1839 was a Pittsburgh-based magazine that takes a nuanced look at the intersection of race, politics, the arts, community and culture in the Steel City and beyond. A pilot project of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and supported in part by The Heinz Endowments, the magazine was inspired by the life, work, and legacy of Pittsburgh's native son August Wilson. The name itself was an eponymous salute to 1839 Wylie Avenue, the fictitious address of Aunt Ester, Wilson's most significant character. Wilson himself chose the number as a reference to the year of the Amistad slave rebellion. Specifically, then, 1839 was a Black thing. A vehicle for Pittsburgh's Black voices, which are often times drowned out by "the most livable city" rhetoric, to testify and shine and opine.

As Creative Director I designed the identity, the website (a custom Wordpress theme extended by Advanced Custom Fields), and took up the mantle of photo editor and head photographer. Additionally, I collaborated with Co-Editors Deesha Philyaw and Damon Young on the sitemap and shaping the editorial direction.

My goal for the look of 1839 was to create something print design reminiscent--90's VIBE magazine in particular. I was a huge fan of the large format, bold branding, and striking portraiture. The New Yorker and Esquire were artistic inspirations, too. These were/are all destinations where content really shines, but within a visually captivating frame. Geometric shapes and primary colors factory heavily in 1839's styling, and the idea of what it would look like if someone printed out a page from a magazine and took a pen and highlighter to it to circle pullquotes and highlight passages played a huge part, as well.

Our inaugural staff editorial read:

“1839’s mere existence is disruptive. An act of revolution. A contribution to the collective memory and history of Black Pittsburgh and beyond. A declaration of our voices and our art as necessary, as transformative, as evolving, as uncompromising, as here.”

It's my hope that the work I did with 1839 has added another level of style and passion to the landscape of what it means to be Black in The 'Burgh.

1839mag; various devices

Working with huny will give you an education in creativity, visioning, and leadership. In our work together on a digital magazine, she directed the project from concept to full execution, communicating technical matters in such a way that I, as a writer and editor, could understand and appreciate. As a creative director, huny is decisive and clear in her vision, but also flexible and innovative when it comes to new ideas. huny not only met the stated creative vision of the project, but she honed and developed it into something richer that exceeded all expectations, all while being congenial and awesome to work with.

--Deesha Philyaw, Founding Editor
1839mag identity
1839 logo
1839mag.com homepage
1839mag homepage
1839mag.com UI
1839 alternate top story layout (homepage)
1839 Mag
Share pullquote detail
Artists Profiles
Masthead; tablet & mobile
1839mag ipad iphone
1839mag.com; mobile
1839 retired hero carousel (mockup)
1839 Mag

1839 soft-launched with a hero carousel containing the newest piece of content in every category. We liked it visually, but I ultimately decided to lose it for a few reasons--mainly because I felt it could grow stagnant very quickly. If we were publishing content in every category daily, it would be great; however, we couldn't depend on that to be the case. Hero carousels work best to me on sites that update many times a day in multiple categories--thus the need to draw attention to content that'd very quickly leave the homepage otherwise. On a site that, in contrast, updates a couple times a day max, you risk stale-ish content taking up a great deal of real-estate for days of a time. I ultimately replaced this carousel with the "Top Story" area, which is the most recent featured article from any category.

Photography: "Dance is a Portal to the Ancestors: A Look at Jean-Paul Weaver"
Jean-Paul Weaver
Photography: "Son of the Boogie: The Passion, Community, and Art of Jason Mendez"
1839 Mag
Twitter support

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