Producing a magazine (long)

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by MacBoobsPro, Jun 6, 2008.

  1. MacBoobsPro macrumors 603


    Jan 10, 2006
    Hi guys I have started a blog based portfolio site that (once populated) will offer tips and information to other designers as well as promote my own work.

    I was wondering if some people would be kind enough to have a read through my first entry/article and provide a bit of feedback? You know was it worth the 5 minutes of your life etc. Was it informative or not?

    That way I can gauge how interesting my writing is and if I need to change anything.

    Its about producing a magazine from a designers point of view.

    I won't post the link as that would be shameless promotion (unless I am asked :D ). Some people may know it already from my more shameless posts.

    Anyhoo below is the article. Let me know if you enjoy it, found it boring, incorrect whatever.

    Thanks v much.

    Article reads:

    Producing a magazine (Part 1)

    Designing and producing a large publication like a magazine or catalogue involves an incredible amount of work. Excellent planning and organisation is essential for successful completion of the project. Knowing exactly what is going on what page, where it is coming from and when it will arrive is key to minimising any potential problems further down the line. The actual designing of the publication is almost a secondary practice, especially when up against very tight deadlines.

    While working for a magazine publisher in Sheffield I was solely responsible for the design and pre-production of a monthly lifestyle magazine. The magazine usually consisted between 40 and 90 pages per month depending on any extra supplements that were going in that month. These various supplements roughly worked out bi-monthly so every other month I was essentially doing twice the amount of work in the same amount of time.

    When I first started, there was a workflow in place that was effective but I felt it could benefit from refinement to increase efficiency and ease workload. Over time I implemented my own strategies which led to me being able reduce the amount of time to produce the magazine from a month down to one week. The other three weeks of the month I could then use to help other colleagues on other projects as well as freely look at researching and redesigning elements of the magazine while not interfering with the current issue.

    The workflow initially consisted of the Editor determining what he wanted to go in the magazine and then going out and producing that content from interviews, meetings and research etc. The editor would then liaise with the sales director to determine the positioning of adverts (sold the month before) and articles so there was a good balance between the two. Between them they would then draw up a plan which was literally a document depicting each page as a box. Each box contained a description of what was to go on that page i.e. Main feature, adverts, Film reviews etc. This document would then be forwarded onto myself and from this I would work on whatever content came through from the editor at the time until the whole thing was complete. This system worked but I could see things that needed to change to ease workloads and increase efficiency.

    One of the problems was the editor would be writing articles for the current issue and if he fell behind I would usually end up waiting for the piece to come through. If I had completed everything else that had come through already, production came to a stop until he could provide me with the piece, needlessly wasting precious time. So we came to an agreement that he should write a month in advance (or even more when possible) to eradicate this problem. It meant the editor having to work a hectic month or two to get in front of the issue he was writing for but once this was achieved a massive step had been taken to increasing efficiency.

    Now at the start of the month I had 50% of the content ready and waiting to go into the new issue. Before I would have maybe an article or two, sometimes nothing at all. The adverts for this months issue, although sold the previous month, were not actually given to me in a design brief until the end of the first week as the sales manager would be writing them up during this time. This was also a problem because it gave clients less time to approve or amend the adverts once I had designed them which in turn gave myself even less time to amend them if necessary. So we decided we would set a deadline that all advert design briefs would be in at the start of the month.

    With just these two issues sorted, I could now start the month with around 90% of the content of the magazine ready to go, instead of nothing at all like before. Knowing exactly what I have to work on I can better plan what needs to be done and prioritise the more important pieces.

    "Producing a large publication is like a giant puzzle. You have hundreds of pieces of information that need to go in certain places and in a certain way. Starting the puzzle without all the information will often end up with you redoing work you have already completed. Just adding a line of text can mean a total redesign of a page. Wait until you have everything before starting."

    First things first. Images.

    As most designers know clients often don't know anything about the design process and what is involved in producing even the smallest of projects, let alone a 40 page magazine every month. They ask you to design an advert or poster, you go away and sometime later you have produced it. The client didn't see you color matching, nor did they see the time spent processing the images or you going insane cutting out a single porcupine from a group of five other porcupine. They see a flyer with a porcupine riding a bike and the words 'Buy our product'. It's not the clients fault; they didn't go to University to study graphic design. You can't expect them to know what DPI, RGB, CMYK etc mean. Its your job to educate them on the fact that the majority of images they provide (depending on the project of course) cannot just be ripped from their website.

