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Challenging the format of magazines Final Major Project Carly Levene

the brief During this project I aim to challenge the format of the traditional lifestyle magazines.

“The magazine is a living, evolving medium that, at its best, is thrilling and invigorating both to consume and create�

If you look at magazines on the shelf in a supermarket you will see they are all of a similar size; mostly A4, they have a similar number of pages and are printed full colour onto thin weight glossy paper. My question is why do they all have to look the same? I will look at other publications for inspiration such as graphic magazines to see how they make use of different sizes and different quality papers. I want to see if any of these qualities can be applied to the lifestyle format. The magazine has been around for years, and as with everything, I believe it should evolve with the time so I will try to create a magazine which displays new ideas to make a magazine stand out from the rest.

visionaire ‘Visionare is a multi-format album of fashion and art produced in exclusive numbered limited editions. Since its inception in the Spring 1991, Visionaire has offered a forum for works by both famous and emerging artists from around the world as well as personalities, fashion designers, art, directors, and image-makers. Publishes 3 times a year, Visionaire features a different theme and format with each issue. Artists work in collaboration with Visionaire to produce their personal interpretations on a theme, and are given unparalleled freedom to push Visionaire’s original formats.’

There are some magazines which constantly strive to stand out from the rest such as Shift! FRAME and Visionaire which almost never publish in a traditional format. From the images below we can see how Visionaire has changed its format for different editions to suit the theme of each magazine. The formats range from corrugated

cardboard covers to represent rawness for the theme ‘erotica’, pop up books for ‘surprise’, and 12-inch vinyl picture disc records for the theme ‘sound’. Visionaire is able to create an original format for each issue because it only publishes three times a year. This gives the designers

more time to spend on each edition. Lifestyle magazines are produced every month which is not enough time to radically change each edition, but maybe some of these ideas be integrated within the design to spice it up.


Magazines have very similar concepts to newspapers. They are both printed publications which show stories/ articles and images. So why do they have different formats? Magazines may be more glamorous than newspapers, so couldn’t they use the newspaper format but still use good quality, glossy paper? Newspapers often contain supplements. These are in the form of separate sections which are simply placed in the middle of the main newspaper. This could be incorporated into a magazine as a way of separating out different sections. For example, the main spreads can be the articles, and the supplements could contain the advertisements and fashion sections.

square FORMAT A square format was inspired by Creative Review’s recent re-design. Creative Review magazine has two openings. The opening to the annual from the back cover is upside down, hence half of the page spreads are upside down. Using direction is an effective way to differentiate between different sections. I have tried to take it a step further, separating between the three main sections of a lifestyle magazine; articles; advertisements and the fashion section.

As the height and width of a square page both have the same measurements it is easy to turn pages on their side and still fit within the magazines format. This could also be taken a step further by printing each section on different coloured paper. Colour is a easy navigation tool, however it could spoil the quality of the photographic images within the magazine.

Broadsheet FORMAT Most lifestyle magazines take on the same perfect bound format. The definition of a magazine is ‘something that appears in numbered additions’ (Losowsky, A. 2007). There is no definite rules about the format so why are they all the same? Do magazines even need to be bound together into one item? Could they not be a series of fold out pages collated together like the design below? Each broadsheet could consist of one story. The title or introduction could be placed on the front page, the broadsheet could then open up to a double page spread displaying the article, which then opens up to a full bleed image which can be used as a poster. An advertisement could be placed on the back of each broadsheet when folded so there is a ratio of one advertisement to every one article. The advertisement could relate to the type of article it is. This design separates out the copy from the imagery. A usual magazine would integrate them, however it would allow people to use the image as a poster.

Readers often like to take magazines out with them to read when they get a spare moment. Having multiple broadsheets would give people the option of carrying less weight in their bag. If they think they would only get time to read one article then they only need to take one broadsheet with them instead of a whole magazine. The readers would also be able to collect the broadsheets they like the most to make up their own keepsake.

multiple sizes

Why does a magazine have to be one overall size? This design challenges a magazine’s format by varying the size of the pages from different sections, whilst they are still bound together in as item.

This format allows the reader to quickly turn to the section he or she wants to view. The reader can easily tell which each section is because I have placed the masthead at the bottom of the publication and replaced the space at the top with section headings.

