Join John McWade for an in-depth discussion in this video A magazine article, part of Learning Graphic Design: Layouts.
- [Instructor] What we're looking is a research paper on mangrove forests that's been published in a journal. To the paper, we've added photographs, captions, call-outs, headlines, introductory text and so on, to make a true magazine style presentation and really to bring the research to life. What I'd like to do, is take you through the process of how we build this, by deconstructing it and sort of reconstructing it. I can tell you that the actual process was a little more difficult and took longer than it will appear to have taken but I would like to show the high points and some of the decision points along the way that were made.
We're starting with a blank page. These are unusual pages, they're square. Square is a format that I really like to work with, but they're square here, mainly for the convenience of filling the screen as big as possible so you can see what's going on. What square does, is gives us a very wide screen format with two to one here, so there's a very horizontal sweep to the page. And so, I want to go with that horizontal flow and design that way. It doesn't have to be done that way but that's how we'll do it here. And so, step number one is to place a couple of guides.
The guide you see at the bottom is about the height of a normal low page margin and leaving room down here for page folios and perhaps a very small caption that might show up down there, something miscellaneous. At the of the page, we have a wider gap and into this space, can go, call-outs or any small miscellaneous photograph or whatever. The main body of our article and all of our photos are going to be contained between these two lines.
So this is actually creating an even more horizontal flow to an already horizontal page. So first thing I did, was add the photograph. As you saw earlier in the course, this is running edge to edge on this page. It makes a very clean edge, there's no border around it, kind of creates a sense of expansiveness when this river is just, you're just kind of falling into the river and flowing right down it. It's going off the page as though it's not really on the page, but it just goes off into space here.
Next step, is to add two columns and as we looked at earlier, we have asymmetrical columns, wide one on the left, and the other one on the right. Into the wide one, I'll place the introductory text to this paper and into the narrow one on the right, we'll actually start the copy to the story. So let's do that. This is set as before, in Adobe Minion, but it's oversize type and one of the things that's cool about this, this is sort of being bold with your text.
By making it big and making it wide, you're giving it some force and some energy and saying this is really a place to start. It's different from the text that's going down on the page and so on. Our byline is set in a contrasting serif face called Balto Super. Balto is another great family of type and I'd like to show you a small detail and that is that when you set sans-serif type and serif type together in a same line, the sans-serif type will almost always set bigger even though it's technically the same point size, easy to see when I bring a guide down to the X-height of the serif type, how much higher the sans-serif is.
You can leave it like that, it's okay. What I prefer to do is reduce the size of the sans-serif type and so that X-height matches whenever possible, like this. Now we'll get rid of this guide, zoom back out and there's our lead. Next step is to add the first bit of body text to this. Same typeface, Minion, Balto Super for heads, so there's some continuity between these two columns, the difference being that this is normal text size, it's on a narrower column and so you have the contrast of this oversized lead versus the opening to the text and just kind of a very nice texture on the page.
One thing to watch for, when you have columns of type like this, side by side, where you have the same typeface but different sizes, is you want to keep the line spacing consistent so it looks like, proportionally it looks the same, which is what I've done here. If you squint, you'll see that this column looks a little darker than this. That's an illusion that the screen is giving us because it has fewer pixels to render here. If you print this out, you'd see that this and this really look the same.
What you want to avoid is having this much tighter or much looser than the introductory text. So for example, if I select this and change it to 26 point leading, you know, now there's quite a bit of difference between those two columns. They feel like they don't belong together, quite, so just keep an eye on that. It'll be different in every typeface and it'll be different in every situation but strive to make them be the same. Next step, is to add a headline and a caption.
The headline, this is an unusual way to do a headline. It's almost like a call-out up there, and I floated it up that space in Minion Italic. It doesn't line up with anything. It's just kind of up there, organic and free-floating and that's on purpose. That's because we're trying to maintain that horizontal flow and we don't want that headline to line up with anything vertically. Caption is a different story. We do want it to line up with the picture and this typeface, this is also Balto and it goes with the other subheads and such in this story.