    When producing a publication if you can educate your clients about the above fact it will save you an inordinate amount of time when it comes to processing and optimising images. There is nothing worse than receiving a word document with a tiny linked 72dpi image placed in a table with the original image no where to be found. Because now you have to explain to the client that the image was not attached, that its too small anyway and is most likely in the wrong colour space. They will just look at you gone out and email the same file again saying 'it must of been corrupt'. Explaining 'dots per inch' and CMYK to your clients will yield great benefits to everyone involved. The client will understand what you are blabbing on about, you in turn will not be cursing them for providing unsuitable images, thus building a stronger relationship as you find it much easier to work with them.

    So when it comes to images in your publication, the more clients that know how to provide images in correct formats the easier your job will be. One way to educate your clients is to provide them with a document that explains and illustrates the differences between good and bad images and what RGB and CMYK is all about. As well as how to provide the images (i.e. not in Microsoft Word).

    Now you have all the images that are to go in your magazine, some have maybe come from other designers that know what they are doing and they are fine to be dropped straight into the layout. Others may have been ripped straight from the web by an uneducated source. What you need to do to make sure nothing goes to print in the wrong format, is set up an action in Photoshop to automatically change the DPI to 300 and the colour space to CMYK. Then do a batch automate and grab a cup of coffee while the computer does its thing. Automatically changing the colourspace to CMYK can usually cause colours to shift quite dramatically and often result in poor reproduction in print. It is wise to allow yourself time to check the colours on a monitor calibrated to your printers specifications. This can take some time but it is important as even a small colour shift can result in an immediately obvious mistake, making you look somewhat incompetent when 100,000 copies arrive back from the printers with an image of bright orange people walking a purple dog.

    In addition to checking the colours, now PDFs are pretty much the norm for printing these days you can usually get away with using JPEGs within your documents but I prefer to convert everything to TIFFs. That way you get rid of the JPEG compression which can cause problems on certain rips. By eliminating potential problems at the outset you can save yourself a lot of time in the long run. Again you can easily create a batch automation to convert everything to TIFFs.

    Once all your images are processed you are ready to rock...
  2. bartelby macrumors Core


    Jun 16, 2004
  3. MacBoobsPro thread starter macrumors 603


    Jan 10, 2006
  4. CMD is me macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2006
    Don't take this the wrong way, but you're right, its long. Break up the information into smaller bits. Use more subtitles, alter fonts, etc. People read info bytes online and not articles so much.

    And no, I didn't read it just for that reason.... looks long. I'm busy. But trying to help! Really, I do mean to help!
  5. redwarrior macrumors 603


    Apr 7, 2008
    in the Dawg house
    You are absolutely right. I actually didn't read it because it looked so long. I tend to pick out the bits that I am interested in and don't read the rest.

    Subtitles will help tremendously.

    I studied advertising on the web, and that was a major point in ad composition - break it down into small bits of information, skip lines between each point, and always use subtitles.

    (I'm not an expert though, this is just my humble opinion.:))
  6. MacBoobsPro thread starter macrumors 603


    Jan 10, 2006
    Ok thanks for the tips. iWebs formatting capabilites when it comes to a blog page are quite limiting and even a simple subheading often doesnt translate well onto the main page.
  7. tyranna macrumors regular


    Jan 13, 2007
    great american sw
    the info is good, but i agree with the others that the structure of your information would be easier to comprehend if it carried subcategories or subtitles, i.e., editorial content, images, adverts, etc. it would make for a much easier read to someone not familiar with magazine production. uninformed editors and advert sales people can be the source of many a headache during the production process. :)eek: the memories!)

    it has been awhile since i was in the magazine production business, but if i had a dime for every image that arrived in a microsoft document, or staple that got punched right through the center of an image, i'd be sitting on a beach somewhere soaking up the sun. :D

    best of luck to you!
  8. Sijmen macrumors 6502a

    Sep 7, 2005
    Stuart, I'm very impressed with your stuff. The article was a great read to me as a non-designer as well.
  9. IgnatiusTheKing macrumors 68040


    Nov 17, 2007
    das Fort
    Interesting stuff and decently written, but the actual wording needs refining. What you are telling us is good information, but your vocabulary is a little repetitive (example below). Overall, I wouldn't really trim any content, just do another draft or two for the sake of flow.

    I'm bookmarking the site, though. Thanks for posting the link and I hope my comment helps.

    PS. Great-looking site. Really impressed by the clean layout and I like your logo a lot. Noticed a typo in your into, though. You have a "theres" that should be a "there's" in the second-to-last sentence.

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