication that filled that space, a lot of the other publications included the visual arts but those always seemed to be in addition to [it],” Stedman said.

However, Stedman and the student designers had never been a part of Folio. In fact, most of the students he was working with had never seen a Folio production during their time at Knox. Stedman asked if junior Patrick Steppan, Nola Thompson ‘18 , senior Evan Economos, and sophomore Arthur Santoro had any thoughts about moving onto a different journal with him.

“They had no attachment to what the previous publication was . . . so the conversation was sort of opened up to: should we start this afresh?” Stedman said.

For Stedman, a new staff identity required a new journal identity. After the team began with a long list of ideas, they finally agreed on the name X. Thompson explained that the name was chosen as a way to represent the intersection between visuals and sound.

“What drew us to X was not only is it a letter which has a definitive sound that you can say out loud, but it also is very much a symbol and a mark . . . that liminal space between language and art and visuals is what we are aiming to delve into and explore,” Thompson said.

Economos also liked the mystery behind the word X as it allowed the reader to interpret the message for themselves.

“I think that’s part of the fun, it can mean whatever you want it to mean. The allure of the letter X is kind of mystery and you think of the X-files and all of that kind of stuff. X is the variable for the unknown and we like that idea because we’re a new publication. It fit well with what we’re trying to do,” Economos said.

While the meaning behind X’s brand is open interpretation, the format and design of X was done with the utmost intention. Stedman strove to foster a well-conceived consistency in how the students organized the artwork. The staff’s considerations included finding a rhythm from page to page regarding the color of the images, their size, orientation, how they looked stacked or side by side — all to achieve a clean, non-noisy presentation.

What artwork was accepted was determined by a 5-1 voting scale and the exact design of its presentation was taken seriously in the pursuit of remaining accountable and respectable to the artists they published. Additionally, they sought to include all variations of visual artwork, from painting to costume design to creative work done by computer scientists. However, these were not the only difficult deliberations. The staff of X was and remains to be a small team. Junior Patrick Steppan recalls that this had positives and negatives.

“The small team is a double edged sword because it means we can communicate super super well…but it also means that everyone has a lot of weight on their shoulders,” Steppan said.

Along with the responsibilities of typical school work, the X staff had less than a year to design a full-fledged project, with the design work split up primarily between only three people. Furthermore, there was the question of how their efforts would be adequately funded. While other student publications may use standard paper to publish words, X required more expensive paper to print the images of the artwork with as much clarity as the staff desired.

This required X to expand their budget; the original had been estimated around Folio’s. After a request and presentation of the work finished thus far was made to the Student Senate, the money was secured. While the other student journals had a substantial history of preceding models to operate off of, X had none. Though the staff’s personal history brought a collective wealth of administrative, design, and artistic talent to the table, they had to follow a learn-as-you-go approach.

“X is new . . .  People who work on other journals at Knox have to take into account their long histories and the precedents that those histories have for their journals. Because we were brand new we had a lot of leeway with what layout we could take and what affordances we had with our design. So I’d say X is set apart just because we started from a clean slate,” Steppan said

While X is new, its creators still hold high aspirations. Thompson envisions a bookshelf one day like those in the Seymour publication office, holding number after number of X issues stacked against each other. Economos also hopes that the publication will continue long after the original members graduate.

“I think its hard when you start something new to keep it carrying on once the original group is gone. We’re focused on getting the right people now so that it can continue on. I just look forward to it getting better and better every year,” Economos said.

Stedman hopes the process will be a bit easier this year with experience under their belt and to submit the publication for a few awards.

“I think the publication is worthy of it . . . Catch has a really long history, so we have a long way to go to catch up with that,” Stedman said.

Sam Lisec, Co-News Editor
Co-News Editor
Samuel Lisec is a junior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism and philosophy. During his sophomore year, he worked as a staff writer. At the start of his junior year, he became a news editor. He is the recipient of the Knox Theodore Hazen Kimble Award for best feature story in 2018, and the Illinois College Press Association Honorable Mention Award for a Comic Strip in 2018. Email:

Tags:  art folio journal magazine publication Visual Arts X

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