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Design & Layout Resources

These resources are a collection of links focusing on design and layout theories for both print and web-based publications. Please note that these principles are different based on the publication media, so you'll want to research the area that is appropriate for your publication(s).

General Style Guidelines for Print Media

  • Most magazines use a combination of 2-column and 3-column presentation. If this is more of a literary digest, then it could follow style conventions for book publishing.
  • Size of body copy depends on the font, but generally 10-point or 11-point font is the standard.
  • Copy should be fully justified with no gaps at the beginning or end of individual lines of text to give a story a jagged appearance (in other words, not left-justified or right-justified, but type that is flush both left and right).
  • Use serif typefont for body copy.
  • Use a larger, bolder version of the body typefont for headlines, or a bold sans serif typefont.
  • Use sans serif type when characters must be smaller than 10 points or for items that include a lot of numerals (e.g., for captions, page numbering and footers, charts, tables, lists and formulas.
  • Leading, or line spacing, refers to the distance between lines of type. Generally speaking, you need at least two points of leading. Leading is expressed as 10/12, or “ten on twelve” for example, which is the type size with two points of leading.
  • Pay close attention to two-page spreads (pages that will face one another). It is better to treat them as a unified element. Be wary of ending a story on a left-hand page and starting a new story on the right-hand page directly across from it. Readers have been proven to skip more articles that start this way because they are still digesting the story that just ended.

The Chicago Manual of Style is the primary source for periodicals like newspapers, newsletters, and magazines. This is often supplemented with a “house style” to provide additional guidelines for the presentation of names, titles, and such. Carleton College has a supplemental style guide, for example. This practice is quite common for organizations, institutions, and companies that want to present a consistent brand and identity.

Mechanical Specifications

Color—Full color magazines are typically printed using 4-color process printing. All colors are rendered from combining Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, and Black (CYMK). Much like photo-processing, CYMK plates must be developed, and then the separate color plates are stripped together and laid out on the printing press. To reduce costs, you can print just in black-and-white or use a 2-color process where you have a black plate and one other spot color of your choosing. Spot color choices are vast, and if you use one once in a form (see below) you can use them anywhere else in the same form without a significant increase in cost.

Stitching or Binding—Magazines are generally saddle-stitched or perfect-bound. Saddle-stitched means the pages are folded together and the magazine is held together with two or three staples on the spine. Perfect-bound means the magazine pages are held together by attaching them to the spine with a strip of glue, just like a book. Generally speaking, magazines less than 100 pages are saddle-stitched, and magazines with more than 100 pages are perfect bound. Some magazines up to 160 pages have been saddle-stitched, though. Determine what the printer can accommodate.

Forms—Magazines are generally printed on presses that can print, 4-, 8-, and/or 16-page forms. The full magazine is created by assembling these forms and stitching or binding them together. The cover is typically a separate 4-page form so it can be glossier than the interior pages, use a spot color of some sort, etc. The contents of the magazine are usually combinations of 8- and 16-page forms with 16-page forms more desirable. It costs just as much to run a press with a 16-page form as it does with an 8-page form, so you get more for your money with 16-page forms. Smaller forms use less paper and ink, though, so cost-to-benefit ratio is small unless you’re printing huge quantities.

Trim size—the final page dimensions of the magazine. Typically, magazine pages are printed on larger paper and the edges are trimmed off to allow for smooth and even page edges and other desirable effects, like bleeds (see below). You need to know the trim-size so page editors and graphic artists know the size of their canvas.

Bleed—Printing or art that goes all the way to the edge of the paper, seeming to run off of the sheet. Printers create bleeds by printing on sheets larger than the trim size, then cutting away the edges. This creates the illusion that the press printed to the very edge of the sheet. The bleed width, or actual paper size the printer is using, should be visible in the page templates so you can create bleeds when desired. Pages shift on press during printing. If you do not provide enough bleed, something you want to bleed will just end up hanging there.

Gutter-width—The line or fold where facing pages meet. This will vary depending on whether you are stitching or binding the magazine and on the number of pages. Without consideration for gutter-width, facing pages will look closer together in some places in the magazine and farther apart in others. The printer should be able to provide this specification. Trim size, bleed width, and gutter-width should be incorporated into page templates.

Spine-width—If your magazine will be perfect-bound, you will need to know the appropriate spine-width for the number of pages that will fit inside the cover. If the spine-width is large enough, you can put text on it.

Links

Design Phase of Desktop Publishing
A lovely tutorial by About.com that links out to endless number of resources on layout/conceptualization, color, font and image selection, etc.

Is there such a things as Perfect Page Layout?
An excellent summary of things to think about in page layout.

Color Meanings and Colors that Go Together
About harmonizing, complimentary and constrasting colors. Also includes information about color groups.

How Color Works
A group of links that discuss all aspects of colors.

Perfect Proportions - Using Page Margins in Desktop Publishing
A simple guide to the 3 rules of thumb in deciding page margins.

Top 4 Steps to Perfect Publications for Non-Designers
Mostly geared to small business owners, but some of the principles are still applicable.

Top 5 Design Disasters to Avoid
Basic guildelines that will help make your publication look professional.

Glossary of Desktop Publishing Terms
A - Z terminology of desktop publishing.

Web Media

More coming soon.