Novel Book FORMAT The major way lifestyle magazines have recently changed their format is by decreasing it’s size from A4 to A5 ‘handbag size’ so it is more portable to fit in a woman’s handbag. The first magazine to try this new format was Glamour, it was so popular that other magazines such as Cosmopolitan were forced to follow.

‘The glossy dominated the women’s monthly market for a quarter of a century until August 2002, when the newly launched A5 Glamour magazine knocked Cosmopolitan off its bestseller perch’ So the downsize of lifestyle magazines has been successful but can they be reduced even smaller? Books are another form of printed publications, some of which are even smaller than the new handbag-size magazine format, e.g. novels. Is it possible for the magazine to be even more portable by taking on a similar form which has been proven successful by novel books? Copy within magazines is usually displayed in columns, but the copy in a novel spans the whole width of the page and the reader manages

to keep engaged with the story. Is it possible for articles in magazines to be displayed in this way, after all reading an article is like reading a story. A novel does not usually contain images so I would restrict the pages with copy to only copy, the images would have to be displayed on their own, on the facing page. This would create consistency within the design. Advertisements and fashion pages would follow the same grid, having copy and imagery separated onto opposing pages. As these pages often only contain minimal copy in the form of captions it gives the design some breathing space and helps these pages stand out from the article spreads.

Opinions After asking people’s opinion I decided the best format to develop was one influenced by the novel book. I had a lot of positive feedback on the size of this format, however the public did not like the wide columns and most said they probably would not bother reading the whole article. I will therefore keep this size but I will develop the spreads. By changing layout of the spreads I tried to challenge the inside of the magazine however I have realised the magazine is suppose to be for quick reading and dipping in and out of, therefore I should not try to change elements for the sake of it. I have therefore decided instead of changing the layout dramatically I will use different magazine designs to influence the design of an article so we can understand how different elements can change the style of how it is communicated.


complex spreads Most lifestyle magazines are designed for quick reading. They are designed to be read over numerous sittings. They enhance this by the way they are designed; they use different levels of hierarchy such as different weights and colours, so the reader can choose to pick out different parts of an article to read at a time. I have chosen to exaggerate this in these spreads by making each and every paragraph in the article different from the rest. Each paragraph of copy is either a different weight, colour, a different typeface or even on a different angle. Combining all these elements creates some chaotic spreads, however the readers should be able to digest the information fairly easily because each the article is broken down into lots of different sections.

My inspiration for these complex spreads came from the book We Love Magazines. The page spread (below) uses a four colour palette and overlapping text, yet it is all still legible. The idea of using multiple colours and sizes is already being carried out in some magazines but not to the same extent, the changes in hierarchy are normally applied to separate sections on a page, such as the title and leaves the main body copy on one level.

simple spreads With my second spread I have tried to create the opposite atmosphere to the previous complex design. Lifestyle magazines tend to cram pack their pages. The spreads are always very busy. I understand this reflects their target audience as people usually read lifestyle magazines when they are on the go, however it might be nice to add in a little breathing space every few spreads. Graphic design magazines do this well. They understand that spreads look nicer and articles are more inviting to read if they have some space, and at the same time it is possible to introduce different levels of hierarchy. With this design (right) you can instantly tell it is calmer than my first design, yet the title stands out first, then the image, pull quote, lastly followed by the questions and main body copy. The design still keeps the characteristics of a magazine publication, e.g. using set column widths to flow the copy into, yet it is a new design.

eve magazine This next design spread reflects the characteristics of Eve Magazine. Eve was designed for ‘maturing women who had outgrown Cosmo and Elle’. Looking at the details within the magazine it has elements that represent youth, having busy pages, using bubbly typefaces, text wrap around images, moving flow lines from

page to page and lowercase drop caps to name a few, however at the same time Eve magazine manages to feel slightly more mature as it uses a more subtle colour palette and occasionally leaves some white space on the page.

creative review The recent reinvention of Creative Review proves that no matter how successful a magazine is it can always be improved and should move with the times. Graphic designers understand this and all the top graphic magazines have been redesign at some point. Creative Review was redesigned to ensure its continued success over the next three decades. The designers wanted to create a better physical product and to get across the repositioning of their editorial stance that has been developing over the past two years.

