Straight off the bat, I have lied to you. I don’t have the definitive answer to the question ‘What makes a good magazine layout?’, as the answer quite simply does not exist. Its similar to asking ‘what is good design?’ or ‘how to design?’ both of which are searched for on Google ‘shed loads’ and both of which, as you may have guessed, have no answer. But all of the above do feature similar characteristics and processes that could possibly lead you to some kind of solution, but the solution you allude to might not be the solution that would help Jeff, Say hi to Jeff, You keeping up? Im sure you are. Lets begin.
Setting the Foundations
Planning is key, and when it comes to designing a magazine the planning usually involves some kind of grid work. ‘Grids’ being the wireframe of your layout, these help the consistency of your design and general aesthetic. Without getting too complicated, as there is really no need to, below is a basic wireframe that I whipped together as an example.
This wireframe is an insert from a portrait A4 Magazine, and as you can see each page has been split into two columns. Using columns is a good practice when designing a layout as it helps break up the content and improves readability. Also, it looks so much better than pages full of wide daunting text. I threw an image box in there for good measure and to further break up the mass of typography.
This is the stage where you dare to be different, of course content is key but the foundations will change how the entire layout will look, so try something new. The example below is a great example of a creative layout, and as you can see I have gone ahead and split it into the sections that I imagine the designer would have used to give you a better insight.
It would be odd for the rest of the pages in the above example to be laid out exactly the same, but by sticking to the spacing created (x+y), building a consistent look across all the pages will come naturally. There is of course a few other consistencies that should be considered, more so than the spacing, which brings me onto my next point.
Filling the Gaps
This section basically discusses the use of typography, illustration and photography throughout a publication. These are of course the prime suspects when it comes to designing, and understanding the very basics of all three will help a whole lot! I will cover the very basics with regards to layout design.
Using typography correctly is like wearing matching underwear, it just feels right. Starting from the top, the main sections of type that you need to consider include your Heading, Sub-Heading, Paragraph & Description (Usually a smaller sized paragraph font). Choosing a font will be the biggest pain in the ass, so enjoy that! But what I can say without going into masses of detail and steering off tangent is to consider the audience and subject at every step, and try to select fonts that compliment each-other nicely. Below are a few examples I put together.
As you can see, Serif and Non-Serif fonts can compliment each-other quite well, its often a misunderstanding that these two can not gel, That’s a load of bollocks. If it looks good, slap it on!
Illustration & Photography -
Giving guidelines for the use of Illustration and Photography within a design is a weird one, as there should be none, but I have seen beautiful layouts completely trashed by bad illustration and amateur photography. I’m a nasty git I know but Its ‘ the bottom line ‘ (is it bad that I just quoted the title of my own article? probably), and again keep the market and subject in mind at every step when selecting images to use, as well as the branding of the page / entire layout.
Designing for the Market
Lets take a little trip down imaginary lane, picture this : Your an old aged pensioner that typically enjoys a bit of gardening and you pick up a gardening magazine with the intention of growing your own veggies! Oh you little money saver you, but wait, all the words are too small and the pages are too busy and ‘muddled’ up. What a shocking start to the day…
…back in reality, the designer of this magazine clearly didn’t consider their audience correctly. Ideally the page’s would be clean and easy to follow, and the type wouldn’t be the size of sand, even if it looks better.
Final Tips (Software and Quality Check)
When designing a Magazine either for yourself, or for a client, quality is key! Everything must be pixel perfect and to make everything pixel perfect you need freaking good software, to start with, for the actual layout I highly recommend using InDesign as its key purpose is for this exact scenario, and for your Illustrations and Photo manipulations I recommend Photoshop. Within both of these programs there are options and handy tools to help your perfecting process.
The first thing I tend to check when scanning over my completed design is the spacing, the alignment of everything must be spot on or else when the product has been printed its usually too late, second on the check list is the Typography. Are all the headings, sub-headings, paragraphs and any other type sets the same as one another if not they will probably stick out like a sore thumb, and finally amongst other things your Image quality, ensure all of the images are 300dpi.
… and thats it! simple. Now go away with my golden information and design all you can. Pfft, if only it were that easy! practice makes perfect people, I’m far from perfect myself, these are just a few things I’ve learnt and get asked about so I hope that I have helped just a tad. Be sure to comment, and share your work below.
Further Reading -
As you may already have noticed, we are a website that aim to inspire! and we have a nice collection of articles stuffed with some of the best magazine layouts from around the web be sure to check out some of the links below :