One issue here though, is that we are right on the gutter of, the gutter of the spread, and we don't really want to do that and so we'll have to make an exception to our alignment rule and move this over, just a little bit like that to get it off the gutter. That page is pretty much done. To my eye, it's looking a little bit flat, there's really a lot of text over here even though it's broken up pretty well, relative to the picture, there's a lot of vigor and a lot of life on the right-hand side of the page.
So what I did, was add a colored background behind the main body of text to separate it, give us a little bit of depth. Because it's very light, we can just run the headline right across it. What we have here are a couple issues. Because the story starts on a colored field, when we jump to our next page, logically it should remain on a colored field but we don't want it to do that. We really are working on white pages so there would be a disconnect if this jumps from here to white.
It's not like it can't be read, but there's an inconsistency in the design. The second thing is that this head all by itself, isn't really giving us enough information about the story. You want to talk to the person who is just perusing. And to do that, they're going to look first at the photos and the captions and the headlines, they'll look at the deck heads, you want to have some descriptive copy to go along with your head and kind of introduce the reader to the story without just kind of having them dive right into things.
So although this layout looks good, it has a few communication issues that we need to solve. Here was attempt number two. Picture obviously is on the opposite side of the page, we still have the wide introductory text to the story as well as our lead type, these are in the same proportions, we've really just moved them from the left-hand page to the right-hand page, the difference being, that the color field is now going on the intro which is a logical place for it because the intro ends here.
So it's sort of a standalone item before the story actually begins. Also the headline has been made quite a bit bigger and brought in, so now your eye is moving across the page and into the text, rather than moving, as we saw a moment ago, the headline, your eye wants to move this way rather than this way. So this is a better position for it, as I said it's also larger, the picture also is leading us more into the reading part of the page like this and so on, caption is the same, except it's now flush to the right.
So that's an improvement. The downside to this is, because of the way this is colored and positioned, the lead to the story looks like an afterthought or it looks like a sidebar or it looks like an extra. You don't have a sense that the story is actually starting over here. So that's a problem, a communication problem we need to solve. Also, there's still not the additional things like subheads and more descriptive text around the headline to get the viewer into the story better. So this also looks good, but there are still a couple communication issues.
Here's third approach. Now what we've done, kept the headline the same, kept the picture the same, brought the picture farther across the page, this is going to emphasize the horizontal movement on the page and didn't even attempt to start the story over here, just had this be that introductory text and added this deck head, descriptive deck head that now tells you what you're about to read. And see, it's the same style as the headline, Minion Italic, it's big, you can easily read it, and then we just jump into our introductory text.
And leave the page like that. This caption has been placed on top of the picture. The reason for that is because there's not really enough room down here to put it. I'm not always a fan of captions on top of pictures, but Balto is a strong enough and simple enough face and this background is smooth enough that it works in this case. This is a good layout, it solves our communication problems that were present in our other two layouts.
I'd like to add an organic element to this layout, and that's a little crab that lives in the mangrove. The crab is one of these cool little sprite images that has no background but it has a shadow under it and so it doesn't look like it's part of the rectangular page. Rather, it looks like a living thing that's been placed out there in open space and it adds a counterpoint, it adds a visual point of interest and so on.
Wrap the type around it, and I'd already set this caption but you can see that the caption has been set without a left or right margin for the same reason we were doing this up at the top, so it doesn't line up with anything. We just want it to be kind of free-floating out there, to maintain the horizontal movement of the page and I think we have a really nice spread here. It looks good, it's active and it solves all the communication problems that we had early on.
And here's a variation, our introductory text over here, we've moved the crab, this has a much more normal looking headline. Balto Bold, this color has been pulled from the picture, The subhead is Minion Italic, obviously, and the deck head, which was down here, is now up here. Again, not aligned with anything, just free-floating, gives the page a little bit different voice. You're not reading this so much as a piece of this, but just kind of as a global look at the whole spread.
