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Publication Design Standards (continues from previous)

Great Design in Action

So far we've just scratched the surface on the primary areas of design for a publication. One all-important thing should always be remembered: the "design" itself should always be transparent and not consciously 'seen' by the reader. If the design is such that it calls attention to itself, and distracts the reader from the content, then the designer has failed.
      Now let's take a look at a publication where each of the above factors come together to create a fantastic look and feel.

Unique 6 column Grid

the gridParade is a supplement that is published along with many newspapers across America, and each week I look forward to seeing what tricks the designers have played with the grid this week.
      James Brady's "In Step" standing column is always the highlight of the publication, usually an interview with a popular celebrity or newsworthy individual along with a photo. Each week Brady presents a new challenge for the design team, but the unique 6-column modular grid allows the flexibility for a slightly different look each week.
      This short tabloid is usually jammed at about an 85% ads-to-editorial ratio. However underneath all the visual noise is a uniquely flexible grid structure.

Modular Grids for Flexibility

CindyNote there are usually two thinner columns which open space for captions and John's comments. Working with both the headlines and the photo layout, these narrow columns can slide into the page, or out to the edges as need be. And, even when the narrow column slides into the center of the page for a caption, the white space left is welcome rather than a problem!
      Compare the Steve Whitmire layout with Cindy's. Steve's photo has intentionally been boxed with a one-point border -- even though it could have easily been outlined. This forms a visual "frame" for the right-hand side of the page... the narrow columns move inside. Note how Kermit's elbow seems to "point" at the content. Cindy on the other hand is completely outlined against the white background. This pose not only thrills fans, but helps reinforce the 'casual' profile the article suggests about this world recognized super model. Now, to support this photo treatment, the narrow columns now move to the outside to both help 'frame' the page, and to leave Cindy unhindered.

Size, Scale & Color

Chyler Grid In a fourth layout we see the grid shift yet again. Chiler is presented in a boxed photo -- the drop-cap and pull-quote now pick-up the orange of the background. Notice too, how the Chyler's last name runs right across into the photo -- and yet the block of white space in front of the name brings our eye back to the beginning of the editorial content.
      Squint at the layout and you'll see a strong "cross" of white space formed to frame the photo, and call attention to the opening of the article. If you'll turn those headlines vertical, you'll see they've designed the style sheet so that the height of the heads match the width of the caption columns -- Brady's comments and the Bio sketch. Masterful!
      In several of our examples, the pull-quote forms a pedestal for the boxed photos in contrast to Cindy's layout where the pull-quote follows the headline. Cindy's is even carefully crafted flush-right to reinforce the run-around, and maintain the straight right-hand side of the column.

The Color that Binds

In all four examples today, notice how color and type styling helps divide editorial content. Brady's comments as well as the bio-profile are not only set in a sans-serif face, but are consistently colored red.
      While one might claim the changing drop-cap and pull-quote colors are "breaking" from the style sheet, the fact that they pick-up and reinforce colors in the photos helps bring home an overall harmony with the entire layout. That's not breaking the style sheet -- it's a superb addition to the style sheet!
      This kind of style sheet helps the reader feel comfortable flowing through the text. It's instantly clear where to read, where the caption is, and where James' comments are.

The solution that satisfies

You might not expect to see this kind of design excellence in a weekly tabloid that many designers would brush off as a newspaper rag. But there's good design, and creative ideas nearly everywhere you look once you get into the habit of analyzing layouts and grids.
      Whether used for a newsletter, a magazine or a Sunday newspaper insert, this kind of grid layout offers lots of layout opportunities for some pretty exciting visuals. It could just as easily be a page in a newsletter, or a style grid for an annual report.
      In part 1 of this article we talked about "graphic styling." Here you've seen standing heads, drop caps and pull-quotes and photo treatments that are all structured consistently, but allow for colorization and positioning flexibility to support the subject matter and the photos themselves. This is what helps keep this editorial page visually fresh and popular with its readers.
      When you begin developing the grid and style sheets for your next publication, just remember some of the lessons we've seen here today. Not only will some of the tedium of publication assembly be resolved -- you'll have the flexibility to keep on pleasing your readers with slight changes in the publication which will keep them coming back for more.
Until next time, thanks for reading!

Fred Showker

Photo Blow-ups:

Special thanks to Parade Magazine and James Brady for doing such a great job!
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