With magazine design, it takes time to create the right look, and many variables can affect the overall visual appeal. Good design can be very simple and doesn’t need to be complex, however. Over the course of my career, I have come to realize that the process is not complicated if you follow these four steps: read, sketch, select, construct.
The most important step to starting any design that has accompanying text is to read the text! Duh. You need to know what the message is. Otherwise, no matter how compelling the visual, if it doesn’t sync with the words, the reader is lost. Dig deeper to get a better understanding of what the writer is trying to communicate. Doing so will provide you with a better sense of how to illustrate the story.
Sketch out some ideas about the content of the copy. Think of this step as the foundation for your design. As you read, take note of the key points conveyed in the text, and thumbnail what you are visualizing. The art should provide a deeper meaning to the words and the message. Be careful not to lock yourself into one concept. Limiting your ideas is a common mistake that will ultimately hinder your design.
Start selecting art that illustrates how you visualized the copy. Research stock house images that show the focus of the article. Start to pare down the selections to ones that will push the design forward. Create a photo collage of the images you have found. If you have the budget, schedule a photo shoot or commission art. Be sure to give this step the proper time. People see the visuals before anything else and make judgments immediately. Don’t lose sight of the overall style of the magazine, book or brand, and the established visual standard.
Once you have the images, start to construct the design piece by piece. Purposefully add images and typography. Each element should add significance to the overall design. Unneeded elements can muddle the design, confuse the readers and ultimately obscure the message.
Be deliberate with your design, but don’t overthink it. The goal is to create thoughtful and purposeful designs that will connect with the readers and elevate the text.