AEP Award Winner Profile: Independent School Weds Outstanding Content and Design

Editorial excellence…dazzling design…colorful content…for 45 years, the Golden Lamp Award for Periodicals has honored “the best of the best” in educational publishing. The root of AEP’s history and the first awards category, the Golden Lamp periodical award celebrates the marriage of content, design, and mission for a high-quality educational publication.

Since 1967, Golden Lamp Periodicals winners have included many of the best-known magazines and publishers in the field, as well as some small, nonprofit publications. Winning represents a tremendous honor, and only a handful of publications have achieved this milestone more than once.

In 2012, Independent School, published by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), earned the Golden Lamp for the third time. “We are honored to receive the Golden Lamp because it is the gold standard in educational publishing,” says Michael Brosnan, editor in chief of Independent School. “In some ways, it means more to win a third time because it shows our consistency in meeting the award’s high standards.”

Published quarterly, Independent School’s mission is to provide “an open forum for exchange of information about elementary and secondary education in general, and independent schools in particular.” While many of the magazine’s authors are affiliated with independent schools and some articles pertain specifically to such schools, ANY educator would find information of value in articles such as “Speaking Well: New Life for the Original Language Art,” “The Key to Unlocking Student Potential: A Collaborative Learning Model,” and “Teaching Leadership.”

Indeed, each of the three issues submitted for this year’s Golden Lamp judging contained a wide range of fascinating articles, organized around a specific theme:

  • Schools and the Common Good
  • Evolution or Revolution
  • The Myth of the Model Minority

Each issue also contains standard features: a book review section, an editor’s note, an “Independent Perspective,” a research spotlight, “Independent School Parent,” and a first-person section called “The Teaching Life.” There’s a familiarity in the organization of each issue, but a fresh approach to each page, each article. The writing is crisp, interesting, and easily accessible.

Likewise, imaginative design perfectly complements the text. Eye-popping graphics (both photography and artwork) entice readers into articles, and well-designed pages make it easy to keep reading. Covers range from a stark black and white photo for “The Myth of the Model Minority” to a stylized piece of artwork for “Schools and the Common Good” to a purposely blurred photograph for “Evolution or Revolution: The pace of change in schools.”

Certainly, Independent School has found a formula for success that keeps readers coming back again and again. A recent readership survey revealed that more than three out of four readers (78.2%) read half or more of the magazine, and the average reader spends nearly 1 hour and 27 minutes with an issue. Two out of three readers save every issue for future reference, and the average reader has subscribed for more than 10 years.

What, then, is the secret? More than any single thing, it’s a combination of factors working together in perfect harmony. “Our small, vibrant editorial team is ever mindful of the magazine’s mission to be a forum for information on education and independent schools as we plan content for each issue,” says Brosnan. “We work closely with a talented designer and excellent production staff at TMG to ensure that the visuals and the text are complementary.”

AEP’s awards judges raved about all aspects of the magazine. One judge commented, “These publications are filled with a wide variety of articles about current issues in education. They are very interesting, informative, and well written. They draw from an extremely large pool of writers, which makes them unique. The magazine itself is visually appealing with beautiful graphics and illustrations, and is well laid out.”

Another judge praised the “robust, varied content that caters precisely to the intended readership, the well-designed and thoughtful layouts, and the easily accessible and well-written articles.”

A third judge said, “This is a magazine that stands up above the standard periodical. Rarely do I see such a great marriage between exceptional editorial and design. The variety of articles available to support teachers and administrators in everything from the classroom to overall policy is more than admirable. And, the Independent School team still finds an overarching theme for each issue to keep it from being a hodge-podge periodical. I am drawn in right away, starting with the arresting and thought-provoking covers to the regular columns and features, and right into the main features, written by an impressive cadre of contributing authors.

“The content is well organized,” the judge added, “easy to follow and read, and the prose engaging, sometimes with an especially arresting personal tone. The academic qualities of the articles are well presented and never pedantic. And the design—from typography to the photos and illustrations to the color palates—demonstrates that adult audience design can be interesting, eye-catching, and visually thought provoking without diminishing from the text itself. “

All in all, it’s a marriage made in heaven—content and design merging to create a publication that truly exemplifies all the best qualities of an AEP Golden Lamp Periodicals winner.

“As we look to the future, we will continue to focus on offering well-written articles on topics of deep interest to our readers while keeping the design fresh and engaging,” concludes Brosnan. “We also plan to take advantage of the advancements in digital technology to provide our readers with a more interactive experience with Independent School.”

Learn more about Independent School from NAIS.


The AEP Awards honor resources that educate or support education and the most creative and effective marketing in the industry. Online submissions in now open, and all types of organizations are encouraged to consider entering their materials for an AEP Award. See the full list of award categories and eligibility requirements.

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