I started to teach myself PHP back in 2001, learning mostly from books. I had been a web designer for 3 years and was starting to see the writing on the wall for designers without any coding skills. Not wanting to become a dinosaur so soon, I picked up Core PHP Programming by Leon Atkinson- a rather hefty tome that was mostly PHP’s core functions listed out with descriptions. As I dug through the book, I found that it was extremely graspable for non-coders. I started coding more and designing less. I was hooked!
I grabbed more books as time went on. My favorite author was Larry Ullman (then, under Peachpit Press’s Visual Quickstart Series), because he had a way of conveying the technical in a way that was easy to understand.
It was about 2005 when I discovered there was a PHP magazine called php|architect. I saw it on a Barnes & Noble magazine stand (yeah, I know. right?) and snagged it right away. A regular source for PHP knowledge, it was too good to be true! For $75 a year, it could be delivered to my doorstep. I thought this was rather steep, as you could get National Geographic for less. However, I found that I could write off the $75 off in my taxes for a “professional trade publications” expense.
I found that a lot of the articles went over my head, as I was still both green and not a computer science major. I still muscled on. I figured, the more I expose myself to professional coding, the more I’d get. I was correct.
As an avid reader, I started to anticipate getting an issue in my mailbox. There’s a certain little thrill you get when a magazine you love appears in your mail. I had 4 years experiencing that thrill until October of 2009 when php|architect announced they were discontinuing print and carrying forward with “digital only.” I was seriously bummed. They gave good-enough reasons for the discontinuation of print. The rising costs of printing, but also digital magazines were starting to come into their own. While the iPad hadn’t come out yet, there were tablet-style computers, larger monitors (for desktops) and everyone had laptops. Still, maybe I’m old-school, there was something to be said for unplugging and reading a magazine. I let my subscription lapse and moved on to other books, sites and tutorials for my sources of PHP info.
Having gone to tekX, I had a free subscription and started reading php|architect again on a semi-regular basis. As a more seasoned developer, I found the articles easier to grasp. I had an iPad then and started to read php|architect on it. Being much better than my laptop, it still wasn’t the same as the old print.
Fast-forward 2 years and 2 jobs later, I’m now one of four gents, starting musketeers.me, llc. We were working hard to drum up contracts (and not doing too poorly). Eli (another of the four) emailed Sandy, Oscar and I about a possible crazy opportunity that might land in our collective laps. Now, for anyone that has had the pleasure of working with Eli, you know he has a way of being enthusiastic for things he’s passionate about. With this bit of news, he was about to explode! We had an all-musketeers.me meeting and he dropped the bomb that we may have an opportunity to acquire the php|architect brand. Well, he might as well have said, “we have an opportunity to acquire Universal Studios.” That was just crazy.
Well it wasn’t crazy, and (after some negotiations) we now owned the magazine and conferences (plus, the training and books) that I loved so much. The first question Beth and I had was, “What do we do to bring it back to print?” As it turns out, there were quite a few voices that were unhappy about php|architect’s move from print. At the public acquisition announcement, that was an oft-repeated question posed to us- “Will you bring back print?”
We wanted to, and I started to explore what options there were out there. It turns out, traditional print houses require (at least) 1000-run minimums for magazine issues. There was little-to-no chance that we’d have that sort of turnout for print subscriptions right off the bat and there would be tons of waste. Then there was the fulfillment. For four owners and one over-worked, but much appreciated, Editor-in-Chief, stuffing magazine bags and mailing them out each month was an impossibility. There were some printing houses that would print AND ship, but the magazine costs would be about $15 PER-issue. Untenable.
It looked like our dream of bringing php|architect back to print was just that- a dream. We started to push forward with making the magazine better in other ways. I enlarged the font, used broad colors, code blocks with less breaks. We changed the logo to reflect the name shift from “php|architect” to “php[architect].” I finally had a workable theme for the magazine with designated color blocks for each feature.
August, 2013- Eli drops another bomb. It turns out, our book printer is working on a new Journals Printing product. It’s print on demand (POD) with complete fulfillment! What’s more, we could do this and price the issues at a reachable (aka- not ridiculous) price point. We decided to explore some more. As the Art Director, I wanted to see the final printed product before we committed to release a print option. If it was crap, it wasn’t going out!
(warning- the next two paragraphs get a bit design-geeky. You can skip these and not miss anything )
It turns out, it wasn’t as easy as taking an existing issue and exporting it to PDF for the printer. After years of designing for digital-only, I had to tweak much to the design to make it print-ready. At least, we had already changed the format to 8.5″ by 11″. I quickly redesigned the InDesign theme to be “facing pages” like a traditional printed publication, and converted all of the images to CMYK. Also, the cover had to be a separate file. In the printing options, we had a choice of gloss or matte paper finish. The original php|architect was gloss finish, but a lot of the modern magazines were going to a matte finish, which I agreed had a more pleasing texture.I sent to first file test off and anticipated it’s arrival in my mailbox.
It arrived in a flat cardboard container (express delivery). I opened it up and saw the first php|architect magazine to be printed in 4 years (the picture above is an actual shot from that moment). The cover was gorgeous in print. It was actually a much thicker card-stock than the old print issue. It held the ink better, and had an almost buttery feel to the touch. The interior was ok, but I was alarmed at how thin the paper was. I pointed this out to the gang and it was mentioned that all magazined have almost transparent-thin paper nowadays. Looking at my Fast Company and National Geographic issues, I saw this was true. Still, this made me change the feature headers from a solid block of color, to a lighter style.
It turns out the print test was a success! The art green light was given!
So, here I am, a fan that lamented it’s print version’s demise, actually being one of the people that is bringing php[architect] magazine back to print… crazy world.