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Infinite Magazine by Masha G. '24

[joint post with Kidist A.]

What is Infinite Magazine?

Infinite is a student-run magazine seeking to reframe art, politics, culture, and aesthetics through the lens of fashion. It was launched in print and online in early 2018, with new issues released approximately once per semester. Each issue features full-page photo spreads01 generally, a spread refers to two facing pages of a magazine that are usually of similar content. in infinite, we expand this definition of spread to account for the whole cohesive project/idea that could span multiple pages. and articles that are unified under the current issue’s theme. Infinite aims to provide the space, resources, and platform for student designers and writers to showcase their projects and experiments to the MIT community and beyond. 

animated gif of magazine description from the website

the ‘about’ page from the Infinite Magazine website

[Kidist] The general process of the club runs as follows:02 at least this was how the club was run this past semester the Infinite executive board determines a theme for the current issue and puts out a call for students to submit their ideas. These students will most likely serve as spread leads, people who will manage the overall spread. Infinite assesses the needs of the spread and sends out another call for students and general members of the club to aid spread leads into realizing their visions. Infinite matches members’ interests and skill sets to spreads, and the work begins! There are check-ins during the semester, and hopefully by the end, the spreads are compiled to make one cohesive issue of the Infinite magazine. 

Why we joined

[Masha] I first encountered Infinite at CP*, the spring before my freshman year. I remember the event distinctly, probably because it was one of the few I had actually bothered to go to: we made little zines03 I themed mine 'NYC critters,' and I still have it tucked away in my bookshelf at home. about topics of our choosing and talked about the club and fashion at MIT. Looking through past issues of the magazine, I was immediately struck by just how cool they all were. I’d always loved fashion, and in recent years, as other hobbies have fallen to the side, it has been my only consistent source of artistic expression. So joining Infinite was a no-brainer, though I was fairly intimidated by the high quality of the work I saw in previous issues. 

I had no formal experience with photography or graphic design, but I wanted to learn, and I was an overzealous freshman, so I pitched a spread idea for Issue 7 last fall and had it accepted. In the end, though, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with either that spread or my experience in the club — I felt a little bit like I had been left to my own devices, and I didn’t have enough resources or experience/training to turn my vision into reality. So when I saw the email about Issue 8 executive board applications, I knew I had to apply, just so I could be more involved with the club and actually see for myself how everything came together. Plus, I had always viewed Infinite with a sheen of awe and intimidation, which I found to be unproductive — how can we have a fashion magazine created by MIT students if those same students are too scared to join the club? I wanted as many students as possible to contribute their ideas to Infinite. This, as well as the selfish desire to meet cool new people in a virtual semester, led me to apply for a community-oriented role on the board.

[Kidist] Put simply, I joined Infinite because I strongly identified with its artsy vibe but also wanted to adopt its edgy vibe.04 this is a work in progress I loved the contributors’ experimental looks and overall energy and appreciated the multi-faceted nature of Infinite. I could do writing, photography, make-up, styling, and more. At first, I was incredibly intimidated because I didn’t have much experience in most of the skills listed save for writing. Even though Infinite consistently emphasized that no experience was necessary, I didn’t gather up the courage to join until my sophomore spring, the semester when COVID hit. 

With everyone spread across the world, collaboration became even more difficult, and members like myself who were eager to help with someone’s idea for a spread were unable to offer much support. Over the summer, I invested time in developing my interests in photography and grew enough confidence to become a spread lead in the fall for Issue 7. Though I was involved, I still felt isolated from the club; I was only communicating with one executive member and submitting my pictures to them, and didn’t feel part of the larger Infinite community. This motivated me to apply for the executive board and to voice my concerns and ideas about developing community at Infinite. 

