Have you ever given thought to how your magazine design looks? Of course you have. You wouldn’t make it far as a publisher if you ignored such things.
But giving it thought and getting it right can be two very different things. How can you be sure that your tastes line up with modern aesthetic and usability principles? Your magazine’s brand is far too important for you to take a prideful stance. For that reason, here are 10 signs that your magazine’s design may need fixing.
It’s Not Readable
Readability is one of the most important aspects of any magazine. Great content doesn’t mean anything if it’s not readable. Even the best content will be skimmed over if your reader struggles too much trying to read it.
Take a long, hard look at the readability of your magazine; is your lettering blurry? Maybe the fonts aren’t suitable for long text flow. Perhaps your publication suffers from poor density. Even your text’s color can impact readability if the background is wrong. Even the background color itself can cause poor readability.
Your Content Design Hierarchy is Unclear
Every single layout needs a hierarchy. Do you remember the 2017 Oscars card debacle where La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner over Moonlight? That’s an example of a huge designer’s mistake managing their text flow hierarchy, a mistake that went embarrassingly global.
Take a glance at your magazine’s layout. This is supposed to be clear. Hierarchy shows how to read your text content. There must be some contrast between headers and body text, whether it’s blocks, boxes, or coloration. Something must define the order. While you can try to accomplish this via fonts alone, be aware that too many fonts can make for busy layouts and could scare readers away from otherwise good content.
White Space is Your Friend
There must be a visual balance between your content and media with your white space. If your magazine looks too busy or cluttered to read, nobody will have time for it. Let it breath, even if it goes against your inclinations. We’re living in fast-paced times, so the reader wants to spend less time trying to read and more time absorbing the content. It’s about ease and efficiency. If you happen to have lots to say, then you have to play the visual game, which boils down to strategy and planning. White space is your friend. Put less text on each page, use photos and pull quotes strategically, and you’ll be better able to seduce your readers.
Your Navigation Leaves Readers Lost
When we’re reading a magazine, our natural expectation is to navigate with ease. Don’t just assume that because your magazine has a table of contents that you’ve done your due diligence, that you’ve done enough. If your readers can’t find their way through your magazine to the content they’re interested in reading, they’ll ditch your magazine for something more straightforward.
A designer’s job is to create an intangible yet clear line between your content’s disparate parts. If there’s no line apparent, your readers will spend too much time frustrated and confused. Employing a navigation plan, alongside basic layout hierarchy principles, can help keep your readers on the right path when visiting your magazine.
Trends Are Ever-Changing
While there’s something to be said for doing things your own way, it’s often best to cater to current trends if you have no compelling reason not to do so. Under this logic, if the design of your publication hasn’t changed for a year or so, there’s a high probability that the design is outdated. Only by constantly following the existing trends can we move forward in design terms. Pay attention to magazine shelves or online stores: is your magazine keeping up with modern trends? Is there a sense that your magazine fits in with the current era? These are the questions you should ask yourself.
Does Your Magazine Have a Recognizable Face?
Every creature on the planet has a face and it forms a unique story of their life and identity. Ask yourself what kind of face your magazine has. Your magazine’s brand is one of the most important things to think about. Why is your magazine different and what makes it so? Where are its strengths and weaknesses? And we’re not just talking about your magazine’s cover, despite the face metaphor. There must also be a clear design guide for all layouts throughout the length and breadth of your publication. Not all pages have to be identical, but there must be some graphic design element that leads throughout. If you’re missing that part, then something is definitely wrong.
Your Advertising Upstages Your Content
While advertising is extremely important to your magazine and you want them to stand out, you don’t want them to stand out so much that your content is upstaged. Ads monetize your content, but the content still needs to be at the forefront of your reader’s experience. To this end, your content needs to be professionally rendered with layouts and design elements that back it up. We’ve seen some magazines where the content takes a backseat to the ads. In these cases, you’re not going to be doing yourself or your advertisers any favors.
Harmony is a Fine Balancing Act
All elements, such as fonts, content, and photos, need to perfectly balance with one another. This doesn’t mean that you need to totally surrender to modern trends, but rather that your style elements need to match the concept of your magazine and also the context of their placement within your magazine. While you can use fancier fonts for headlines, it’s best to use simpler fonts for body text. It’s also important to get the sizes of your elements right and to have contrast between the various sizes. Your font styles should strive to match your photo and image styles too. It’s important to mention that your font elements shouldn’t upstage or undermine your content or media elements. True harmony is achieved when all of your elements are able to function as intended with nothing extra thrown in for the sake of appearance.
Your Images Aren’t Telling a Story
Visual storytelling is a simple way to master your reader’s heart… or break it. Images can actually lift your magazine up or down depending on how you use them. Be honest: do you enjoy reading magazines that lack photos? Do you enjoy reading magazines with blurry or irrelevant photos? I imagine that you answered with a resounding “no.” While bad images can ruin your article or magazine, good ones actively contribute to the content and help tell the story visually.
You’re Simply Trying Too Hard
It’s very easy to overdo things in your magazine. Using too much color can create chaos, for example. Instead of using different colors, it’s wise to use shades of one color, which is a basic rule of graphic design that’s easy to overlook. Another easy mistake is using too many visual line directions on the same page in your layout, which makes the magazine content unreadable and distracts from your more important elements. If you must, err on the side of minimalism.
Bookmark these ten magazine layout design tips. Internalize them. Now don’t worry too much about perfecting them. Instead, find a good design company that can help you reach the top and stay there. Flip180 Media practices good design on every project, so you can rest easy knowing that your magazine will come out beautifully optimized.
Not sure if your magazine’s design needs help? Afraid that your publication isn’t as good as it could be? Feel free to send us your magazine and we’ll be happy to take a look and forward you some notes on how it could be better and, more importantly, what we can do to make it so.