Looking at print

“Collect as many newspapers, newsletters, magazines
and brochures as you can. Start by going through them and dividing them into the ones that
immediately look easy to read and those that don’t. Is this due to the typefaces used, the
way the type is laid out – the number of words per line and the column width, or its
alignment? Work out from your examples what the designers have done to make things more legible and readable”

First I took apart a magazine to see how its structured –  it was easier to cut it up to see how the same fonts are repeated in each section, and how similar information is grouped (eg within a circle, as a style of sub-heading, using line, shape and repeating colours etc)

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Next I focused on layouts that were particularly inviting to read. Here’s Cyclist magazine, and Cosmopolitan.

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As you can see, the article from Cyclist magazine has gorgeous drop caps. The body copy varies between articles, product reviews are sans serif, but this one shown has a serif font. The point size is quite small, but the leading is generous, so the extra horizontal white space makes it easy to read. The number of text columns elsewhere in the magazine doesn’t exceed three, and the average word count is about 7 per line. (Um, not sure how many characters that is, but  7-13 words are considered fairly comfortable to read). You can also see white space above, and on the left hand margin, which makes it feel nice and airy.

Ditto for cosmopolitan, there’s plenty of whitespace. The left hand article had very small snippets of text, averaging only 5 words across. But each item is short, and broken up horizontally, to give our eyes something to hold onto.


More examples.. Cyclist magazine uses a maximum of three main columns, but also uses a small narrow one to insert extra info. Again, the mini column has plenty of space above it, so it doesn’t feel cluttered. On the right, Pro Cycling magazine, again, white space, three columns ( and a very classy illustration!)

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This a a special anatomy edition of a magazine I picked up. Its not a huge long article, but all the information is grouped very clearly and leads your eye around the page. The limited colour palette helps to make it feel calm and unified.


This advertising broshure from Abel & Cole is lovely. Again, uncluttered, matt paper, friendly readable font…The egg page text is centre aligned,  but because its surrounded by the shape of the eggs, it doesn’t jar with the left aligned text on the other page.


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And now for the slightly less readable! First up is this tv listing magazine. Its meant to to fast, fun and frantic, so it does the job! Its sans-serif, 4 columns, slightly closer leading. The margins are narrower, there’s less whitespace, lots of colour, and everything is shouting for attention!


But there are repeating elements, with the colours, and everything is neatly left aligned..

And then there’s this… As you can see the contents page is partly left aligned, then centre aligned at the bottom.

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The yellow text glow and the gradient fill on the lettering might need a re-think…The pull quote is inserted strangely, and the general impression is cluttered. BUT the body copy is left aligned, in two columns, in a consistant font, which does make everything quite readable.

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I would just like to pause here, and say its all very well chuckling at bad layout, but I’m still learning! It doesn’t take much for my laptop screen to look as mis-matched as this!!!! I think its one thing to recognise good design, but quite another to try and re-produce it.

Which is the next bit of this task!

“Now select one of the designs from your research that you like and think works. Using
the dummy text, try and copy the layout and design as closely as possible. You will need
to measure the margins and column widths. If you don’t have the exact typeface get as
near as you can. If you are copying a page that includes photographs just leave 10%
tinted boxes to indicate their position.”

I chose to copy this page of Cosmopolitan. There are plenty of pages with a more decorative font, but I don’t have anything all that similar, and I really wanted to try and get a reasonable match.


My first job was to get a ruler and measure the margins etc within the article, and try and find a match for the fonts. I noticed the main header is (hopefully) Baskerville.  As I mentioned before I have a version of this font family, but not an exact match. Still. its close, so this is a good start. Unfortunately I can’t identify the sans-serif font used in the footer, and coloured capitals within the article. Based on the shape of the capital “C”, my nearest equivalents are Arial and Cordia. I went with Cordia though I know its not perfect!

Next I set up my page in Indesign, with 18mm margin left and top, 3 columns,with a 3mm alley between them. I roughly counted the number of paragraphs, and generated some suitable dummy text, and got started.

The header “Generation GUILTY” is “Bertold Baskerville Book, at 65, and 75 point size. The subheading is 15 point italic, which I repeated within the blue circle. The body copy is 10pts.

I tried to keep some consistancy, and used Cordia at 10pts for the footer. However the text at the top reading “Cosmo trend” is 19pts, and the coloured text in capitals is 13pts. I know you have to keep an eye on usiing too many font sizes, but hopefully this sticks fairly closely to the original page…

Here’s the first version on my screen. it took me a while to find the option to turn off text wrap for the text placed onto the circle! And to use “Insert Special characters” for the bullet points. (Otherwise the whole paragraph becomes indented)

Screen shot Indesign

I then saved it as a pdf and printed it off to see what it looks like!


Two things struck me, the blue is completely different, and I’ve got a line break after each paragraph, while theirs are indented. Oops.

Here’s my new version on screen. Please note the bright blue…


And in print. I know. The print colour is never the same as on screen!




Despite the colour difference, I’m fairly pleased with this. I did noticed the final column seems a whisker lower. Grrr! But this is better than I was expecting. Phew! I love doing this!!!!!

We were asked to try a second article and see what happens when we adjust the leading, tracking etc…

I wanted to try this layout with the small column in Cyclist magazine. Here it is…

imageCyclist page

As you can see I don’t have a match for the drop cap, and I made it too large. I left the small title and footer off this time – just because its rather time consuming, but this column layout was a challenge, because of its uneven sizing. Despite looking up the correct way to do this, I can’t find a perfect solution – but apparently CS6 has variable column widths. (I’m using CS5)

Anyway, as you’d expect altering the format of the text changes all the spacing and how the text fits on the page! I hope you’ll excuse me not uploading what this looks like centre aligned, or with tighter tracking…it looks horrible!

Here’s more leading, with a different font – Advent, in a slightly smaller point size.

Cyclist page extra leading

Its still very clear – but you can see now takes up more room because of the extra leading, so my text has spilled over and would need a re-think as to how to fit on the page!


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