Structure of board

[Masha] For Issue 8 this past spring, the board was expanded to nine people: two EIC’s,05 Editors in Chief a creative director, an editorial director,06 that's Kidist! a photography director, a visual design director, two public relations directors, an internal relations director,07 that's me! and a web director. The EIC’s are in charge of the magazine as a whole: they set the direction for the issue, set out tasks for other board members, and have final vote on all creative and logistical questions. The creative, editorial, photography, and visual design directors are more directly responsible for specific aspects of the issue itself: its aesthetic, layout, writing, and overall style. Although each issue is made up of many separately produced and designed spreads, a lot of work goes into putting those spreads together into a cohesive end product. These so-called PLASMA08 I couldn't for the life of me remember what this stands for, but I found it - if you put the titles of all the roles together, you get PECVD, aka Plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition directors are responsible for the creative decisions that unify the magazine; they oversee the production of individual spreads and provide support when necessary. 

[Kidist] For example, in my role as editorial director,  I managed the writing component of the magazine. I worked with the writing contributors, reviewed their drafts, and made any necessary edits. I also wrote some miscellaneous bits such as the about page for the website or a quick description of the issue’s theme for Instagram.

[Masha] The public relations directors are responsible for managing Infinite’s connection to the outside world. One of the directors handled the finances of the magazine, applying for grants and interfacing with the various administrative bodies overseeing MIT clubs. The other PR director was responsible for our social media, posting on Instagram to showcase our theme, advertise the new issue, and share pieces of visual inspiration.09 every week, each member of the board would send in a post or a song that they're vibing with, and these 'board picks' would then get posted to the account's story In a related role, the web director created an all-new website10 I'm still amazed at just how cool it is for the magazine, infinitemagazine.mit.edu, where you can now find links to previous issues and information about the club in general.

screenshot of instagram feed

Infinite’s Instagram feed as of late

As for me, in my role as internal relations director, I’m responsible for making the club itself run smoothly. I handled emails and communication between the board and general members, planned community building events, and was generally responsible for the small logistics of having everyone work together. 

Though each member of the board was in charge of specific areas of the club’s function; in practice, many of the decisions made by the board were made collectively, and we all gave input on each other’s focus areas. I felt welcome to express my opinions on the design of the magazine, for instance, and Kidist in particular always had good ideas for club bonding events.

Choosing a Theme

[Kidist] The board brainstormed the theme for Issue 8 during our first virtual board meeting in early February. We all shared our ideas and the EICs, Sophia and Alex, wrote them down on a Zoom whiteboard. Then, we went around and voted by annotating the board and placing a sticker next to the themes we liked, discussing along the way. In the end, ~light~ had the most votes.

[Masha] Once we had chosen a theme, we opened up spread applications. Anyone who had an idea was welcome to submit a rough outline of the premise, what the spread would look like, and what help it would take. The spreads to be featured in the issue were then chosen by a process similar to what we used for the theme. Anyone who expressed interest in Infinite, but didn’t want to be a spread lead, was able to then rank which spreads they’d like to help out with and get an assignment.

Our spreads
woman holding pearls in a glass

kinda blurry but this is my fave pic

[Kidist] In the fall 2020 issue, I had one spread called ‘complementary.’ The theme of Issue 7 was style, so the idea behind the shoot was to combine the personal with the professional. I went a little extra with my edges/bangs to illustrate the personal side and included a lot of pearls which I heavily associate with professional/formal settings and attire. 

portrait of woman on red background with hair in the shape of a tornado

For Issue 8, I had two spreads: Eye of the Storm and Tension. The first spread was an exploration of hair and the weight11 My spread is an example of how tangentially it relates to the theme lol. I used the definition of light as it relates to weights. I did this photoshoot over IAP not with this infinite issue in mind, but I adapted the wording/message for it to fit the theme. that it can carry, both as a blessing and a burden. I picked a tornado to sit on my head like a crown to illustrate that contradiction. My relationship with my hair has grown a lot in college, especially since I’ve had to take care of it by myself unlike in high school where I had the help of my mom. I wanted to explore how my hair sometimes swallows me both in volume and in my self-perception. 12 of my beauty and, at times, self-worth The natural hair community places a lot of emphasis on length and defined curls, and that pressure has led me to hold on to unhealthy hair and ideas for the sake of upholding those ideals. I reached out to a friend about my spread and she wrote an incredible piece that captured the sentiment behind it.

