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Publishing any document requires several steps and extensive planning before beginning the actual product. Magazine layout is a great example of a good desktop publisher and how careful pre-production steps can make the design flow faster and produce a product that meets all your needs and desires.
Setting up Document
Before beginning the layout stage, some important decisions are necessary to prevent wholesale, costly changes at the back-end of the process. First, determine the audience for the publication. Many magazines have multiple audiences but establishing who the majority of readers are will make the rest of this exercise easier.
Second, page size is important. The old stand-by 8 ½ by 11 inch may be the best choice. In magazine layout, the final size will also determine your printing and mailing costs. Odd sized pages may need to be cut, adding an additional cost and if they are to be mailed in an envelope; those too may need to be specially produced. Attracting readers with a unique size and shape may win out over the additional costs but it is a factor to be considered.
Now, pick an overall theme for the issue. Center most of the articles on that theme. This will make it easier to design the cover and to choose an over style for the publication.
Write the articles and copy-edit them before beginning the magazine layout. While an obvious stage of the publication process, the text, along with headlines and photo captions, should be finished before importing into the desktop publishing program. Minor edits can be made after the copy is laid out, but generally avoid trying to write the articles in the desktop publishing software. Once the text is imported, adding to it will increase the text flow and mess up the design.
Images & Graphs & Colors
Using strong, unusual and compelling photographs is a sure thing to attract readers to the story. Run them large and place your best photos in the center of the magazine layout for a double truck design.
If photographs are not available to illustrate the story, either they were not taken at the time of the event or the story does not lend itself to traditional photojournalism, use your imagination. Access to stock photo catalogs is much easier today with the Internet. Many services are very inexpensive and offer access to huge catalogs of images. Use abstract photos or still lives to illustrate the article. Think outside the box. If the article is about a business practice such as the company’s strategic plan, find images of your clients’ industry.
Don’t have any photos that work? Make a graphic for the magazine layout. Bar charts, pie charts and line graphs are some of the things to use to highlight the company’s yearly sales and show the reader important industry facts at a glance.
Use bold and bright colors on the pages. Tie sections together with the same color by placing a bar at the top or side of the pages. Readers can thumb through the magazine and quickly pick out the sections they want to read.
Typefaces can be used as design element, so do not overlook the potential to make a creative design with fonts. A very large initial cap, in a spot color, to start off an article in a magazine layout is an easy way to add graphic design to an otherwise plain page.
Readers will notice and cringe at pages loaded with numerous fonts and styles. For a consistent look throughout the publication, use the same font for the body text and captions. Those blocks of text will occupy much of the magazine so they need to be readable. Headline fonts can vary and highly stylized typefaces can be used as a design element.
Pulled quotes are compelling content taken from the body text. Also used to break up a page, they are another design element to use but retain the same font for them throughout the magazine layout.
The design process of a magazine has evolved from the early days of gray pages full of text with few illustrations. Computers give designers endless possibilities so take advantage of the medium.