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Each famous and successful magazine has a style that can be easily distinguished. For instance, GQ, ID, and many other publications demonstrate design elements that help them to stand out among competitors and maintain profitability. It is observed that elements of design can become “acts of protest or sources of wonder” (Angel). For this reason, the design is crucial to the success of publications. And for the same reason, learning the principles of successful design is the main professional goal of every magazine designer.
Every year, thousands of new magazines are created and published but, due to the severe competition, many of them have a very short lifespan. “Design plays a major role in getting your magazine noticed” (Cullen 117). It determines success and prolongs the magazine’s survival. Design is an intrinsic element of the brand and, to fit the magazine’s style, it should be harmonically matched with other brand constituents: editorial content and voice.
As King-Gordon mentions in her book, members of the present-day visual society anticipate the “three-dimensional eye candy” provided by every media, including magazines (8). The visual appeal of products and press is crucial in the contemporary world. People are bombarded with enormous loads of information throughout every moment of each day. As a result, quality and visual representation of information becomes important.
A magazine designer is an artist, and, like in any form of the artistic process, his/her approach to work must be creative. The 1990s marked a new period in magazine design development. Magazines challenged readers “to see, understand, and interact with the world in new ways” (King-Gordon 9). Designers widely used unusual layouts and formats and experimented with scripts and colors. Still, experimentation is risky, and it is good only in limited amounts. At the current stage of the magazine design’s evolution, the working approach should combine both creativity and practicality.
Successful designers follow four standards of magazine publishing: format, formula, frame, function (King-Gordon 10). Generally speaking, these four standards allow designers to make appropriate designs that would be relevant to the themes of magazines. The category of function comprises the purposes of magazines’ existence, and it is the most significant factor. Thus, designers must pay greater attention to it. Paying attention to the functions of publications helps designers to tame their creativity and make it more purposeful. As a result of this, they become able to meet readers’ expectations. With that, if the design suits the magazine’s function, it does not mean that it necessarily should be boring. On the contrary, by placing ourselves in a framework, we become able to make something that would satisfy readers’ interests and maybe even exceed their expectations. In other words, designers should not regard work process regulations as something negative but rather should use it as a stimulus for experimenting.
Bad design is detrimental to magazines’ success and can cause large financial losses. Good design, on the contrary, allows publications to stand out and increase their competitiveness. Designing is an artistic process, yet magazine designers are not absolutely free in their work. To be successful, they should understand readers and the magazine’s functions. Design is a medium for the projection of magazines’ voices. Voice and design are two inseparable categories. Thus, they cannot oppose and contrast each other, and, for this reason, the main task of designers is the creation of harmonious relationships between them.
Angel, San. “The Ultimate Guide to Magazine Cover Design.” Century One. 2013, Web.
Cullen, Cheryl Dangel. Graphic Design That Works: Secrets for Successful Logo, Magazine, Brochure, Promotion, and Identity Design. Rockport, 2004.
King-Gordon, Stacey. Magazine Design That Works: Secrets for Successful Magazine Design. Rockport, 2001.