I also did the second shoot over IAP in collaboration with a beautiful close friend from high school. I wanted to illustrate culture and assimilation in different lights13 * ba dum tss * and try to blur the lines between assimilating versus maintaining parts of your culture in daily clothing. The blue outfit was mostly American clothing with Indian elements (American pants and shirt combined with Indian-inspired cardigans and jewelry) and the pink outfit was mostly Indian clothing with American elements (the pink and yellow Indian attire combined with the nike socks, heels, hoops, and scrunchie). 

I learned so much making all the spreads, especially the last two. I used InDesign for the first  time when making the layout for the last two spreads. I spent hours on Pinterest looking for layout and editing inspiration. I had to think about typography deeply. Those two spreads had a lot of firsts and learning opportunities for me, and I’m so grateful that I got over my perfectionism and fears of disappointment to make that.

golden foil floating in an MIT lobby

[Masha] The idea for my spread last semester came about almost by accident. After having decided on “light” as our theme for Issue 8, I spent a week unsuccessfully trying to come up with ideas. This was around the end of February, and I was going through a phase of eating lots and lots of Ferrero Rocher candies.14 this was inspired by me receiving a mini pack of them in a gift package from the MIT Model UN Conference. I then bought a big pack during move in and was going through it... If you’ve ever eaten one of these, you probably know how satisfying it is to take the golden foil wrapping afterwards and smooth it out until you get all the wrinkles out. I hate throwing pretty things out, so I was keeping all these smoothed-out pieces of foil in my desk drawer. At one point it occurred to me that they looked a lot like what I imagine solar sails to be. In particular, I was probably thinking of this image from the Breakthrough Starshot project, which is an incredibly ambitious initiative to send tiny solar sail-powered scout ships beyond our solar system and out to Alpha Centauri.15 do I actually think they'll make it happen? probably not. it's a cool idea though Somehow, all of this became an idea for a spread: I wanted to make little “scout ships” out of Ferrero Rocher wrappers, then photograph them in different places in MIT on a sunny day. In my mind, this would be a sort of metaphor for the pandemic and starting college via online classes. Even though I was on campus in the spring, I still didn’t have any in person classes, so going into the buildings to take these photos would be as much my own act of “scouting” and exploration as it would be an artistic project. Later, as we were ideating the spreads, someone suggested that I turn the ship models into earrings, which I loved; thus the final idea was born. I made the scout ship earrings, got my roommate to model them, and then used photography to tell the story of her losing the earrings and them going on their own scouting journey through campus. 

portrait of woman with gold foil earrings

I really loved working on this spread, especially because of the complicated vision I had behind it. I’d never really done a photoshoot with intention in this way before, so it was a new experience. This stood out especially when compared to my spread for Issue 7 last fall, which consisted primarily of compiling photographs united by a single theme (casual street style in different locations across the globe). I really liked bringing my artistic vision to life, so much so that I’ve been meaning to do some more involved/themed photoshoots this summer… though we’ll see if that actually happens. Either way, I’ll definitely try to do another spread for Issue 9 this coming fall,16 especially since I’ll need the motivation to do at least something creative during the semester and I’d like to put similar intention behind it.

I also learned a lot more about graphic design and how to use Adobe programs like InDesign and Photoshop. Though I had taught myself the basics of InDesign to compile my spread in the fall, I didn’t really feel confident in my ability to put together a nice layout; for that spread, I had been asked to simply send something in without much feedback or guidance. I’m thus particularly grateful for all the feedback I, as a spread lead, got from the board throughout the spring. There were two rounds of club-wide spread critiques, where anyone could share their thoughts on the spread ideas and layouts. Plus, during work week, the board put a lot of care into looking through each spread and making adjustments to the layouts, all while keeping spread leads in the loop. Though working on my own layout was a lot of work, and took a lot of revisions and some late nights, I’m really proud of the design I ended up with for my spread – maybe even more proud that I am of the photography itself.

