Friday, August 29, 2008

Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier #1 cover scan

August 1993
logo treatment by Kai "Power Tools" Krause
cartoon illustration by Fred "Sundanse" Gromadski
cover design by Jody Radzik

Fifteen years ago this month, 1 horse trailer load of these beautiful magazines were
distributed from the Outpost booth @SIGGRAPH 93 in Anaheim, California (yep, just down the road from Disneyland, appropriately enough) that month. Doug Millison has a roll of photographs somewhere , showing that beautiful Outpost booth that the late Don Millison constructed and Sundanse tagged up, including pix of DanjaGirl in full regalia handing out free copies of issue #1. Doug hopes that he can find the photos.

For awhile there, we were afraid we wouldn't have a magazine – see the "origins" story – and I'm still amazed that Jody Radzik was able to climb out of his hospital bed, after being hit and nearly killed by an automobile while he was rollerblading, gut up, grit his teeth, ride the pain, to design and produce the launch issue of the magazine we'd been working on feverishly for months. What a testimony to his dedication as a designer. Institute for the Future in Palo Alto is lucky to have Jody as a staff designer now.

What a rocket ride Morph's Outpost was! Its origins go back to the pioneering magazine for the programmers who wrote code for the first microprocessors and home-made microcomputers: Dr. Dobb's Journal of Computer Orthodontia, which published the programs written by members of the Silicon Valley Homebrew Computer Club (where the Steves demonstrated the first Apple prototype), where Doug Millison first met Craig LaGrow.

LaGrow went on to co-found Computer Language magazine, with Doug as a regular editorial contributor. After selling Computer Language, Craig developed a business plan for a new magazine called Authoring Systems, a technical journal for people who were using those eponymous tools to develop interactive applications for the education and training markets.

Doug joined Craig as founding editor and helped revise the business plan, turning what could have been a rather tame, academic journal into a technical magazine disguised as an underground newspaper from the 1960s, with a wild and crazy cartoon character mascot called Morph.

Advertising agencies looked at our proposals and mock-ups, aghast at the foolishness of our project. Nobody had ever heard of a technical magazine designed in such a frivolous fashion. But Doug figured that the mostly 30- and 40-something interactive multimedia development crowd would relate to that 1960s look-and-feel – and he was right. People loved the tabloid newspaper design, and they loved Morph.

The newsprint was a choice forced by budget realities: Craig and Doug only had enough money to publish the magazine by printing it on the cheapest paper stock. When a potential advertiser wondered if the newsprint publication would look anything like a cheesy supermarket bargain sheet, Doug replied, "No, it's going to look like an underground newspaper from the 1960s" and it did. The magazine moved to slick paper at the one year mark, with the August 1994 issue, and moved to a traditional magazine format, shedding the folded tabloid design, the following year.

We'll post more stories and morphemobilia in the coming days.

Please, share your stories in the Comments, and email us with photos. We also want to let the world know what you're doing now.

Morph's Outpost on the Digital Frontier touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, we'd love to hear from you. If you worked for the magazine, wrote for it, read it, subscribed to it, advertised in it, attended or sponsored Art Teco -- let us hear from you, please, email

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I first saw Morph's at the New Media Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It had an article on schools to learn about new media (pre-browser days) and courses at the American Film Institute. What a great find.