Magazine Design Tips: Key Elements

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Key Elements of Magazine Design

















Recently we discussed a number of concepts that will help you maximize readability, which helps foster reader engagement with your published content. Today we’re going to explain a number of subtle cues you can lace your magazine templates with to help guide your readers through both individual articles and your publication as a whole.

Key design elements

Making great choices for the common design elements on your magazine pages is the best way to ensure your readers can find a clear path through your publication. Consider the image below, where we’ve highlighted each key text element with a number for reference:

Magazine Design Key Elements

1. Section head

Publications are divided into sections, providing headings for sections allows readers to thumb through your publication and find the information they want efficiently.

2. Headline

Arguably the most important element on any given page is the headline. Headlines should be distinctive, not distracting and provide a starting point for readers.

3. Deck/Stand first/Intro/Kicker

Though the name of this element changes from publication to publication, it serves the purpose of bridging the gap between the headline and body copy. In many cases this block of text is unnecessary or absent due to space constraints, but in magazine features, an intro block is very common and should be used to provide a path for your readers.

4. Byline

The placement of a byline varies from publication to publication (and often changes depending on the type of article) it’s important that bylines be distinct from other copy so that credit can be given when the article is cited or otherwise referenced by a third party.

5. Initial cap

This decorative text element has a longer history than the printing press. Grand examples of initial caps can be found in illuminated manuscripts, like the Book of Kells, from the Middle Ages. Today’s initial or “drop” caps are typically used to provide a clear point of entry for the reader.

6. Body text

The lion’s share of words on your pages appear as body text, this is where your choice of font makes a difference to reader engagement. Setting your body copy on a standard grid with balanced columns is a great way to foster reader engagement through readability.

7. Pull quote

Providing pull quotes or other “pull-out” devices in an article is a great way to create pace for readers. The visual break created by increased space and larger type offers eyes a brief reset without providing a “visual stop”.

8. Attribute

Some publications don’t attribute pull quotes for aesthetic reasons, but it is important to use a non-obtrusive style when you do.

9. Folio

Without drawing attention to itself, the folio is one of the most recognizable pieces of a given magazine. It should always contain the page number, often includes a date or issue number, and sometimes includes the publication title and/or name of the section.

10. References

If you need to reference additional reading material or cite your sources, it’s important to do this in a consistent format that doesn’t add clutter to your pages.

11. Sidebar heading

Distinct from the main headline of the piece, sidebars should have a heading that tells readers “hey, there’s more info here!”

12. Sidebar copy

Generally the copy in sidebar sections has a consistent body text style that is distinct from the main body copy

13. Credit

It’s important to provide credit to artists, photographers, and publishers whose content you use to illustrate your publication.

A clear understanding of each page element’s function should bring you closer to realizing an optimal design for your magazine. Next up? Creating energy with color.

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