Putting together Issue 8

[Kidist] The process of compiling everyones’ spreads into one magazine wasn’t as straightforward as I expected. ‘Work week’ is what we call the week dedicated to organizing all the spreads and producing a final draft that will be sent to be printed. Diego, the visual design director, carried this whole week. He was on Zoom for hours on end, for multiple days, discussing edits and adjustments with most spread leads and board members. There were many last-minute edits, including the addition of two whole new spreads. The pictures for the Edgerton and Fire Spinning spreads were submitted either the week of or the week before work week, so there was a big time-crunch to figure out editing and layout. A spread lead for another project had an emergency and couldn’t complete their spread on time, adding to the chaos.

screenshot of excel spreadsheet

what it takes to put a magazine together, from start to finish

There are also other related edits such as making a front, back, and inside covers. A list of all contributors must be collected and their names’ spelling be confirmed. Table of contents and masthead spreads have to be designed and compiled. The letter from editors must be written. The fonts, sizing, and resolution of the entire magazine must be double-checked for consistency. All of these considerations and more were addressed during work week, and after a week of hard work, the board all got on a Zoom call and celebrated as we sent the magazine to print.  

[Masha] With the magazines ordered to print, it was then time to plan their release. In a normal semester, the release of a new issue would be accompanied by some sort of public event. Due to the pandemic, though, and limits on safe gatherings, the most we could do for Issue 8 was to plan a time when we would sit outside the stud and distribute magazine copies (and bonus stickers) to anyone who wanted one. We tried to publicize this as much as possible, putting up posters across campus, sending out emails, and posting on social media. In the end, I’d say release was a success: we ran out of available copies much quicker than expected, and a lot of people seemed genuinely excited to see what Issue 8 had come out to. And even though we ran out of copies, the digital version of the magazine lives on for everyone to enjoy.

The Infinite community

[Kidist] Like I had mentioned earlier, I gathered the confidence to join Infinite my sophomore spring, right before everything shut down. When that happened, there was no central platform for all the members besides the mailing list. I got emails through there, but they were mostly targeted towards spread leads and reminding them of check-ins and deadlines. Besides that, I didn’t know anything about the club and the progress people were making towards completing the magazine.  

I filled out the form sent to general members detailing the ways in which I’d like to offer my help to spread leads but didn’t hear back for the entire semester. From the perspective of a spread lead, I understand why this might be the case; putting aside the pandemic,17 which is already so much collaborating virtually with a stranger is a challenging obstacle. It’s easier to lean on existing friendships and directly ask for help if you’re not doing most things yourself. On both ends, email is hard and formal and impersonal. 

In the fall interest meeting, I mentioned to the executive board the idea of including members on a centralized platform such as Slack or Discord or any form of group chat to build a sense of community. However, I think due to the pandemic and everything being virtual that didn’t come to fruition. Even though I was a spread lead that semester, I only spoke with one other exec member to discuss and submit my pictures. I didn’t even see the final result of the layout of my spread until the magazine was published and released to the public. 

So by the spring of my junior year, I was determined to join the executive board and try to elicit change. I actually applied for the internal relations role but ultimately ended up getting the editorial director role.18 which in hindsight was a good thing, because masha really excelled in this role The EICs also had community as a first priority. I think they did a great job matching general members to spread leads. For instance, the Light in Darkness spread was mostly composed of people who were matched to the spread lead. The spread lead had an idea for a spread and listed specific ways they needed help with, namely modeling, photo editing, and layout. The board looked at members who had filled out the form and matched them to the spread lead. Honestly, it was really beautiful to see the initiative people took to organize in a pandemic to produce a stunning spread.  