It’s target market is aimed at graphic designers who appreciate layouts and would keep the edition, therefore the design does not need to be as busy and compact as lifestyle magazines as their viewers would take more time over reading it. As it is a keepsake they can afford to use better quality paper and space everything out more. By displaying my article in a similar style to Creative Reviews new design it is easy to see how the same article instantly looks more professional.

cosmopolitan The next design spread in my final piece is based on Cosmopolitan magazine. Cosmopolitan directs all articles and advertisements towards a specific target market. The magazine’s audience includes primarily single, white, women between the ages of 18 and 39. It has a casual language, some women refer to it as their bible and others enjoy a good laugh at the entertainment it provides. The italic typeface used for the title article heading and the oversized quotation marks gives the sense of a conversational language. When designing this spread I decided to challenge the format of the page by making the right hand page fold in half, so the rest of the copy appears underneath but the quote and image gets replaced. By doing this I have tried to make the magazine a bit more exciting. From my initial designs I learnt people liked the properties of the broadsheet design as different elements were revealed as the page unfolded. I have therefore tried to create some folds to integrate this idea within my novel book format. This has turned out to be an interesting idea however I do not think it works to its potential because when multiple pages fold over and slot into the spine it is difficult to turn the page.

eye magazine Eye Magazine is a quarterly print magazine for everyone involved in graphic design and visual culture. Its design has a very grid like structure which is evident in the column widths where the copy and images are the same width, and the boxed surrounding around the titles and stand firsts. The magazine has a more sophisticated style, like most other graphic publications, compared to lifestyle magazines evident by the

chosen serif typeface. Most lifestyle magazines seem to use sans. Applying this grid to the Reese Witherspoon article (below) you can see how it completely transforms the overall style. It looks suitable for a graphic based audience, but would not be relevant the audience of a lifestyle magazine. It is simple to distinguish between each hierarchy however I feel it is too rigid and uneventful for the busy and happening lifestyle readers.

glamour magazine Glamour is ‘one of the most prestigious and popular women fashion magazines in the world.’ The magazine targets fashion conscious and stylish young women. It’s youth is not only reflected in the writing but also in the style of the magazine too. For example the spread (far left) the uses bold colours and modern sans typefaces. By recreating this design we can see how the bold colour boxes with drop shadows immediately livens up the article. Details such as the drop

shadows would never be used in a graphic design magazine. By using drop shadows in the magazine it reflects the target audience’s lack of design knowledge adding a splash of youth to the page. With this design I have tried to challenge the format of the spread. I have cut the pages in half so the main body copy is stacked on top of each other, allowing the title, stand first and image to still be visible when the reader turns the page. I think this is a clever way to adapt a page. The change in page size within the magazine adds variety to the overall format, making it more interesting for the reader to handle. This design has been more successful than the previous folding page because it does not bulk out the book. I believe it would be a good solution if the copy is too long and the editor does not want to cut anymore.

grafik magazine Grafik magazine uses a unique layout design. It has wide columns which is used cleverly to help the reader navigate through the vast body of text. It accomplishes this by indenting every other paragraph which makes a nice pattern on the page. Being another graphic design magazine Grafik leaves lots of positive space on the page. This is necessary because its articles are very text heavy. Lifestyle magazines tend not to be so text heavy so not quite so much blank space is needed to balance it out. However I have again arranged my article in this style to see how, again, the same elements can look so different when other specifications are applied to them. Grafik tends to display one clear image in each article with a fair amount of space around it. When applying this to my design I decided to challenge the concept of the magazine by cutting through the opposite page, allowing the same image to peer through onto the next spread. If the editor wanted to display the same image throughout the article, on the next page, then this is a practical solution because it minimises the amount of ink printed. However this is only possible if the article runs over two double page spreads.

elle magazine Elle Magazine is devoted to the sophisticated and well travelled woman. The layouts are clean and spacious. The serif typeface it uses somehow looks like a smaller weight than those used in most other magazines I have looked at, this is probably due to the closer tracking. Elle’s design manages to keep the hierarchy steps subtle. The changes in copy size are minimal compared to the other designs I have studied. It does however change the hierarchy within a single element such as the pull quote, where some words are capitalised and others are in italic. This distinction withing one hierarchy step is not often seen in other magazines and makes its style unique to Elle Magazine.

