How to Design a Magazine Layout | Issuu (2024)

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How to Design a Magazine Layout

They say you never judge a book by its cover. But most people are initially drawn to magazines by their covers and engaging spread designs, and then they dig into the text after. As opposed to books and newspapers, magazines deliver information in a visually appealing way through their layout design.

It’s difficult to pick out the most important factor that makes up a well-designed magazine. Is it the body copy? Images? Logo? Color palette? Or headlines? A good answer would be to make sure all aspects are amazing. And after you have them all perfected, make sure they cohesively deliver the most impact by creating a spectacular magazine layout design.

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How to Design a Magazine Layout | Issuu (1)

Table of Contents

  1. Start with the Basics

  2. Your Magazine’s Purpose

  3. Hierarchy and Readability

  4. Magazine Spread Design Elements

    1. Headlines

    2. Subheadings

    3. Creative Images (with captions)

    4. Body Copy

    5. Interviews

    6. Ads

    7. Digital Extras

  5. Putting it All Together

Start with the Basics

Before assembling all the pieces together into a spread, it’s important to make sure all your magazine components serve a purpose and are individually interesting. Their message should be clear and not clouded by excessive design. In order to create harmony within the page and the magazine, many designers will use a design guide that incorporates alignment, hierarchy, color codes, and spacing. For publishers, choosing the right font is also crucial to make sure all design elements are legible. Creating a mood board will help encompass all of the designer’s inspirations, including color palettes, font choices, and layout designs.

Your Magazine's Purpose

Establishing the purpose or the overarching mission is important when designing a magazine or any other publication. It will affect the color scheme and magazine layout design which will, in turn, lead readers towards your storyline. When figuring out your magazine’s purpose, also consider how to best communicate it. Would it be more effective through images with captions or through text?

Magazines can be categorized into three main types: general interest, special interest, and professional magazines. As the name suggests, general interest magazines cater to the wider audience and include topics like food, fashion, sports, and entertainment. Special magazines discuss specific topics with more technical knowledge. Examples include Psychology Today and The Keto Diet. Finally, professional magazines are tailored towards readers interested in a specific profession. For example, Aviation Week and Space Technology.

At the end of the day, ensure that the purpose of your digital magazine can be summarized in less than three sentences and answers the question: Why should I read this?

Hierarchy and Readability

Hierarchy in publications helps readers quickly determine whether that page is relevant to them and if they should continue reading. Therefore, making sure your headlines and other highlighted quotes grab the reader’s attention and accurately showcase key points is important.

Readability in magazines refers to two aspects: the size and style of the font as well as the language used. Font choice directly impacts the branding of your magazine, so the right style should be chosen to best represent the overall tone and design of your magazine.

When hierarchy is used well, it should lead readers through the magazine in the order or journey the writer expected. Other than just numbering, components such as color, size, font and even position of images can be used to establish hierarchy. Play around with your layout to see how it affects the way people move through the magazine page spread.

Magazine Spread Design Elements

As mentioned above, the main elements of a magazine layout are the headlines, subheadings, images, body copy as well as any ads. When put together, they should each serve their own purpose but come together for a cohesive message. Read our tips below for each element to make sure yours are well-balanced and make your magazine stand out among the rest!

1. Headlines

David Ogilvy, known as the Father of Advertising, had often been heard saying, “five times as many people read the headlines as the body copy.” The right headline not only draws people in but creates more conversions than we think. Think back on all the times we were browsing the magazine racks before we checked out or at the shop before boarding our flight. We never pick it up until a specific headline catches our attention. If it’s especially interesting, we act on it and take it to register. It’s no different with digital magazines. In order to stand out amongst a sea of other online publications, your headline should compel readers to keep reading. If you need some inspiration, keep reading. We’ve listed a few common templates for headlines that would work well in different situations.

  1. X number of the best _____

  2. X number of ways to _____ without

  3. Try _____ and get _____

  4. _____ vs. _____

  5. Here’s what you don’t know about _____

2. Subheadings

Subheadings are usually located under the headline in smaller fonts and are meant to give more details about the story following the headline. They can be broken down into different levels like H2, H3, and H4. Some best practice guidelines for subheadings are to keep them short and succinct and give readers a sneak peek into what they can expect in the body paragraph. It should be like a trailer to a movie that is your body content.

