What makes good magazine layouts?

The design process:

The design process behind creating a MacWorld cover by Peter Belanger.

Though the timelapse makes a full day last only 30 seconds, the video still gives a good idea of how much work goes into designing just the cover of a magazine.



Contrast is a fundamental principle in typography. It can be achieved in a number of ways, including size, weight and proportions.


Having contrast in typography often means using two or more fonts. One rule of thumb is to use sans-serif fonts for headlines and serif fonts for body copy -- but this, like most rules in design, is often successfully broken.



Legibility is critical in typography -- the point of type, after all, is to be read.

Some fonts are legible in all sizes, and others are designed to be displayed only in large sizes. These are called display fonts. Other fonts are designed to be legible at small sizes, but don't look good when displayed large.

One font that is both legible at small sizes and suitable as a headline font is Helvetica. While admittedly done to death, it's hard to make Helvetica look bad. And it's still the go-to font for designers looking for a legible but attractive caption font.

Fonts to Avoid

bad fonts

Certain fonts, whether through misuse or bad design, have developed a stigma among designers.

These fonts may have a place, but it is not in design.

Not only do these fonts have a stigma behind them, but they encourage laziness. One theory of design says that your typeface should not have any implications about the content. You should not even be consciously aware that the typeface is there. You may be attempting to be cheeky or playful by using these fonts, but they serve only to detract from what could have been good design.

Unless you're writing a comic book, don't use Comic Sans. Unless you're writing a screen play, don't use Courier. And unless you're designing an ironically inaccurate depiction of an Egyptian scroll, don't use Papyrus.

And Curlz MT? That one should be self-explanatory.



When elements in a layout line up, they create eyelines.

Eyelines lead a viewers eye across a spread, creating what designers call "movement." It creates a sense of unity across both pages in a spread.

Guidelines provide an easy way to create eyelines.

A successful spread will have at least one eyeline to guide a viewer across both pages of the layout.

Movement across a spread can be created in other ways, but using eyelines is the most conventional.

White Space

White space is, quite literally, the space that is not filled by any objects. A lot of white space can be used to create a clean look, whereas very little white space can be intentionally chaotic.

There are varying levels of white space, from the space between the characters of a typeface to the size of the margins in a layout.



Impact can be established in any number of ways. A good place to start is with the elements discuss above: sound typography, eyelines and white space.

Sometimes, however, great photography or simplicity in design can create impact all by itself.