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The last project of the 2 semester long Project Studio class goes into a subject that at first glance is not directly related to branding. However like all major graphic design projects it still concerns itself with creating a system in which all parts (in this particular case the individual pages of a multi-page document) work together under one holistic matrix, while at the same time producing variations of this umbrella system on different pages that cover different topics which would need design flexibility in order to be laid out correctly.


In this project we will put together a paper print based, commercially sold or distributed life style magazine for which we will design a number of sample pages that will accomplish such a holistic and yet varied system: 7 double spread pages (and we will get into the contents of these pages in just a little while) and one A4 vertical sized cover.

These are the many printed magazines that are sold at newsstands, book shops, airports, train stations and many other places. Many of them, in fact most of them get published monthly, while there are also magazines - especially the kinds that deal with current affairs and politics - that get published on a weekly basis. 

While most magazines cater to specialized audiences and / or interests, there are those that have a broader content. These are called life-style magazines and a very good example to them are in-flight magazines that airlines give out for free to their customers. However, life-style mags are not limited to airlines since many women's and men's magazines can actually also be defined as life-style magazines, although of course they are limited in this definition in that despite the fact that they cover a wide range of topics from health, to shopping, to travel and fashion; they still target only men or only women and not everyone. 

The reason we will be doing a life-style magazine and not one that is more specialized in a topic or a demographic (even a broad one such as men or women) is that this type of mag gives us a very broad range of subjects that can be housed within a design system. In other words, learning how to create a design system for a publication that has a diverse range of topics will be a far more fulfilling educational experience for you. If you learn to pull this off, a more specialized mag will be much easier to do. And when learning something new, it is always better to learn what it is hardest, at least in my experience.

We could of course be designing a non-print medium mag, one that can be viewed on a tablet. However, my experience tells me that there are things to be learned in terms of layout when it comes to print based magazines that do not seem to come into play in the non-print medium since non-print media is far more template oriented than print media which allows for far more diverse layouts that vary from page to page. 

Having said all this, let us now look at the content structure of a commercial magazine. Not just life-style, but all mags have similar structures when it comes to their content which is divided into departments (bölüm) and Features (konu) to which are added a cover and a contents (içindekiler) page. 

Defining a commercial (sold or distributed) paper-printed magazine. 

These are pages that repeat in every issue such as for example an astrology page, or a health page, or an events page. Movies, music, art. Any topic really as long as it repeats in every issue. The content will of course be different from issue to issue. So, as an example, a "beauty" page could talk about suntan lotions in one issue, and mascaras in the next issue. The thing is that in a department page any content is approached in a light way. Small, informative pieces of text, lots of images. In the three images above the first one is an example as to how these pages are constructed. As you can see there is relatively little text, only superficial information that it won't take long to read or to look at. 

Department pages (Bölüm sayfaları)

The second and third images in the gallery above are examples of feature pages. These are pages that have content that will only be covered in this one current issue and will not repeat itself. But this is actually not the main difference: Feature page content is far more in-depth. The content is usually spread over multiple pages and very often there will be a special cover page with a beautiful photograph or some other fancy design stuff such as the one you see in the middle image above. The follow pages will have a lot of reading material. So, while you are only expected to spend a few minutes, maybe not even that long, on a department page, you are expected to spend quite a bit of time reading on a feature page, if it is a topic that interests you. 

In addition to these 2 main categories a magazine will have a cover of course, and also a contents page. These we will be doing once the actual content pages are completed. They will still be under the same design system, but since they are isolated pages they will also need additional special treatment which is why we are leaving their design process to the very end of the project.

Feature pages (Konu sayfaları)

The challenge in designing for such a diverse content that incorporates 2 different ways of consumption (one fast and superficial, the other lengthy and in-depth)  is in creating a holistic and yet flexible system that will cover the needs of both of these types of pages, as well as other areas of the publication such as the cover and the contents page.

Department and Feature pages

Creating a flexible Holistic System

Step 1 _ Understanding Modularity

Systems that are flexible enough to allow for different layouts on different pages (which is what we need when it comes to magazine design) are based upon a principle of modularity in which the components of a systems will work in combination as well as separately. 

A very good way of understanding this is to look at shelving or kitchen / wardrobe systems that are manufactured by companies such as IKEA:

As you can see, a modular system allows you to create a lot of variations since the units of the system all have the same vertical measurement or multiples of it. So it is "X" and multiples of "X" such as "2X", "3X" and so on. You can also see that while the vertical measurement is fixed the horizontal shelves have more more flexibility. And that is exactly how magazine layouts work in graphic design also. The vertical spaces of the wardrobe system becomes a column, the vertical separating walls between the spaces become gutters. And then there are few additions such as margins, the central gutter and so on, into which we will go in order.

Step 2 _ Understanding Columns, Gutters and Margins

The way in which I want to show you this at first is by looking at the magazine that Yeliz Fırat designed in this class 3 years ago. You will see the layout as it is, but then I have also added an overlay that shows you the columns, the column gutters, the page gutter and the margins in different colors which you can identify through this legend:


Page Margins: These are the spaces that we leave on either side of the page as well as the top and bottom.

Page gutter: This is the empty space that is left in the middle page since there will be a fold here and we will not be able to read the type or see details of pictures that fall into this central area. So, naturally this space is left empty.

Column gutters: We need small spaces between the columns so that the texts inside the columns don't touch each other. 

The column. This is the central, most important element that corresponds to the wardrobe space in an IKEA shelving system. In short, it is where we put stuff. The content is designed around this vertical system. Body texts always stay within it. Other elements such as headlines, sub-heads, images, spots, etc can go outside of these spaces. But more about all that later.

What you see when you look at these layouts is that each is quite different, and at the same time we can immediately tell that they belong to the same publication.


The reason for this is that Yeliz has a matrix of columns, gutters and margins which are the same on every page, that is what makes us aware that these pages belong together. They are all manifestations of the same system, which is this vertical matrix. However, they also look different from one another since on every page Yeliz has utilized this matrix for different placements and also for different values of "negative space" (more about this later). And yet, while she did this, moved things into different positions on the page what you need to look at very carefully is the placement of the "body text" (which is the name we give to the small long texts that often consist of more than one paragraph). While other elements such as headlines, sub-heads, images, and so on, can go outside of the column matrix, the body text always stays inside the column areas. And that is the trick. That makes each page part of the bigger system. 

Step 3 _ Understanding the Stylesheet

While this underlying vertical column matrix is crucial - without it we simply would not be able to create the system, it is not enough. What we also need is a stylesheet of elements that are consistent throughout the publication. When we put together such a stylesheet we try to come up with typographic and visual material that will have a strong consistency, but at the same will be flexible enough to be able to work with from page to page.


In order to explain just exactly what is meant by this idea of a "stylesheeet" I will use one of the past years' student projects as a visual guid. This is the magazine designed by Leyla Mutlu, also 3 years ago and her spreads are very good examples when it comes to putting together a stylesheet that works really well. Below the gallery you will find detailed explanations on her choices which will make it clearer as to how you should be making your own choices.