CONTENT DESIGN & THINKING
Successful Black Parenting Magazine reinvents itself with digital design
Originally published on Setka.io between 2017-2021 and migrated during 2021/22. Some details may have changed since the original version was published.
Successful Black Parenting’s founder, Janice Robinson-Celeste, loves that she can create a magazine-style look on the web – without needing a design background or a ton of resources.
Successful Black Parenting Magazine originally launched in the 1990s as a print publication. It was the first black parenting magazine in the USA. Although they had no background in editorial work, co-founders Janice Robinson-Celeste and Marta Sanchez saw through their work at the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and backgrounds in early childhood support and education, the unique challenges that black families face. They also realized that mainstream parenting magazines weren’t giving advice that felt applicable to them.
In the United States, African American families have been at a disadvantage for hundreds of years and are just starting to make some strides, and yet, at the same time, taking steps backwards. So, it’s our goal to help parents thrive and not just survive, with advice on raising children.
Co-founder at Successful Black Parenting Magazine
So they dove head first into launching the magazine that they wanted to see. It received much reader and critical acclaim. “So for instance, you won't see articles in mainstream parenting magazines about how to do black hair because it's really specific. So that's the type of material I'm looking for, to make sure it's included, because parents need help. No matter if you're Latino or black or white, it doesn't matter, we all need help.”
Even though it was well loved, in the expensive world of print magazines, Robinson-Celeste and Sanchez were unable to drum up enough financial support to keep the magazine going and made the hard decision to stop publishing, in 1998. “Marta and I lamented over the loss of the magazine every single time we spoke to one another – even 18 years after it closed. It was our biggest regret,” shares Robinson-Celeste.
But in 2017, Robinson-Celeste and Sanchez realized that their mission was more important than ever – and more possible thanks to the advent of digital publishing. “I saw [the Black Lives Matter movement] start to come about and I wondered, what if we bring the magazine back? So I brought it back digitally, and it was well received.”
But now they had a new challenge on their hands: How could they translate what they knew (and loved) about print publications, into the online world? And how could they do it in a way that didn’t require a ton of resources – so that their business would be more sustainable this time around?
That’s when Robinson-Celeste (who’s now the Publisher and only full-time member of the team), stumbled across Setka and knew she’d found the perfect tool to help make it happen.
Creating that ‘magazine feel’ on the web
When Robinson-Celeste initially started researching tools that they could use to design and publish their articles, she was pretty underwhelmed with the results. “I wanted it to have that feeling of being a magazine and not just another blog,” she said. “So when I saw Setka, it was a perfect fit for what I wanted to do. It has everything to make it look like a publication.”
The grids allowed her to create unique layouts, while pull quotes and bullet points helped her make important information easy to find (and read) for busy parents. Overall, Setka has helped her create articles she’s proud to publish. “There’s no limit to how amazing it can look,” Robinson-Celeste says.
Plus, she believes Setka’s design capabilities help to keep her readers engaged for longer. “This is anecdotal, but if it just looked like a regular blog, I don’t think readers would stay as long. It’s really important for parents to be able to read things quickly, easily, be big, and bold and the Setka Editor allows me to do that.”
How Successful Black Parenting uses Setka
“Bullet points are really big for parents, because they’re busy,” says Celeste, sharing how she loves that Setka allows her to design bullet lists using icons or illustrations, instead of plain bullets – and so that they stand out more.
“One thing that I love about using Setka is that we can pull out big quotes or very important points that will capture people’s attention to read more,” says Celeste, explaining how she found the styling options in the editor nicer than in other tools she came across.
Of course, Celeste also wants to take advantage of things she couldn’t do in a print publication. “I can easily put a YouTube video in and it just pops up, looks really professional and supports the rest of the article.”
No design background necessary
As a bonus, Setka has allowed Robinson-Celeste to do everything without having any design background, or having to invest their limited budget into hiring design support. “I appreciate graphic designers, they’re awesome and they make you look amazing...but they’re not going to do it for me for free. So, I have to do it.”
Robinson-Celeste felt she was quickly able to get comfortable with using the Setka Editor to create professional-looking designs on her own. It even helped her keep everything – from the individual articles to the branding – across the site polished and consistent. “It’s very easy to use, and all the different features give you a consistent look, which is very important to me because I want people to go to the page and recognize that it’s our page. Even if it’s not official branding, you know this look is ours.”
Plus, she loves how the tool gives her enough freedom to think out-of-the-box with what her article design can look like... “Without it, I don’t know if I would be as creative.”
Create incredible layouts, even with limited time
Running an entire magazine is just one of the ways Robinson-Celeste fills her days, so she can’t devote hours to creating the designs for her site. She’s the only full-time employee – she also manages a team of freelance writers and publishes 2+ articles per week, while trying to bring on advertisers and investors. Her company also has offshoots – there’s a publishing company and an animation company – that she’s running.
Thankfully, Setka helps her do everything fast. “It really doesn’t take that long,” she says, sharing that it only takes her 45 minutes to an hour per article, especially now that she’s familiar with the tool and her process.
When asked what advice she’d give to others considering Setka, she said “Do it” without a moment’s hesitation. “If you want to look good, and you want to look professional, and you want to be able to compete with bigger companies and Fortune 500 sites – I’m seeing some of our pages look better than theirs – you want to use this tool.”
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