Documentation about editorial design

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I'm helping in a very small village editorial staff of a local magazine. It's a very small project and it is managed in a "homemade" way, we are all volunteers, nothing professional.
We print out about 300 copies of the magazine thee times in a year in which we describe events about our village, old stories, some news and so on.

I deal with the magazine layout, but I'm not an expert at all. I just place titles, texts, images and white spaces following a very "instinctive" order, I use to create a grid system and place all elements on that.
I'd like to improve my skills about editorial design theory and then put it in to practice with Scribus and our magazine layout.

Could you suggest any good documentation about editorial design?
Books, other documents on the net, videos and so on...

Thanks a lot in advance!  :D


There are so many different ways to answer this question but I'll try and give some general advice.

I am making the following assumptions (which may or may not be correct):
* Your group of volunteers are not IT/DTP experts;
* You - and by you I also mean other people in the group - don't have the access or funds to get your magazine professionally printed;
* You don't have a lot of time to produce each edition of the magazine, I.e. it's not a full-time piece of work.

From these assumptions I can say that you would be restricted by how the magazine is printed. A further assumption would be that you are printing onto A4 (maybe A5) on a home/office printer (probably inkjet) and maybe don't - or don't always - have access to duplex (double-sided) printing. Home/office printing on an inkjet can be expensive, especially in colour.

All of that restricts the sort of magazine you can produce: Standard size paper; basic printing facilities; keeping costs low; etc. This means that your layout needs to be simple while also trying to be interesting. That's a difficult task but not an insurmountable one.

First off I would recommend having a look at this article: It gives some basic advice on basic page layouts. It's not comprehensive and it doesn't take into account your readership or the type of magazine you're making but it might give you some decent hints about how to start going about things.

The next thing to think about is who your readers are. For instance:
* Do they have any vision problems (bad eyesight etc.) - this might mean that your text needs to be larger than in a normal magazine;
* What do they want from the magazine? Do they want long in-depth articles or short snappy snippets of information?
* What style would they prefer? Formal vs. Informal? News bulletin vs. Friends in the pub?
* Will the magazine be kept for historical purposes or just be recycled after reading?

All of the items above will have an effect on what sort of layout you should produce. Larger text with a limited print cost may reduce the number of pages/articles you can produce. Short articles can be spread around the pages but can be more difficult to arrange without getting a lot of unwanted white space. A formal style generally means a more standardised layout while an informal style can be more "fluid". Something that could be passed down to the grandchildren will probably need much more care put into it.

Once you have thought about all of that I would recommend looking at similar publications and seeing what is already being produced. Is there anything out there which you would like to copy? Is there anything you want your magazine to be nothing like?

Try and find a selection of publications which you like and then look at how they are laid out. Do they have strictly columnar layouts? How many fonts do they use? How many images do they use? Look at the similarities and differences and try and see which bits you like.

One good way of getting good practice in layout design is to try copying something. Find a magazine and try to reproduce the layout in Scribus. Start with something simple. You probably won't have access to the exact same images and fonts but you should be able to make something similar. While you are recreating the layout, think about how the different parts of the page are put together. Does an image constrict the text or does the text force the image locations/sizes? Is it easier to use different frames with guides or do multi-column text frames work better? In what order is it best to create things? Remember, the people who make professional magazines will have many years of experience to draw from. You can learn from that experience.

Once you have a decent amount of practice copying someone else's layouts you will probably have gained quite a bit of experience of your own.

If you want some inspiration for magazine layouts then I can thoroughly recommend somewhere like this: (Inspiration Hut is a great place for inspiration for a lot of things, hence the name!)
You probably won't be able to recreate any of those layouts at the start but the people who made them wouldn't have been able to when they started either so don't feel overwhelmed. Try something simple and then work your way up to more complicated stuff. It's how they will have done it.

Try doing a web image search on "magazine layout" and pick something simple to start with. Then move on to something a bit more complicated but don't think that you have to actually make something complicated for your own magazine. Find your comfort level and go with that, adding other things when you think they will add something important to the magazine.

I hope I've given you some things to think about and have helped a little. This is the sort of thing that is much easier to learn by doing rather than reading. Just reading about how to sculpt won't make you a good sculptor. You need to feel the stone and chisels in your hands.


Some details about our staff..

We are a group of 4/5 volunteers, but often our readers can write their own article draft and send it to us for revision and publishing on the next come out. We receive both handwritten and digital texts.

We obtain photos from people: often I ask who has taken some pictures for instance during a public event. The quality is often low (I usually try to edit a bit with GIMP), but we have no alternatives: we haven't a pro photographer. Sometimes a pro photographer our friend send us his photos.


As regard the magazine format, it is A4.

We turn to a little shop who print through an "offset", black and white only. I think it is rare for just 300 copies and probably they usually print simpler projects than our magazine.
The result it's ok for the text, but not so good for images. On the other hand the price is very very cheap, if we printed at other shops using digital grey scale printing we would have spent more than the double.
I'd like to obtain a better result especially for images, I always notice some copy darker and some other clearer with low ink... Not good at all: the "good" result I saw on my monitor screen... It is missed on the printed paper due to the low print quality...
For that price we couldn't ask more after all.


