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Michelle Morschagin: Art & Improvisation at The Bruin Review

Interviewer: Anton Stover

Editor: Selena Perez

In this spotlight, Anton Stover interviews Michelle Morshchagin, the current Art Director of the Bruin Review, an independent UCLA newspaper focused on opinion and satire articles that go against the mainstream. This article discusses Morshchagin’s role in the Bruin Review in terms of art creation for the final prints, and her outlook on art in general.


Anton: My first question is about the painting on the cover of the Winter 2024 issue. How did you come across or come up with this design?

Michelle: So this was the first issue that I have been the Art Director for on the Bruin Review, and the first thing that came into my head that I really wanted to do was art-deco, (19)20s. It was inspired by the film, The French Dispatch, and I wanted to capture that with the painting, as the outfit the woman is wearing is very ‘20s French.   


Anton: So you had the art-deco style in mind while creating it! Was the end product different than what you originally envisioned, and if so, what changed?

Michelle: I definitely think it was a little bit different than what I expected, especially since I had never done an issue before (as the Art Director). I think I learned by the end of the process that it’s important to keep in mind the different mediums people use. Some people do physical art, drawing, photography— and everyone has different art styles, so it’s important to make the issue cohesive, to make a solid piece.


Anton: Does having so many different styles affect the way you organize your articles? In other words, did you have in mind “photography goes here, paintings go here” or was it a different process?

Michelle: At the end of the day, I have the Editor-In-Chief send me the order, since the purpose of the Bruin Review is to highlight people’s articles and opinion pieces. I try to adhere to this, but some of the designs change as I go along. If I have an initial idea but it blends in too much or doesn’t work well, then I will change it a bit, but usually, the order doesn’t change the way I set it up too much.


Anton: Throughout the Bruin Review, the backgrounds and overall designs of each article are different. Did you have specific plans in mind (even with a more set order) on how the style of the piece would develop from article to article, but also on a larger level?

Michelle: Yeah, I think there were some pages in the middle that were especially cohesive. All of the pieces are online, so I see as I scroll down how all of the pieces meld together, so I design based on what I have at the moment, because sometimes I wait for pieces to finish. I don’t really have a solid plan right when I start. I think it kind of happens, but I do have general ideas, like a town landscape or certain colors in mind, but not too much ahead of time.

Transition between two separate articles.


Anton: Some people might view that as, “Oh, you have a lot of freedom and that’s a good thing,” whereas other people might find improv to be difficult. Do you feel that this gives you some agency? How much agency do you experience when you know what you’re doing, but other parts are being adapted based on the style?

Michelle: I think that when I really like the theme I picked, it can be very liberating because I have a larger idea of things I could possibly do. When themes are too general, it’s often harder to be cohesive. But, when it’s more specific, it works together well. I feel like I definitely have a lot of agency over how it works out, and the improv part helps to see what works and what doesn’t work, especially after getting people’s opinions on it. There is some pressure to ensure people like how the piece looks, but people mainly care about how their articles look and are laid out.


Anton: Was there anything that you realized was a major aspect of the Art Director’s job that differed from the tasks of a normal artist?

Michelle: The answer is definitely, yes. There were so many things that I didn’t know were going to be an issue. After the previous Art Director left and I took over, there were many things to learn. When I was only doing 2-3 pieces, I would only have to talk to the writer and do sketches and be done, but when you’re Art Director, you have to learn to use digital design software, like Adobe InDesign. Prior to this position, I had no idea how to use it at all and had to learn it over the summer. It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely a good experience. The other thing I didn’t expect was how important it is and how difficult it is to keep everyone on track, since artists are doing multiple pieces a quarter while also going to classes and doing other things, and since there are 20 artists, it becomes quite a task. It’s taught me how to be patient and communicative because it is a big project with so many people working on it.


Anton: Are there any final things that you want to say, or things you think are important to discuss in this topic that I haven’t asked about?

Michelle: I think it’s important to note that art is a very freeing way of expressing yourself. Some people do writing, some people create physical artwork, and there are so many ways that you can express yourself, and allowing that freedom as an Art Director is so important. Allowing people to go out as much as possible in the scope of the article they want to portray, is important. It’s a team effort, and communication is key, and not being afraid to create absolutely anything you want, all of it is pretty important to creating a great magazine. 

You can find Bruin Review at The newest opinion publication of Winter 2024 has recently been released.