Magazine layouts encompass individual page designs from the cover to the editorial material to the placement of paid advertising. Layouts follow a general set of rules for attractive design, while giving a publication the flexibility it needs to create an individual look to attract its target audience.
A magazine's masthead and cover are vital because they are considered what "sells" the magazine when it's advertised or on a newstand. The masthead, also known as the title or flag, must be easily read from a distance because it's most likely to be stacked with other magazines on a rack. All important information contained within the magazine usually is placed at the top of the cover. The cover's design also should grab attention to help it stand out among competition.
Magazine layouts are based on a grid. The grid is used to create a cohesive design throughout the pages of a magazine. The grid can be based on a combination of columns, rows and border sizes. Grids commonly have two to four columns. The components of a grid serve as a common denominator in design, but elements such as photos or larger type may cover more than one to provide graphic interest.
Classic Versus Contemporary
A magazine layout can have the most traditional to edgiest designs. The style may depend on the subject matter, editorial slant and targeted readership. A serious educational publication such as Smithsonian would be laid out differently than Mad Magazine or a high-end fashion publication such as Vogue.
Font Selection & Design
Typography is one major layout design element. Serif and non-serif fonts create different impressions, with the former a classic style shown to be easier to read in blocks of text. Non-serif fonts generally appear more contemporary and are used where special impact is needed, such as in a bold headline. Type also can be used as a design element in cases when a word begins with a large capital, also known as a "drop cap," or when a word or phrase is pulled out as a graphic design element itself.
Page designs may incorporate hundreds of colors in graphics or backgrounds or incorporate photography or illustrations or combine the two. Backgrounds can be created with color, screened-down photos or design elements. Type can be organized into columns or wrapped around a photograph or design element. Boxes, sidebars and callouts can break up the text while adding graphic interest.