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11 Tips for a Great Magazine Layout

Updated on September 6, 2012
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Mona writes a column for Enrich Magazine which is distributed in five countries. She is interested in learning as she writes.

Consistent magazine layouts generate readership loyalty

11 Tips for a Great Magazine Layout

As a former magazine editor in my country, the Philippines (I edited a marketing magazine and a food magazine), I came to learn a few things about magazine layouts.

I’ve also has experience writing for regional publications and one British magazine. Because of this, I came to notice things about magazine layouts that stand out.

This is relevant today, because the trend now is for many businesses to include print magazines in their marketing campaigns. For example, airlines have their own travel magazines which passengers read for free during their flight. This keeps passengers comfortable, as well as generates ideas for future travel, in this way stimulating renewed business for the airline. The airline also generates added income from advertisements.

Publishers make good money in community magazines. These magazines are distributed for free to every house in the community. They contain useful content about new restaurants, new products being sold, spa treatment options and the like. These magazines earn by advertising through their content which is reader friendly and presented in a professional layout.

Magazines need great layouts to succeed. People tend to scan the entire magazine before reading it. The layout has to draw them to the content. Otherwise, it lands in the trash bin.

Here are some tips for a great magazine layout.

1. Get the right software. A commonly used program for magazines is Adobe InDesign. For photos and illustrations, Photoshop is good for starters.

2. Research. Whether you are planning a new magazine or already have an existing one, always keep abreast of what’s happening and what’s new in layouts. Consult books on layouts, and go online to sites that feature magazine layouts. You can get fresh ideas and adapt them to your overall look for added spice.

3. Frame it. If you use InDesign, you can make use of text frames and photo frames. This is very convenient because although your text and photos may not yet be ready, you can design your layout using the frames and you will have an idea of how the layout will look. The text frame will be filled with a lot of lorem ipsum while you can use a stock photo for the time being for the photo frame.

4. Faces get points. Studies show that people who look at magazines are naturally drawn to faces. Eye tracking studies reveal that readers also tend to look in the same direction as the eyes of the face on the magazine is looking. Use this to draw attention to the text of your layout, or another important element you want to emphasize.

5. Blurbs work. In a magazine, a blurb is a line from the story that you select, enlarge and place in a box. It can be a quotation by a personality in the story, or a fact in the story. For example, “Mr. XXX is worth 250 million, not bad for the son of a janitor.”

6. Pixels count. Images should be at least 300 PPI (pixels per inch) to ensure printing quality. Also, remember that the colors you see on your computer screen are using only RGB (Red, Green, Black) and when printed, will look very different because they will be using CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black). Make sure your designer knows how to translate RGB to CMYK so that you can be confident of the final printout.

7. True black. Your text should use true black, meaning, 100 percent “K” in CMYK. We must specify this because black can also be arrived at by using all four colors in specific percentages. The latter does not translate well for text.

8. Create space. Don’t crowd your layout with text and photos. Space clears the reader’s mind. Useful space need not be just the white of your paper. Use a photo, for example, a person doing a standing yoga posture in a garden, with the background blurred. This becomes your space. You can use this photo as a spread (two pages side by side) and place your text on the second page against the blurred background. Be sure to choose a color that will make the text readable, such as a white text, which may go better than black in this instance.

9. Mirror images are nice. This is a great technique for a spread. For example, if the woman is standing on the right side of the page, the text on the second page of the spread can also be on the right side in two columns with gutters, almost equal to the width and height of the woman, including the title. The title should be in larger font and spread evenly across the two columns of the text for balance.

10. Bleed well and don’t forget your margins. The first thing you have to work on in your layouts are your margin and bleed settings. Oftentimes, people think they can do a layout and in the middle, insert the bleed and margins. This will work to your disadvantage, as everything else will move. To save on error and lost work time, establish your margins and bleeds settings first, then do the other elements – images, text, pull quotes, etc.

11. Choose a rock star printer. Magazines are serious business and you need a good printing company with a track record for excellence. This is because a good printer will have the experience not just of being dependable in terms of print quality, but also provide the service you need, including knowledgeable advice on your magazine layout, factoring in your brand, marketing goals and target audience.

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    • grand old lady profile image
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      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Many thanks, DDE. Your comments are very much appreciated:)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Brilliantly thought of ideas your work is informative and useful.