So you have managed to secure or at least plan to get funding for your idea of a great new magazine. You’ve thought out the sections, trivia, and other information that will reside on the inside pages … Now you are ready to actually create, and then print & share your ‘zine. Magazine printing and design is an expansive subject, and things will become a lot clearer for you after going through this article.
Of course, creating your magazine means designing it. You have surely given some thought as to whether you should embark on designing it yourself, or employ a professional graphic designer to do it for you. You have also thought about searching for quality freelancers who can really drive prices down while keeping the level of quality more than acceptable.
Do you have what it takes to design your magazine? If you don’t, do you have any idea on how to evaluate other designers to make sure they are up to the task?
What follows is a list of the top qualities found in professional magazine printing and design. It will help you recognized the real deal.
General graphic design experience and knowledge
Today’s digitalization enables millions of people worldwide to develop skills, acquire knowledge, and practice in various domains. Graphic design is no different. However, knowing how to use auto-adjustment in Photoshop does not make one a graphic designer, yet alone a “designer with ‘extensive’ experience in the field.”
If you want to design your own magazine, you have to ask yourself whether you have the necessary specialized knowledge and experience needed for this kind of graphic design. Under ‘knowledge and experience,’ we don’t necessarily mean official education and a minimum of three years of work experience for a graphic design house.
What really matters is actual knowledge and experience. How did your previous projects fare regarding the design choices you made? Do you consider yourself an artist who knows where each element fits best? Do you know the distance between the eyes of the model and the upper edge of the picture? Can you handle all the tools and software available for artists? Do you understand the rules of aesthetics and typography? Do you know all the necessary keyboard shortcuts so that you don’t scroll through menus looking for the right tool to use?
These are the questions you would have to ask yourself, as well as other graphic designers who want to work on your magazine. General versatility with graphic design is a must; don’t shun it away in hopes that it will get better.
It’s better to be safe than sorry – this adage will especially ring true when next to no one buys or opens your magazine, all due to poor design choices on your or your designer’s part.
Magazine printing and design experience/knowledge
So we now know that general design experience and knowledge is a must. How about specific knowledge regarding magazine design? You can end up with a graphic designer who makes wonderful logos, only to see them struggle with magazine design.
It would be great if you or your designer have specific experience in this field. The thing is, nobody can guide you better than someone who has experience in the exact domain for which you are trying to create and sell products.
If you come from working on another magazine and are about to create your own, value and recall that experience. Try to figure out what worked and what can be improved. Of course, transfer that experience to the design choices that you feed to your designer.
Following magazine printing and design trends while borrowing from the classics
This decade is all about flat design. Apple, Google, and Microsoft took on flat as their standard, along with numerous other app and website designers. In this age of digital informational overwhelm, a flat and clean design helps relax the otherwise overwhelmed viewer.
However, do you really need to make your entire magazine flat just so that you can follow the trend? Of course not! It actually depends on your magazine themes. Are you into yellow pages or gossip? A human model of interest at the forefront, with shiny and colorful letters all around will do the trick. Want to create a magazine about sports, leisure, or cars? Again, a larger-than-life picture of the most important human in the articles with more down-to-earth text is the norm.
Some things are classic, while some should be revamped. You have to go through all the classic designs in the domain of your interest, and then try to weave some modernity throughout. A nice contrast between general flatness and some old-school design can make your magazine stand out from the competition and be compelling enough for people to actually open and read it.
Of course, your designer should know this. After all, you don’t pay them to do nothing.
Oh, and don’t forget to follow the printing rules.
Soberness (i.e., avoid junk design)
Unless you are into paparazzi and gossip magazines, keep the junk to a minimum. Junk includes misproportioned design elements and logos that pollute the visual field, gossip, tabloid talk, empty words and sentences that mean nothing and convey no information.
Keep it sober, keep it clean. Most people won’t have the time to figure out all the awesome ideas that you’ve come up with to put on the cover. They usually just scan through until they come across something of particular interest. Use smart design elements to pinpoint the location of objects with special importance. But to do that, you have to avoid junk at all costs.
None of this matters if you are creating a tabloid. In such a case, you can ignore all the advice above.
Short attention span means shortening your text
Teach yourself how to distill everything in fewer, more concise words and shorter paragraphs. This allows for cleaner designs and gives the designer more flexibility.
Remember again, people’s attention span has drastically shortened in this decade. This means more work for the writers and editors (and designers) if they want to keep the reader’s attention affixed to the pages of their magazines. Getting the point across in fewer words helps with low attention spans in both ways. It makes the designer’s job easier and helps the reader stay on track with even poor focus.
This doesn’t imply that you should not write long articles. Just be warned that you will either have to break them up with wisely positioned graphical elements that rest your readers’ tired eyes or face the inevitability of no exposure past the third sentence (except for people particularly interested in the subject).
Retaining a character and doing something crazy
Oh, so you have decided to create a magazine – how lovely. Why should we read it? Why should anyone take that piece of printed paper and spend their time reading it, instead of watching yet another YouTube video of cute babies laughing adorably?
You need character. You need recognizability. You have to be unique, really unique – a brand. Yes, we know this is hard to achieve. But nothing sells as much as being unique and offering something really fresh.
One of the best ways of achieving this is doing something crazy. We mean things like cutting the pages of your magazine by hand at a specific spot, thus giving the final copies a special look and feel. Or making your cover out of a collage that can really be felt under the fingers. Or you can just offer magazine bundles and special coupons to your readers, so that they can buy your next issue at a discount.
Your (and your designer’s) brain can come up with crazy thoughts. Use them to become noticeable and distinctive, tone them down just enough to avoid frightened looks and raised eyebrows, but don’t forget to keep your readers entertained at all times.
If you follow the advice in this text, you will go a long way toward improving your magazine printing and design choices and creating a killer zine that creates word of mouth.