sweet dreams, story catcher

a commemorative collection of portland magazine essays by brian doyle

When Brian Doyle, long-time editor of Portland magazine tragically passed away from a brain tumor at the age of 60, University of Portland was proactive about how to honor him and accomplish several goals by creating a commemorative collection of his essays. Because Brian was so beloved by the academic and literary communities across the globe, being chosen for this esteemed significant project was a total honor.


For over two decades, Brian had made their university publication an internationally-recognized award-winning academic literary magazine.

It was important to find a meaningful logistical way to bring closure to the magazine as it had been known, and utilize a commemorative collection of his magazine essays as an intentional transitional segue into the next incarnation of the publication.

The top administrative and marketing staff understood the importance of Doyle and the quarterly magazine to at least 40,000 subscribers including donors, alumni, faculty, fans and colleagues. Doyle’s reach vastly extended beyond the university into many literary and academic worlds.


Janna Lopez was chosen to creatively and logistically oversee this project. She was asked to curate a collection from over 100 essays. From this collection, 64 were selected. As an editorial perspective, she created a thematic foundation for the book, the title, the narrative structure of the essays, chapter titles, and ensured this body of work had new significance. 

From a design perspective, Karen Gibson ensured each page was the absolute best it could be in terms of visual representation to enhance each and every essay’s individual context.

University of Portland Commemorative Collection Goals:

  • As a university, honor the life and contributions of editor Brian Doyle;
  • Remain in touch with publication’s audience in a meaningful way until the transition and next iteration of Portland magazine was determined;
  • Culminate two decades of the way the magazine had been/looked/conveyed;
  • Sincerely contribute to the healing process of the university and local community’s grief;
  • Create something of substance appropriate to Brian’s professional and personal stature

“Sweet Dreams, Story Catcher” Concept

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The editorial premise of this collection’s title sought to be engaging, meaningful and reflective.

Questions evaluated: 

What will the collection say about Brian Doyle as a person? 

Does the title honor Brian as a respected colleague?

What will the title convey about the body of work itself? 

What does a title share about what a reader can expect from the content? 

The title needs breathing room open for contemplation, resonant of Brian’s writing style.


Brian Doyle referred to himself as a “Story Catcher.”  He stated, “There is a story in every thing, and every being, and every moment, were we alert to catch it, were we ready with our tender nets. To catch and share stories, what could be holier and cooler than that?”

Having a refined collection of his narrative essays ensures he, as Story Catcher, and his words (as dreams), travel beyond him and everywhere.

“Sweet Dreams” has several simultaneous meanings. Brian often said that writing in itself was like an expression of dreams. He shared, “I love writing novels, novels are like long dreams.” 

“Sweet Dreams” is meant to infer the sweet—as in touching and meaningful—rich, beautiful morsels of his writings; each sweet essay as a dream.

“Sweet Dreams” also says goodnight, as opposed to goodbye. It’s not a final departure away from Brian with his passing, because through the life of his contributions presented in the collection, we’re merely saying goodnight.


Editorial prospect

In thinking about the purpose of this collection, we crafted a keepsake that serves as both a gift TO Brian—let him know we honor, respect and pay homage to his work, his thoughts, his contributions; 

And, a gift FROM Brian to the world—of his works, his thoughts his contributions. The curation of essays, how they’re categorized, how they’re visually communicated were intended to be a symbiotic gift TO Brian and a gift FROM Brian. It is from this reference we created this project.

His work, and the book’s look/feel/intent/message,  mirrored a highly combined integrated reflection of dream, intellect, and above all, personalized forms of metaphorical “letters.”


EDITORIAL REVIEW  The first element was to review over 100 of Brian’s essays. Each piece was read and analyzed for content themes, categories, messages. A narrative synopsis of each was crafted for internal use.

THEMATIC EVALUATION  Once all essays were reviewed and summarized, a strategic and creative editorial evaluation was applied to give the collection form, structure, shape.

CONTENT ORGANIZATION  From those decisions, essays were organized into a cohesive collection of ideas and words to formulate a structured editorial context reflective of all of who Brian Doyle was: “story catcher,” philosopher, man of faith, father, husband, friend.

From this context, chapter titles were crafted to create cohesive narrative themes, essay to essay, chapter to chapter, within a balance of the whole collection.


GRAPHIC DISCUSSION  Visual themes and imagery were explored to complement, support and illuminate the editorial work in evocative, beautiful displays. The images were in essence, meant to become an extension of the “Sweet Dreams” concept.


IMAGE AND ILLUSTRATION EXPLORATION  After graphic concept discussions, visual and illustrative representations were explored. A wide visual representation of the overall body of work was shared with University of Portland for feedback to shape potential directions moving forward.

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CONCEPT PRESENTATIONS TO BE CREATED  Several concepts were shared for consideration with University of Portland staff which demonstrated possible project directions. 

Fonts for headlines (handwritten type was chosen to emulate Brian’s handwriting proclivity), body copy (reminiscent of scholarly books), chapter title treatments (classic, contemporary) were chosen. Because the university is a more refined academic environment, the overall feel and look of the book had to align with University of Portland’s reputation yet be distinct from Portland magazine.

Working with Janna and Karen brings together two must-haves for anyone seeking to solve a complex communication initiative: They boil down the project into must-haves, and then present a creative vision that encompasses the right tone, voice, and design, and then execute the solution. Having them at the helm of University of Portland’s Brian Doyle commemorative collection project not only streamlined the process, but has also made this initiative even more compelling than we ever imagined.

They are a dream team to work with. Together, their creative talents allow a project to shine – and surpass your expectations. If you are that person whose been tasked with yet another initiative that is critical to your institution and you are wondering how you are going to get it done, Janna and Karen can be just the solution you are looking for.
— Rachel Barry-Arquit, Director, Marketing & Communications, University of Portland