Sometime around 2018, the Dana Foundation decided that its mission had grown stale. And so a long, strategic plan process began. To that point, I had edited Cerebrum, a monthly online article—generally about a brain research topic. We also posted a quarterly book review and an annual print anthology (about everything we had published on the website). My feeling was that the topics suggested by my scientific advisory board were important but mostly appealed to their colleagues.
The original idea for Cerebrum, introduced in the late 1990s by Dana Chair and President William Safire—the former Nixon speechwriter and New York Times columnist — was to publish neuroscientist written content that debated controversies and new brain science ideas for lay readers. By the time I had arrived as editor in 2011, the monthly article was often talked about the biological mechanisms of neurons in painstaking detail. So I saw this new strategic plan as an opportunity to get back to Safire's vision and then some. Since I had considerable magazine experience from my 20 years at the well-designed Rutgers Magazine, as well as stints at two other regional business magazines in New Jersey, I felt I could create a credible online publication four times a year and keep within Dana's budget constraints.
One lesson I had learned in the mag biz was that the better something looked, the more likely people would be drawn to the text. My instincts told me that Bruce Hanson, who operated his own boutique design firm in Hightstown, NJ, would be the perfect freelance art director/designer. I had met Bruce at Rutgers, where he was designing a newspaper for Rutgers staff and faculty, but we had never worked together. Eventually, we learned that we both played guitar. After a few lunchtime acoustic jam sessions, we formed a cover band — an even had an occasional gig. To promote the gig, Bruce would design these amazingly creative posters.
But designing a magazine from scratch was a long way from brochures and posters — plus Bruce had worked exclusively in print. But print was dying a slow and certain death, and I knew Bruce's was having problem finding new print work. Over a few conversations, I convinced him that he could take his considerable talent and apply it digitally. I think the idea of designing the magazine as an E book, which mimics a traditional print magazine, was helpful. Together I knew we could create something Dana was proud of.
And, with the help of some other folks, mostly notably my colleague Seimi Rurup — a very talented editor with a keen eye for aesthetics —we published ten issues of the magazine before Dana pulled the plug. While Bruce hit it out of the park and we received rave reviews for the topics, authors, and departments we introduced, Dana's new president and the board decided to take the Foundation in a new direction — one that moved away from outreach to focus exclusively on grant giving .
So this chapter closes for now. But we sure had fun bringing it to readers while it lasted.
Transition to a Magazine