Another feature Elle magazine also uses in its design is two different column widths and lengths to differentiate between two sets of copy. It is only the column measurements that change, all other elements stay the same, such as the colour and type size, so the page retains its overall sophisticated simplicity. The two columns are usually related to the same article, however in my design layout I have made them more distinguishable by making the two sets of copy different colours. This could allow separate stories to run alongside each other because if they continue over a number of pages the clear difference makes it easy for the reader to follow.

Posters The feedback from my initial designs informed me that people liked the poster element the broadsheet offered. They also liked the idea of revealing different parts of the article by the turn of the page. Therefore I have tried to integrate this into my book format. This composition separates the image from the copy which is not a usual move for a lifestyle magazine to make. However this could create a nice change of pace within the magazine if all the other spreads are very busy. The example of a copy only spread (below) gives a calming effect. If, however the editor did not want a copy only spread then there is no need to say smaller images can’t be integrated with the type as well as having the poster image too.

Eventhough this sounds like a good idea, perhaps a double page fold out is not the best option because when it was produced I realised it is slightly tricky to fold the page down from where it slots tightly into the spine. Part of the image also recedes and is loss in the spine. It might be better if a single page was to fold out rather than a double page spread.

Posters With this next design I have tried another way to create a poster out of the magazine pages. This composition hides the poster on the reverse side of a french folded, double page spread so it must be torn out the book once the reader has finished with it to uncover the poster. The page will need to be perforated so the reader can tell it is supposed to be torn out. There are however a few negative reasonings to this design. Tearing out the page will destroy the magazine, this is not usually a problem because magazines are made to be consumed regularly, however there may be some readers who like to keep them in a nice condition. The second downside is that

the reader can not see the image at the same time as reading the article. It is also on the small side to be used as a poster. On the other hand, the design does offer a surprise element, and creates a interactive response from the reader.

Posters Hard back novel books normally have a wrap around cover to protect the book. Magazines are traditionally softback but why can’t they also have a cover? The wrap around cover presents an opportunity to make a poster out of the reverse side. As we can see from the example below, wrap around covers usually have nothing printed on the back because they are meant to stay on the book. I have designed a wrap around cover for my experimental magazine which is meant to be taken off. The cover will acts as an extra cover, so when taken off the magazine will still have a front page. The primary function for the cover will be it’s reversed side which will display a keepsake poster.

This design for a poster is the most successful of the three I have described. The cover is long enough to be a substantial length for a poster. Lifestyle magazines publish so frequently that they are designed to be disposed of after reading, so it would be nice if the reader kept a part of it. The cover could even display just a section of the poster. The image could build up over a number of issues to make the poster even bigger. This would make the magazines more

paper When creating my experimental magazine I wanted to try and distinguish between the different sections I was focusing on; articles, advertisements and fashion. I tried to distinguish between them in my initial designs by having each section turned at a different angle however my feedback told me people did not like to constantly have to turn the magazine. I therefore thought about printing each section onto different colour paper to distinguish between them. I printed an image on a yellow coloured piece of paper and on a white piece of paper with a yellow coloured wash printed over the top to see which option would work best. However I came to the conclusion that colour would not be the most suitable solution because the added yellow backgrounds changed the colours within the image itself.

My experimental magazine aims to challenge the concept of what is considered a lifestyle magazine, however I do still want it to look and feel like a magazine. In order to do this I wanted to print my final produce on type of paper which has similar properties to that use in the lifestyle magazines I have been researching. It is not possible to use the same glossy, thin paper as I am not able to litho print it, and it is very hard to get hold of. Therefore I have chosen a paper from GF Smith which is 115gsm and has a sheen finish. I tested this paper, printing on it through both a laser printer and inkjet. The difference in colour was vast. The inkjet print was very dull and a bit fuzzy round the edges where the ink started to sink into the paper. The laser print was much brighter and sharper where the ink sits on the top surface of the page. The ink from the laser also has a shiny effect and has a closer look to the print in magazines therefore I will print most of my experimental magazine on a laser printer.

