Layout is everything

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Aside from a recognisable masthead and creative front cover, layout plays an important part in what makes a magazine or newspaper engaging to its readers. Layout in essence is visual journalism – meaning that as a designer we take the words and the photographs and present them in a way that will tell the story effectively. Traditionally this is done with columns, headlines, sub-headings, photography, illustrations, drop-caps and grab quotes. All of these things form the basis of your article or feature and it’s relevant to both magazines and newspapers in terms of print. Such things are not a luxury in digital web posts and blogs – the imagery is embedded in a gallery and the text does’t flow around the imagery to show interaction with the story.

Layout too is incredibly important when you factor in advertising. Advertising is often considered the soul-sucking feature of printed publications, but such things are needed to provide the revenue to produce the magazine or newspaper in the first place. Many independent magazines do not have the luxury of a cover value and rely on advertising for it to be distributed as free to the general public. Those that are lucky enough to not have advertising are able to create all their revenue from the face value allowing for more creative layouts without disturbance from ads.

But how do we generate a functional layout that allows for the imagery to interact with the text? How do we assure the headline is in the right place to flow into the main story? Newspaper layouts are a lot more traditional with the fonts varying from newspaper to newspaper, however a magazine has more scope to be creative.


I’m a huge fan of making the most of photos and illustrations. They break up the text nicely, allow the reader to engage with the story and even provide opportunity for typography to be creatively intertwined with the image.

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In a magazine, typography has a lot more freedom than a newspaper. In a newspaper headline fonts are the same throughout, the body text is the same size and the style of the grab quotes are consistent throughout. A magazine however allows for typography to be creatively implemented on to spread pages – allowing the imagery and lettering to interact with one another, working in tandem to present the story to the reader.

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This is standard of any kind of article for a magazine or newspaper. It marks the beginning of a story and often takes the line height of 3-5 lines. It’s a simple stylistic feature that has been effective for years that varies from publication to publication.

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This is the key recognisable thing of any magazine or newspaper. It represents a brand and what it stands for but it is also the one element of the front page that readers will look for on the newsstands. Yes the masthead is used on the website version of the publication but it doesn’t have the same impact compared to when it’s in large format on the front of a publication. Even when the masthead is partially covered with imagery it still has to be noticeable.

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