A question was raised, why is this headline not lined up with the top of the picture? And the reason, I mean it could be, but the reason is that when we do that, we have a very strong flat line right here, on the top of this typeface, it's now aligning with the photograph, what's happened is that we now have a series of stripes going, horizontal stripes going on. We have a white stripe up here, that's the same width as this text which begins forming a horizontal stripe, which is the same width as this stripe, which now continues over here because we've moved the headline up, which is the same depth as the headline is, and it's the same depth that this is.
So we have one, two, three, four, five horizontal stripes that making that move creates. It also is moving it too far away from the lead text and if I were to move this text up underneath it, now we've just completely filled up our page with type and don't want to do that. So that's why I didn't do that. This is a spread that's lively, it's working well, and this is the one we want to go with.
Next thing I want to show you is a follow up spread that the key to doing a follow up, and in a journal, you might have three, four, five, six, 10, 20 follow up spreads. You want them all to have a continuity to them. When you turn the page, you want to feel like you're in the same story and you haven't jumped someplace new. And so, to do that, we're going to retain the type styles the type sizes, the horizontal flow of the page, the guidelines, everything that we've seen here, and just use different content.
We'll show our guides, turn the page, and add our picture. As before, you can see that it's running edge to edge, bleeds fully off to the right, it's a different look at the mangrove, stays inside that horizontal band. Add two columns of text, this is where our story begins. You can see the typefaces match what we saw earlier. We're starting in the middle of the page because on the far left, I want to add a sidebar to this story. A sidebar, of course, is a small piece that goes along with the main story but is not the main story.
In this case, it's about the destruction of mangrove forests so we have a photograph that's bleeding off to the left, again, to get that clean edge as well as create a kind of sense of expansiveness and get a bigger picture. You don't have to bleed, this could be contained within this column, and beneath that column, we will add our threats to the mangrove copy. It's the bulleted list, the size and style are identical to our body text.
You normally wouldn't do this, you'd want some differentiation between your sidebar and your body text. The reason we can get away with it here, is because we're going to add a colored background to this sidebar like this and turn the type white. It's the white that gives us the differentiation that we need. So we have continuity of style and size and differentiation of color. And that really is the main body of the follow on page, following the same horizontal flow, type styles, and all that kind of stuff.
And you just would want to continue this theme all the way through the document. There's a few details I'd like to add, starting with the picture caption, again, on the picture, always a little bit hazardous to do this, but it's working in this case because of the boldness of that caption type. And a call-out at the top, again, not aligned with anything, that's on purpose, but the style and size is the same as we saw earlier. One more thing, to continue the theme of the first spread, I'd like to add an organic image to this page.
We have a white ibis in flight. White ibis is a mangrove bird. We'd set it on the page, just like that, which is a nice counterpoint. Now, remember though, earlier on we talked about how objects on a page have weight. Things that are really heavy normally appear on the ground should be near the bottom of your page, things that are very light and normally appear in the air should be near the top of your page.
That is a general rule, and so, a bird in flight would not be at the bottom of the page underneath heavy blocks of copy, he would be up here, put him up here, but I need to move this call-out, like so. Now a bird in flight is where you'd see a bird in flight. Thing is, I don't really want the bird up there. I prefer to have the call-out over there, so let me back out of this, and instead, use a different picture of the ibis, seated on his branch, an on the ground picture, at the bottom of the page, is where that belongs and there we go.
We have all the ingredients that the opening spread had, from the call-outs, to the captions, to the horizontal move, to the typefaces and even to the organic object on the page. And this is a theme that just can be continued throughout this document, as long as you want it to run. Back to our opening spread for a quick recap, remember those points we made earlier in the course, have a focal point, keep it simple, use white space, be consistent.
John also provides two start-to-finish projects, which show how these design principles play out in real-world layouts.
- Keeping the layout simple
- Handling images
- Adjusting page margins
- Using a grid for design