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Graphic Designer – magazine production process

Creating a magazine: stage three reviewed in more detailCreating a magazine: stage three reviewed in more detail


Earlier this month I was commissioned by the people at Sync City magazine to art direct and design their exciting first issue (due to release 1st February 2013). From the very beginning, I thought I would shed some light on some of the design details and thought processes behind the creation of Sync City Magazine.

THE PLANNING – remember the thumbnails and flat plans!

A few weeks ago I illustrated a diagram of the Creative Process of Creating a Magazine – I know each creative job will be different but the majority of them and structure will be more or less like the one I drew up in my introduction post here. In my last post I shared with you Stage Two: concept creationprocess and what that involved – you can read the shared post here. In today’s blog post I will be moving onto the next stages of developing a magazine which will be Design Development and Content Creation.

In my design brief (stage one), the client pointed out how they wanted this exciting new magazine for Sheffield to be “friendly, warm, inviting, engaging and inspiring. To inspire people, building confidence and encouraging people to dream. We believe in happy people – not just being happy people but making happy people too!” and for it to become a real, people’s publication.Therefore, I wanted the magazine to mimic that idea and flow. Having areas to visually build with interest as the stories progressed and then counteract that with space to breathe and read easy. The magazine needed to be presented in a way that was not overwhelming, yet it needed to remain interesting.

A designer’s first concept(s) or set of visuals are always still in working. There is always room for improvement, tweaks and refinements. The selected concept (from stage two) were then worked up with all details implemented. Because there was so much text I knew I had a challenge to overcome. But I was ready for it.

Some of the articles were more visual than others so some of the notes included where I thought images should be and what I thought they should be had to be scrapped. This stage can often seem a bit random. I find it the most lengthy stage of the whole design process but an important point to bear in mind is that this stage is an organic process and details can be changed if necessary. A more detailed specification of the design of the magazine for production planning and final costing was also created at this point.


A sneaky peep of the new pages to some of Sync City's exciting regular features

A sneaky peep of the new pages to some of Sync City’s exciting regular features


THE DEVELOPMENT – page shuffles, amends, and re-works!

It is my job, in this stage, Design Development to make sure that the pages meets the editor’s intent, the features objective and also guide Sync City reader’s eye. The elements of graphic design are used, and often combined, to create graphic works. This can be done through several techniques (please see page visuals I’ve shared above):

  1. Choosing a final aesthetic for Sync City magazine – how the magazine looks will define its brand almost as much as the content itself. This was achieved by some of the points below:
  2. Defining a grid/layout system
  3. Use of white space
  4. Choice of fonts (typefaces), size, alignment, color, and spacing all come into play
  5. Use of illustrations, photography and supporting imagery
  6. Use of graphical elements – lines and shapes
  7. The choice of paper stock – printed on glossy or matte paper?

Throughout this stage I always had to make sure what I was doing was matching with the publication’s ethos. In other words, to know and understand their readership and their expectations! Amended PDFs, prototypes and revisions of graphics/pages are emailed to and fro until both parties are happy.

Some people say that the magazine is a dead art form. It isn’t. I believe people still very much enjoy the pleasure of reading the magazine format. What matters more is the topic and articles.

My next and final stage will be ‘Publishing your magazine’ – where we’ll be taking a look at the print production stage. Look out for the post later this week.

Thumbnail Sketches – Process of Creating a Magazine

Creating a magazine: stage two reviewed in more detailCreating a magazine: stage two reviewed in more detail

Thumbnail workings showing where articles and contents will go

Thumbnail workings showing where articles and contents will go


On deadline with a new exciting magazine.

The above image are thumbnail sketches and are useful in exploring layout options within given spaces before beginning a project. Can often be referred to as a ‘flat plan’ when working on a magazine or in publishing. These help to show me how the whole magazine will be like and in which order the articles/pages will be seen.

Concept Creation – Stage Two

Generally on any design projects, I like to break down the project into more manageable stages, especially with a magazine publication that involves so may processes, I need to priorities and know what to do, by when and how to do it with a list any resources I’ll need. Every design project is different and will involve a range of different tasks but putting together Sync City Magazine to me, will involve the following areas in Stage Two.

As an outline these are:

  1. Project managing – every designer working on a project should be their own Project Manager. I will be responsible for accomplishing the magazine’s design objectives (as outlined in Stage One). Here, I’ll have a responsibility in managing the constraints of the project touching on any costs that might be involved, the scope, setting a design and print time schedule and keeping the editor updated with the project.
  2. Research & Planning – What do I want the magazine to say? what’s the creative stimuli? – how do we want the reader to feel/do? what personality and traits does the magazine have that needs to be reflected in print? what graphical elements, illustrations and colours would suit?Lots of questions in this area!
  3. Budget constraints – are we on budget to include stock imagery? commission an illustrator? include special print finishes in the final printed publication?
  4. Brainstorming – is more about generating ideas. This can be visual, like a mood board type. I like to use Pinterest or to look through magazines to help get ideas flowing. I’ll cut things I like and are relevant, hammer out visual themes, make visual improvements, and experiment with different layouts. I believe that every idea, good or bad should be briefly written or sketched out.
  5. Thumbnails/sketches – the above image are thumbnail sketches and are useful in exploring layout options within given spaces before beginning a project.These are helpful to me so that I know where the content will be placed on the page and in order of the publication.
  6. First digital design concepts – using my thumbnail sketches and flat plan I can form page concepts. Remember, a design concept is not the same think as a design visual. Would other designers agree with me? A ‘concept’ is more of a strategic approach and lacks the specific details – it is the very first phase of a design where the magazine’s layout, use of fonts and graphical styles are the primary focus. The ‘concepts’ will show the best ways to approach the magazine’s intent which are comprised of simple plans and sections. These simple visuals I do are then able to lend themselves easily to more specific sets of plans – the design visuals

I hope that by sharing on twitterfacebook and blogging my process of creating a magazine with you is helpful (especially to those design students or people heading into the creative industry). You can read my previous intro post here. If you have any questions, comments or advice to share, please do leave a message in the comments below.

The Process of Creating a Magazine

The stages of creating a printed magazineI was thrilled earlier this week to be commissioned by Sheffield’s Sync City Magazine to design their exciting first issue, due to release early February 2013.

Designing a good and ‘worthy’ publication is more than just layouts and placing text around picture boxes. Have you ever wondered what the magazine designing process is? how professional designers strike the perfect balance between text and image? For those interested in publishing I’m hoping to show you the whole creative process of creating the magazine – touching on what I do, how? why? layouts and to share sneaky page peeps. Hopefully you’ll find all this interesting and good to learn!?– especially those who are just stepping into the design industry.

The overall idea of any magazine is to offer their readers utmost reading satisfaction and the written information and pictures should be able to capture the imagination as well. The overall writing pattern, formatting, images and layout play a very crucial role in enhancing the overall image and standing of the publication.

Above is a diagram I’ve illustrated showing you the different stages I have to go through to get the magazine underway and meet its print deadline date (stage 6 in the diagram). So far, I’ve been through with Kat, the magazine’s Editor (client) on exactly what she wants me to do; this was called the Project Briefing Stage (1) – conducting a questionnaire or interview to get the design brief.

I will be sharing on twitterfacebook and blogging my process with you. If you have any questions, comments or advice to share, please do leave a message in the comments below.