Behind the scenes at Double Helix magazine
Double Helix is CSIRO’s children’s magazine, showcasing the latest in science, technology, engineering and maths. The magazine celebrates science in all its fascinating forms and is packed with exciting articles, activities, puzzles, comics and prizes galore, to inspire young Australians.
Jasmine Fellows is the Editor of Double Helix and so we asked her to tell us about the process of what goes in to publishing a magazine for the next generation of scientists!
How do you know what kids are interested in?
We’re always keen to hear directly from our readers. We run great competitions in Double Helix magazine asking readers to send in their ideas and artwork. This helps us understand what’s on their minds, from saving the environment to superheroes!
We also have a review team of about 40 young Double Helix readers. They give us extra feedback each issue. They’re the ones picking our cover images and headlines. These readers also have the opportunity to review a toy or gadget and that’s printed in the magazine.
To get broader feedback, we run an annual survey that reaches kids, parents and teachers, where we get insight into what they’d like to see in upcoming issues of the magazine.
Where do you get your inspiration for magazine themes? How do you know what is a ‘hot’ topic?
We start by looking broadly at all types of news and upcoming events. From movie release dates to the latest gadgets, we’re trying to get a sense of what kids will be talking about ahead of time. From there we look at what science, tech, engineering and maths ideas match up.
We use this information to brainstorm a list of a potential themes. We test some via survey and others with the review team. We also ask the reviewers what they’re keen to read about right now.
How has the magazine and its topics changed over the years?
Double Helix magazine evolved from the newsletter Double Helix News, which started in 1986. That means Double Helix has run surveys for about 30 years to find out what our readers are interested in.
I’ve been working with Double Helix for more than 10 years. During my time, animals and space have always been popular topics appealing to children’s natural curiosity about the world around them.
Recently there’s been an upsurge of interest in technology as smart devices have become available. Plus, there’s a lot of interest in the environment, as kids are taking a stand on climate change. They’re aware these ideas are going to play a big part in their futures.
How long does it take to put an issue together?
There are so many amazing people involved – editorial and production, marketing, sales and customer service, as well as freelance writers, illustrators, photographers, designers, printers, prize sponsors…I hope I’ve covered everyone!
We put out an issue of the magazine every six weeks, but the process of making a magazine is longer. Each issue takes more than three months for the team to develop.
Here’s a timeline:
- 3.5 months before: confirm theme, put a call out to freelance writers to collect story ideas, send deadlines to illustrators, in-house writing and activity testing.
- 2.5 months before: articles submitted by writers, fact-checked in-house, structural editing, photo selection.
- 8 weeks before: articles sent to copyeditor.
- 7 weeks before: articles sent for design, layout and typesetting.
- 4 weeks before: artwork files sent to the printer. Print proofs are then checked in-house.
- 3 weeks before: magazines printed. Files uploaded for the digital magazine.
- 2 weeks before: print magazines packaged and mailed out.
- Release date! Print magazines arrive in letterboxes around the country.
Publishing content for young, enquiring minds is rewarding, fun and ever-evolving and very important – Double Helix plays a critical role in sparking an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Subscribe to Double Helix and receive an issue every 6 weeks, visit our blog for regular stories or sign up for email newsletter Double Helix Extra to receive a quiz, brainteaser, news and a hands-on activity between issues of the magazine.