I really believe that creating a Slack workspace helped facilitate a lot of that organization. That also served as a place to share reminders in a less intimidating way, which I feel like email can be. I also liked that the EICs had public critiques around the middle and end of the semester where people working on spreads shared their progress to general members and asked for feedback and critiques. I think it created a sense of inclusion and transparency that I personally had wanted. Lastly, there were general social events. In one semester, the EICs led a major initiative to promote community during a pandemic with pretty decent success which is really impressive. The only missing factor is developing that deeper connection between members, which being in person next semester will probably resolve.   

[Masha] I had a really similar experience to Kidist with Issue 7, except that the lack of feedback and communication was perhaps even more daunting to me, as a first-semester freshman. I had joined Infinite looking for a community of cool people with similar interests, which was especially important to me in the context of starting MIT during a remote semester, from the other side of the globe. I understood, of course – Zoom is hard and largely unpleasant, and I had generally resolved myself to having a mildly antisocial freshman fall. Still, when spring came around, I was motivated to join the exec board and applied specifically for internal relations director role. As they say, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’

Right from the beginning, the EIC’s made their focus on building community clear. There was a lot of talk of ‘rebuilding’ Infinite after two issues produced remotely. As internal relations director, I was tasked with creating the Infinite Slack channel and sending regular emails, in an effort to keep the club connected. As Kidist mentioned, this paid off. Together with the increased communication between the EIC’s and spread leads, Issue 8 felt much more collaborative than my previous experience with Infinite.

The ‘social chair’ side of serving as internal relations director was a harder role to fulfill. I organized some Zoom social events, which were honestly quite lackluster and suffered from limited turnout. Though I felt rather disheartened by this, it’s important to remember that socializing over Zoom sucks, and even I had low motivation to go to my own events. The best, most fun moments from Infinite so far have been the handful of in-person interactions – taking board photos at night on Killian, or handing out magazines on Kresge. So I know next semester will be better. Issue 8 was a sort of rebirth for the magazine, laying the groundwork for it to stay a cohesive club. I’m excited to see where that takes us when we’re back in person.

animated gif of moving words

the website landing page

In conclusion

[Masha] Of all the clubs I tried joining freshman year, Infinite has definitely been the most fun and the most rewarding. It’s a great place to explore your creativity, sometimes in unexpected ways, and I really encourage anyone even remotely interested to check it out.

[Kidist] Learn from my mistakes and don’t let intimidation or any other reason keep you from joining Infinite! You don’t have to have experience to join; this is a space for you to learn and be cool! I have had such a fun experience in a virtual setting: imagine how much more amazing it will be in person?

  1. generally, a spread refers to two facing pages of a magazine that are usually of similar content. in infinite, we expand this definition of spread to account for the whole cohesive project/idea that could span multiple pages. back to text
  2. at least this was how the club was run this past semester back to text
  3. I themed mine 'NYC critters,' and I still have it tucked away in my bookshelf at home. back to text
  4. this is a work in progress back to text
  5. Editors in Chief back to text
  6. that's Kidist! back to text
  7. that's me! back to text
  8. I couldn't for the life of me remember what this stands for, but I found it - if you put the titles of all the roles together, you get PECVD, aka Plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition back to text
  9. every week, each member of the board would send in a post or a song that they're vibing with, and these 'board picks' would then get posted to the account's story back to text
  10. I'm still amazed at just how cool it is back to text
  11. My spread is an example of how tangentially it relates to the theme lol. I used the definition of light as it relates to weights. I did this photoshoot over IAP not with this infinite issue in mind, but I adapted the wording/message for it to fit the theme. back to text
  12. of my beauty and, at times, self-worth back to text
  13. * ba dum tss * back to text
  14. this was inspired by me receiving a mini pack of them in a gift package from the MIT Model UN Conference. I then bought a big pack during move in and was going through it... back to text
  15. do I actually think they'll make it happen? probably not. it's a cool idea though back to text
  16. especially since I’ll need the motivation to do at least something creative during the semester back to text
  17. which is already so much back to text
  18. which in hindsight was a good thing, because masha really excelled in this role back to text