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NKEY magazine

Created by graphic design student Nate Kearney, NKEY is a print magazine concept with some interviews as its backbone.
Published November 16, 2023
Creators! Feel free to tip me off about your keyboard related projects to bring them to 100K readers.

Nathaniel Kearney (I see what you did with the NKEY name), a graphic designer living in Kansas City, Missouri is currently a senior at Park University. When he approached me in late September, he made it clear that this project with the working name of N-Key was not a real magazine and won't be sold. He planned on using this concept in his student portfolio.

I am a graphic design student currently in my senior year of my undergraduate degree, and I am working on an editorial design for a print magazine concept I am creating – Nate.

I regularly receive such inquiries from people asking for permission to use articles – and I very rarely hear back from them. Luckily, this was not the case with Nate who created NKEY, a print magazine for his design portfolio, featuring some write-ups.


Considering using some of the original content on for any project is always an honor so I said yes of course. Aaand.. drum roll.. after a good month of work Nate is back with a PDF and some nice shots of a printed specimen.


Check out the design with two of my interviews published earlier here on the blog (Quentin Lebastard, Morgan Venable), and also pieces from Kristina Panos (hackaday), Daniel Sims (techspot) and Calder Limmen (Wooting).

Why keyboards?

I chose to do a magazine about keyboards because I noticed that there aren't any print magazines that are solely focused on keyboards (at least the computer kind). I figured that it would make for an interesting magazine topic that would spark interest in my professors and peers who might not have known about the mechanical keyboard space. A few of my classmates have even started asking me questions about what makes them different, where to find and buy them, etc.

How deep are you into the hobby?

Admittedly, I am not very deep in the subject yet compared to some of the lovely people I have met along the way. I definitely learned a whole lot more about keyboards while doing this project, but I am not looking at building anything from scratch until I have the spare time.


How much work did it take to put the design together?

The whole process is a lot of work for one person. We start with a few ideas for the topic and then define who the target audience is and what the objectives are for each. After that is done, we work on sketching page layouts, the cover, and the masthead.

From there it's a lot of exploring which typefaces to use, finding articles that match the topic and are suitable for the audience you have chosen, fiddling with the layouts with the images you have, and a lot more.

Since the final design is graded from a physical copy I turn in, I am responsible for figuring out how to bind it, where/how to print, which paper I want to use (thickness, finish, size) and then assembly.

We get seven weeks from the day the project is introduced to the final due date. Along the way, I contacted members of my local mechanical keyboard community to schedule photoshoots of their hardware. Without them, I wouldn't have had all the variety of keyboards that I was able to feature in my work.


You wrote you don't want to sell it but do you have any tips for those who'd like to get one printed?

It’s an issue of copyright, first and foremost. There is some leniency when it’s student work as long as I use the content as a supplement to my own design, but that doesn’t make it okay to sell.

I’m considering making a version that is acceptable for a limited run production that doesn’t have these issues (minus the fake ads, too), but all of that adds up to a significant amount of time.

Due to the dimensions of the magazine, I wouldn’t recommend printing it out yourself since a lot of the text might become illegible if you don’t have access to a big enough printer. The PDF I made is laid out to simulate how it would look as if you were reading it in your hand, and isn’t really suitable for printing.


What keyboard setup do you use?

Right now I use a Keychron Q3 with Gateron Box Ink V2 Blacks and PBTfans Resonance keycaps. I remain a fan of the TKL layout because of the function keys, but I am warming up to the idea of eventually getting a 65% as well as trying out an Alice layout someday. I’ve had my eyes on a set of KAT profile keycaps for a while now ever since I got to try them out as I was working on this project.


You can check out the magazine on Nate's site in an online PDF viewer, or feel free to download the PDF from (13MB).

There are some typos in the texts but they are the authors' fault I guess – those I checked were published in the original articles the same way. ;)


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Published on Thu 16th Nov 2023. Featured in KBD #144.


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