paper The majority of magazines all use the same type of paper through the publication. One reason graphic publications are so nice to handle is because the choice of materials. For the fashion section of the magazine I wanted to introduce a different type of paper. I feel that my choice of a textured Japanese paper reflects the subject of the imagery. As I was unable to litho print my experimental magazine I had to print this section on an inkjet printer because the weight of the paper was too thin (44gsm) to feed through a laser printer. The ink from the inkjet printer sinks into the paper, opposed to a laser which prints on the surface. This meant the print was visible on the reverse side of the page, hence I was not able to print on the reverse. To overcome this problem I chose to french fold the section. This may be more costly because more paper is needed but it does give the magazine a nice overall effect. When the book is closed the ink is visible along the edge where the page is folded over, so it is easy to distinguish where this section is if the reader wants to turn to it first.

paper engineering The fashion section is distinguishable by the use of different paper. I also wanted the advertisements to stand out from the articles, however I realised they should use the same good quality glossy paper, because the advertisements are trying to sell and the quality of paper should allow the imagesto look as luxurious as possible. Therefore instead of changing the paper, I decided to manipulate the paper. Advertisements are suppose to catch the viewer’s attention, each advert strives to stand out amongst the rest, so why not make them literally stand out? It would be too difficult to create pop ups throughout the whole magazine, so I have limited them to the inside front and back spreads. A pop up advertisement is more specialised than a flat image so the magazine could charge more for these priority pages which would allow them to cut the amount of advertisements within the magazine itself.

I have looked to the book abc3D to work out how paper engineering works at its best. Not all methods were suitable as I wanted to add paper to the page rather than cut away paper because creating holes or sticking double pages together in the magazine would not work. I have applied the method of the swivelling ‘G’ from the ABC3D book to my Hugo Boss advert. In order to make the pop ups strong enough a heavier weight paper should be used to make the mechanism and the cut out image. I have used 135gsm to create my pop ups. I believe this idea would make a magazine more exciting than the rest it would be competing against.

reflection I set out to challenge the format of a magazine, however half way through this project, when I tried to make an article look like a novel, I realised I can not change something for the sake of it. There is a reason magazines are set out how they are. So I thought about what I really wanted to get out of this project, and it was to learnt more about magazines, and how changing small elements can alter the feel of a design vastly. In order to explore this I decided to take one article and apply to it a variety of styles influenced by the magazines available today, both lifestyle and graphic. It is interesting, to see the same article in many formats because it proves that composition is highly influential on the overall style of a design, not just the content used. I have also added in a few challenges to the physical format by introducing a change of paper stock, fold outs, and pop ups. Some of these ideas may not be entirely practical for mass production

however if just a few were used they could make the magazine stand out amongst the rest. This project has widened my knowledge about different magazine styles which should be vital for my future because I would like to work in the magazine industry.

bibliography Books


Leslie, Jeremy. (2003) Mag Culture. Laurence King Publishing Ltd. London.

Visionaire Publishing, LLC. 2010 Visionaire [Online] Available at: index.php [Accessed 27th April 2010]

Losowsky, Andrew. (2007) We love magazines. John Brown, London. Bataille, Marion. (2008) ABC3D Bloomsbury, London. Ives, Rob. (2009) Paper engineering & pop-ups for dummies. Wiley Publishing, Inc. Hoboken, N.J Magazines St Ives Ltd. February 2010. Instyle Reese Witherspoon p.80-85. The National Magazine Company Limited. May 2010. Cosmopolitan For fun fearless females. The Conde Nast Publication Ltd. June 2010. GlamouR Britain’s No1 womens magazine. Haymarket Style. November 2008. Eve Faboulous inside and out. Hachette Filipacchi. June 2010. ELLE The worlds biggest-selling fashion magazine. St Ives Ltd. May 2010. Creative Review Advertising, design and visual culture. Haymarket. Vol. 17 Winter 2007. Eye The international review of graphic design. Grafik Ltd. February 2009. Grafik We love graphic design.

Mag Forum. 2006-08. Women’s monthly magazines. Available at: easy.htm [Accessed 19th May 2010] CR blog. 2010. CR April issue: redesign. Available at: cr-blog/2010/march/cr-april-redesign [Accessed 21st April 2010] XL Lifestyle Portals Private Ltd. 2008-2009. Glamour magazines. Available at: fashion/magazines/glamour.html Accessed 21st May 2010

Challenging the Format of Magazines