THE DESIGN AND LAYOUT OF NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES
Originally published on October 11th 2013 on Journalism Now for my Masters in Journalism.
‘Journalism is the business of turning information into money’ – Chris Horrie
Superficially dispiriting words to those of us who naively thought that the profession was founded on a bedrock of nobility and the pursuit of truth. Yet this adage enabled us to understand how and why publications are designed as they are. Newspapers and magazines are strategically designed to make the content clear, easy to read and attractive. The theory being that this will drive sales.
There are common themes that bond us together such as breathing, sex, eating and weather. The abundance of articles on them is emblematic of their mass appeal. Such articles can be found in tabloids (The Sun, The Mirror; the red-tops) or broadsheets (The Times, The Independent). Typically a tabloid is half the size of a broadsheet. This still stands for the distinction between the red-tops and The Telegraph. However some broadsheets, like The Times and The Independent, changed size to match those of the tabloids in the 2000s. In an attempt to maintain a bespoke upmarket position, these tabloid size versions of broadsheets were self reflexively referred to as compacts. Since 2005, the Guardian has been printed, for ease of portability, in a mid-sized format called Berliner. The news items that populate such publications are typically 250 words in length.
MOCK NEWSPAPER FRONT COVER WITH TERMINOLOGY https://twitter.com/snoop2003/status/388672588987117568/photo/1
Design choices are made to give the publication a bespoke identity to appeal to its target audience. There is a commercial need to ensure that design facilitates the publication having a distinct brand identity. However each edition must not look identical or the potential purchaser/reader will be deterred, thinking nothing new is being offered. A noticeable example is The Daily Mail’s hugely successful, modular structure, gothic standing head and use of front page pictures. For front page image see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Mail#Editors
LINEAR – the producer decides our order of consumption e.g. radio, novels.
MODULAR – publication comes in boxes, which are known as ‘stickies ’ (see The Independent front page design on https://plus.google.com/+independent#+independent/posts). The modularity of magazines allows publishers to do niche articles. Only barkers and standing head are on the front of magazines to entice you to purchase. Intriguingly and counter-intuitively to the layman, articles can be reverse engineered out of barkers and/or headlines.
Turning the page and demonstrating the importance of pictures, page 3 typically has an arresting image e.g. The Sun’s page 3 girl. This is largely explained by our reading from right to left. In tabloids, the serious (e.g. political) news tends to be buried on the ‘graveyard page’. This page (2) is noticeable for its commercially understandable lack of advertisements. Leafing through a tabloid will quickly show how its agenda is largely being driven by TV. This is because TV plays a large role in the tabloids’ target audience’s lives. The Sun is considered to be the newspaper of the TV era as exemplified by its coverage of the on-screen and off-screen lives of TV personalities. The perception that Sun readers have an insatiable appetite for Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent stories is evidenced by its market leading position. The Sun’s focus on these stories can be seen as an evolution from The Mirror’s position as newspaper of film’s Studio System age.
For further discussion on demographics, social grades and readership see http://www.nrs.co.uk/lifestyle-data/
Social grades and typical professions
A = Vice Chancellor, judge
B = university lecturer, solicitor
C1 = school teacher.
C2 = plumber
D = factory worker
E = unemployed
A, B and C1 individuals tend to watch the BBC, read broadsheets, literature and vote. These traits and such peoples’ typically higher disposable incomes affects the type of advertising within the likes of The Times and The Guardian. The relatively few As and Bs mean that sales of, for example, The Telegraph, do not have to be as high as those of The Sun for deep penetration into that smaller market. Magazines such as GQ can survive on the same basis.
