Digital storytelling brings a publication to life

UC San Diego documents its pandemic response with an immersive hybrid magazine experience.

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Form follows content. And when the content is as unprecedented and impactful as pandemic response, it calls for an innovative form that can show that impact firsthand.


After a year-long hiatus, UC San Diego Health Sciences’ Discoveries magazine wanted to immerse their audience in a year of momentous clinical efforts using multimedia to capture stories from all sides of the response.


We brought print and digital together to tell the comprehensive story of UC San Diego and COVID-19: from caring for the first evacuees from Wuhan to the ongoing fight against variants. An elevated online experience became a living document of this watershed moment in healthcare.

A gatefold timeline in print comes alive digitally as an interactive infographic.


Design and development

Collaboration between Traina’s creative team and our digital developers brought out a cohesive visual language, with web and print sharing design and structural elements along with typographical treatments rarely seen on a website.

“Digital and physical are not distinct brand experiences anymore,” says chief creative officer, Mark Gallo. “Digital can elevate stories with video, audio and motion, and it can be informed by print design. Each can enhance the other.

Rich media immersion

Our digital medium allowed for new storytelling methods, with introductions that read themselves or pull quotes that become full audio and video narratives, capturing the emotional impact felt on the front lines.

Elevated look,
intimate tone

Voices from all levels and all areas of the institution are reflected in the issue, designed to be personal and dive deep into narrative.


Changing times need responsive media

Our project kicked off just as the first COVID-19 variants were starting to appear, and as the saga was still unfolding, a dynamic format was necessary. We built the site to be easily updated and allow seamless access to analytics. From just this one issue, it was determined that thousands more viewers were able to explore Discoveries’ content than via traditional print distribution.


Print has a purpose

For all the innovations of the online experience, the printed form has an undeniable prestige. Physical magazines have longevity in the home, and establish an unrivaled intimacy and sense of belonging with the reader.

Essentially a compendium of the pandemic, this issue was designed much like a collectible, a document worth keeping for posterity. For instance, a striking gatefold timeline details UC San Diego’s vigilance throughout the pandemic both in print and online.

The project overall earned many accolades, including a gold award in the 2021 Finest Awards from the Health Care Communicators of Southern California, and several One Awards from the One Club for Creativity.

Form follows content

The essence of Discoveries magazine is showing how an academic health system can work in a truly integrated way. The hybrid form suits this mission perfectly, demonstrating how research, clinical and educational enterprises came together in a historic moment for humanity.

Let’s move things forward.