Here’s an example of an effective heading and subheading combo from The Knot’s latest issue from Fall 2022.

Heading: Let’s talk about money.

Subheading: Financial Advice from Experts, Wedding Budget Tips and Tricks plus Registry Picks that will Last a Lifetime.

3. Creative Images (with Captions)

Similar to other types of publications, images can be used to break up long text and help readers visualize content. However, images are especially important to magazines where the images take up more real estate than the words do. One example would be for fashion magazines. The images should hold the weight of the message with the copy and headlines serving to supplement any illustrations. Placement and sizing of the image are important to make sure it’s not overly cluttered and make sure images are laid out in a way where the hierarchy is crystal clear. It’s important the page has a clear main point instead of an overload of information where the reader has to struggle to understand the purpose.

Images should balance each other without too many elements clouding them. In order to create consistency in the design of the magazine, the symmetry between images should also be considered. If images are asymmetrical, they should still be balanced along with other images so as not to break the harmony in the layout. One tip designers use is to place temporary grids in the background of the page they are designing to see how images, texts, and other design elements are spread out.

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4. Body Copy

Just because there is less copy in a magazine as compared to newsletters, doesn’t make the body copy any less important. In fact, it becomes more important that every word should count and serve a purpose. Adjectives should be used sparingly, and a lack of experience in a particular topic can be augmented by plenty of research and thorough interviews.

The benefit of digital magazines for more longer-form body content is that readers are able to scroll or enlarge the page to full screen so that it is easier to read.

A quick step-by-step guide to writing a magazine article is to:

  1. Know your audience

  2. Determine a point of view to write for or an unbiased tone for that writes from both sides

  3. Understand the ask or purpose of the page

  4. Research (similar publications, credible sources, and any other primary sources)

  5. Interview multiple sources

  6. Finally, write!

5. Interviews

One of the most interesting types of articles to read is interviews. You can almost visualize the interview as if it were a video instead of just reading words on a screen. When preparing and writing interviews for magazines, one of the most important steps is to prepare the questions carefully. Since there is usually a time limit on how long you can speak to the interviewee, it’s important to make every question meaningful and lead to a long, open response.

Interview-type articles can be written in three different forms: Literal, Narrative, and Combination.The literal format would be to just write down questions and answers word for word and only have slight edits to make the copy more readable. Narrative would be to describe to readers what was said in the interview. Combination would be to describe the conversation to readers and include a narrative while including quotes from the interviewee.

6. Ads

Ad space in magazines is always in high demand. This is because readers have already pre-selected what they are interested in and it’s easier to reach your target audience. It’s also desirable because magazines have built up their brand, and ads in that space often have more credibility because magazines share that prestige with them. Readers often look forward to finding ads in magazines as opposed to other places because they are looking for recommendations from their favorite, reputable sources.

Previously, the drawbacks of traditional magazine advertising are that they can be slow to distribute and it’s often difficult to track clicks or their success. However, with digital magazines, it’s easier to track any marketing metrics you may have.

7. Digital Extras

Calls to Action

Another benefit of going online with your magazine is the use of calls to action. Make sure your magazine spread helps encourage a desired action with effective CTAs that improve conversion. A few common ones for digital magazines include

  • Buy Now

  • Download

  • Subscribe Today

Digital CTAs are a straightforward click to the next step in a customer’s journey whereas a CTA in print involves extra steps such as pulling out your device and typing a query in. These additional steps cause a dramatic decrease in conversion rates.

Embedding Videos

By incorporating videos into your magazine layout design, you can bring visual elements to life and transform them into a multimedia experience. Videos boost engagement, and embedding them still allows readers to still stay on your magazine page instead of leaving to watch the video externally.

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Putting it All Together

To create an effective magazine layout, make sure all your design elements are consistent and serve a purpose. Test them out individually by removing them to see if they are an absolute necessity. With your spread ready, the next step is to publish on Issuu and share your magazine with our millions of readers.

Whether you’re just starting out or are looking to update your magazine spread design, explore Issuu’s interactive features to take your digital magazine to the next level. To differentiate between print magazines and digital magazines, make sure to include multimedia elements like embedding videos and conversion boosting CTAs. Finally, when your magazine is ready to publish, try out our Article Stories feature to create social-friendly content in minutes!

Now that your magazine is perfect, publish with Issuu!

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How to Design a Magazine Layout | Issuu (2024)
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