The house in which you live is considered to be a determining factor in your grade with movement only really being possible when you become your own home owner. Arguably though, structures within society need to exist to facilitate social mobility. Upward social mobility by adopting the behavioural patterns of the grade above is a consequence of social aspiration. The notion of aspiration and its role in newspaper sales is exemplified by the following article; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1252384/Free-Classical-Superstars-CD-weeks-Mail-Sunday.html
Listening to classical music is typically the preserve of those who inhabit the social grade above The Mail readers. The alluring free aspect is vital, as is the unthreatening nature of the music. Some pieces will probably be known to Mail readers due to its prior commercial exploitation and/or prominence in society, relative to a less well known piece. For example Un Bel Dì Vedremo from Madame Butterfly was used in the film Fatal Attraction, which given its subject matter and release date could have been seen by large swathes of female (C2) Mail readers. Richard Desmond’s The Daily Express and OK upwardly competes with The Mail and Hello (both chaired by Jonathan Harmsworth, better known as Lord Rothermere) for C2 females. Both newspapers have a health focus which connects to the idea of women bearing the familial responsibility for health.
A magazine with a spine has used perfect binding and will probably be in the £3-£5 range. These are predominantly monthlies like Empire or Total Film. The higher printing costs are so because such publications are not expected to be read in one sitting, thus their life expectancy (compared to daily newspaper) needs to be longer. The lower, more ephemeral end of the magazine market (the £1-£3 range e.g. Take a Break) uses 2 wire (or staples) stitch.
There is an optimal, harmonic relationship between column width and type size i.e. the wider the column the larger the type.
Casting off is an estimation of the set length of a piece of copy in a given type size and measure.
There are typically 5-8 words per column.
Serif v sans serif
Recalling Bauhaus, font choice is primarily functional not aesthetic, with choices being made to aid readability.
A SERIF FONT SUCH AS TIMES NEW ROMAN IS MORE LEGIBLE WHEN SMALL AS IT GUIDES THE EYE ALONG THE LINE OF NARROW COLUMNS. TABLOIDS USE THIS ROMAN, NEO-CLASSICAL SERIF FONT IN THEIR BODY TEXT.
TABLOID HEADLINES USE THE MODERNIST FONT OF SANS SERIF WHICH IS MORE LEGIBLE WHEN LARGE AND FROM A DISTANCE I.E. ON THE NEWSPAPER RACK.
UPMARKET PUBLICATIONS THOUGH FAVOUR SERIF FOR ITS AESTHETIC CONNOTATIONS.
The Mail and Telegraph’s standing head are in gothic font as also seen on their web versions; http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
http://www.forbes.com/profile/richard-desmond/ Profile of Richard Desmond
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24396430 Profile of Lord Rothermere, Jonathan Harmsworth
BODY TEXT – main text on the page
CAPTION – describes an image
COPY – any words or pictures that go into the magazine
CROP – cutting pictures to make them fit or look better
CUT OUT – a picture with the background (or part of it) removed to allow it to fit over another picture or allow text to be wrapped close to the subject
DOUBLE PAGE SPREAD – facing pages where the type fills both pages running over the centre gutter
DROP CAPITAL – emphasising the first letter of the first word in the first paragraph
DROP SHADOW – a shadow drawn on type or a picture to make it appear as though it is raised off the page
DUMMY – mock-up of a newspaper showing on which page the adverts are to go and slowing decisions on story placement
ENTRY POINT – the starting point on a page for the reader
FEATURE BOX – highlights further information
FILLERS – small pieces of copy that fill in holes in the magazine
HEADERS AND FOOTERS – extra information at the top and bottom of each page
HEADLINE – the title of the feature or page
INTRO – the starting paragraph of a story
LAYOUT – the page design sent to the printer
LEAD – the main story on the page
LEADER – the Editorial comment
LOGO – identifies the magazine
PHOTO CREDIT – identifies the photographer
PUFF – an advert, often on the front page, telling about material inside the publication
PULL-OUT QUOTE – some text copied from the article and pasted in a box or in bold type that makes you want to read the page
REVERSED-OUT TEXT – white type on a coloured or black background
SPREAD – two pages together
STRAPLINE – a heading placed over another one
STREAMER – a long heading that typically covers the full page width
SUBHEAD – a word or phrase that breaks up large amounts of text