The readers are all the people of our village, almost everyone receives the magazine. They are "unsorted", young, old etc...
Our magazine has also historical purpose, our readers usually collect all numbers come out. It reports the "history", voices, events, issues, ideas for the future and so on, all related to our small village...

You mentioned the articles length, but usually it is decided by the authors, we have both very short texts and very long ones. I use to adapt the pages layout so that images and text take up 22 pages and when I exceed them I have to fill in 26. Due to the print method on A3 sheets on which are impressed 4 pages (2 A4 pages on a face and 2 on the other face). Moreover we provided the shop with the pre-printed A3 cover and back that contains its internal face empty (page 1 and last page).
So I have to fill (2 + 4*N) pages, "N" depends on the articles length and number, how many photos are sent to the staff and so on... Hope to be clear in my explanation (excuse my poor English!).


If the print result and the photos quality were better, I'd like to use images more extensively, for example:

On the left you can see the whole page image, but if that photo didn't have no high quality the result wouldn't be so good. In my case just few photos have enough definition to be placed so big...

I'd also like to have a less rigorous system of margins. The guy who dealt with magazine layout before me used to use ms publisher and chose a book sytle margins. I now feel the need of a much free way to manage the space: in some cases near a big bold title would be interesting a big image laid beyond the mergins. Also a "panoramic" image placed on both the pages would be an interesting idea, and it request at least to cross the internal margins. Look at this for example:

Thank you for your links!

I also found some book for learning a bit more in depth graphic design and communication "rules".
For example I read about Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harris books.
I also found something on video from lynda project, they have also lessons of graphic and editorial design. Something is based on indesign, but the most of theory is useful regardless.

If you or any other user have more suggests or comments I'll happy to read!


Thanks for supplying the extra information.

I have some extra comments the might - or might not - help.

I don't get things printed myself but I vaguely remember reading some advice about black and while printing. Unfortunately I can't remember what that advice was but I remember enough to know that there are some things that you can do to make images look better, specifically for black and white printing. It's a kind of specialised area of the printing process. Maybe another forum member has some advice on this.

If you can't get good quality images then have you thought about using fancy typography to add interest to your pages? Sometimes a bit of nicely formatted text can do just as well as an image. It can often make things look more professional/stylish too. Try searching for something like "modern magazine typography examples" to get some ideas. Have a look here: And you can find some (advanced) inspiration here: If you get the text right then you can relegate the images to something that's "just there for the ride".

Panoramic images, like in your example, can look great but make sure that there's nothing important where the fold is. Otherwise you will lose some of the impact. Scribus allows for images across normal pages but not on master pages. This probably doesn't apply to you but it's worth keeping in mind.

Anyway, good luck with your magazine and don't forget to post in the forum if you have any further questions.

P.S. Some people post their creations to get specific critique and advice but not everyone is comfortable with that so don't feel any pressure to do so.


I told about our printing system because I think it's the main issue related to our low quality printed images. Anyway If there are ways to obtain better results by some "trick" it's really well come! Let's waiting for experts suggests  :)

Typos choose it's very important, anyway I'm a bit "conservative" in that. Just for titles I find interesting to adapt very bold typography. There is a good example in a lynda lesson by John McWade in which the graphic designer shows how to manage typos to get an impressive magazine cover (or perhaps it was a poster...). Yes it was a poster:
And the final choose:

Ok, that's all!
If you have any other suggest about more documentation with a in-depth explanation of editorial design for magazines will be well come!
Thanks again!


I wish I could remember what the tricks were but they weren't something I could use so they just got forgotten. I'm sure someone else on the forum can give better information.

This article might be a reasonable place to start looking for various search terms, e.g. colour cast, desaturate, curves, etc. You might need to use something like GIMP that gives you more control over what you're doing but Scribus has some tools in the "Image Effects" that might help.


this is one of the best resources i've ever seen:

"Editing by Design
For Designers, Art Directors, and Editors--the Classic Guide to Winning Readers"
Jan White

you should be able to find a pdf online, but the paper version is imo worth every penny: very inspiring!

while researching for this post, i stumbled upon jan white's own web page:

having the "editing by design" in front of me, i think that the FREE

"designing for magazines"

is probably what you will want to read!
i will for sure have a look at it!

and there are multiple other books jan white has set free!


Amazing site full of interesting resources!
Thanks a lot ale, I found a djvu file for the main book, I'll read it as soon as possible.
Thanks again!  :D


Some really great resources there. Bookmarked for later perusal. Thanks a.l.e.

It might be a good idea for these to be added to this wiki page:

P.S. The Wiki doesn't show the list of "contents" down the left-hand side anymore so it's now more difficult to find stuff. Not relevant to this thread but worth mentioning.