How not to design your magazine

Examples of my newsletters Which elements should you be aware of when producing a magazine? First is the layout and presentation that enables readability, second is its content and reputation for good value, and third is its readership and distribution.

Believe it or not, a magazine certainly benefits from being properly designed. Some are churned out by amateurs using a desktop publishing package downloaded from the internet, producing a collection of pages stapled together with pictures, page numbers and the odd headline.

Avoid cramming your pages up to the hilt with content with no regard for margins or columns. The result is a lack of space so the newsletter layout is unable to breathe, and provides an overall sense of clutter, impacting on the readability factor and easy access to the information required.

Magazines can easily be very busy publications, full of colour and conflicting designs, bombarding the poor reader so they are confused and overwhelmed. The smaller sized publications, such as the A5 versions, are not a very big space to work with, especially if you are including advertising, and particularly if you are typesetting for a customer who wants absolutely everything squeezed into a quarter page.

One thing that always makes me sigh is terrible front covers, especially those community magazines that have a sponsor or major advertiser on the front. As it’s the first thing a reader sees (generally), so wouldn’t a better designed version do more justice, not only to the advertiser, but also the magazine as well? Don’t stick with just the banner containing the magazine’s title (plus issue date and the name of the organisation) emblazoned across the top. Remember consistency creates professionalism. And the same goes for the back too – after all, what people see on the outside will also reflect what’s in the inside.

Images are important to maintain interest and emphasise a point, but use these with care. Don’t straddle pictures over columns to create unsightly word wrapping and without ample surrounding space. Get your photos suitably processed (such as correct sizing, converting to CMYK for printing, adapting to the correct dpi [dots per inch], lightening and fading facilities and colour conversions) to maintain quality. Avoid clipart like the plague as it only cheapens your publication, but finding a tasteful cartoonist is a bonus.

Getting a professional to design your magazine may be expensive initially, but the design factors will become costworthy in drawing in advertisers and increasing readership. And once the first issue has been completed, it’s generally easier to produce the next, therefore reducing the costs involved. Quality of print is also vital: don’t spoil your publication with smudges and misalignments – this doesn’t look good to the reader, and is not appreciated by the advertisers. Inexpensive flimsy paper (and also gloss finishes) can look cheap and nasty, and poor quality of colour, artwork and images result in the same reaction. Maintain your professional reputation by providing good quality from the beginning.

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