Join John McWade for an in-depth discussion in this video Columns, part of Magazine Design Start to Finish: The Inside Pages.
- A three-column page is standard for magazines. Sometimes a two-column page, but keep in mind we need versatility. A good way to get that is to set up six columns, not because you'll make six skinny columns, but because it allows you to use a half-column if you need it. This gives you far more design options. For Leaf & Mortar, I've chosen a seven-column page, which is asymmetrical and full of variety. Generally speaking, that's what we used for two wide columns and one narrow column.
The wide columns for text, and the narrow column can be used for photos, captions, sidebars, and other supporting material. It could also move around to the left, to the right, or be in the middle. How much space between those columns? As a rule, the bigger your type and the longer your lines, the more space you should use. 10 or 11-point type may need two full picas. Similarly, the smaller your type and the shorter your lines, the less space you want between columns.
Sometimes one point is enough. A page of nine point Miller with one pica between columns looks like this. It's dense, and it's well-proportioned. As the spaces get wider, these are one and a half picas, we start seeing columns. And at two picas, we start seeing vertical stripes. Three gray stripes and two white ones. If stripes are not part of your design, you should avoid this. The other problem with wide spaces is that your pages will look choppy when filled with a variety of material.
On the other hand, here are wide columns, and a two pica space between them looks proportional. Another rule, the more space around your columns, this page is very light, the more space you can have between columns. For nine-point Miller text, which is close to the size I want, I found that one and a quarter picas was a pleasing average. Once I got on a live page however, this number changed. I'll show you why when we get there.