Page Layout Design

Written by Amanda Kern

Important Factors in Page Layout Design

Designing pages in a magazine, book, or self-promotional booklet require us to reemphasize many design considerations you have previously learned in addition to a few new factors.

Again, as with all projects, planning is essential in the process. Let's take a look at some factors that might affect your design.

1. Purpose

As with most projects, the purpose should be considered. What are the goals of the project? Designing a magazine layout for Time is complete different than one designed for Create Magazine. Knowing your goals as well as your target audience plays a big role in how you might design a page layout.

2. Size

Obviously the size is still an important factor. It gives you an exact space to work with. Not all magazines and books are the same size. Determine your page size before you begin your project.

3. Color

Clarifying color decisions early on will not only help in the design process but will make a big difference in printing prices.You are reminded that you should never use RGB colors which are only intended for on screen display. CMYK is most commonly used for magazine page layouts.

4. Margins & the Creep

Margins may vary depending upon the publication, but are generally between 1/4" - 1/2". Because publications are generally bound in some format you must always consider increasing the inner margins slightly to accommodate for the creep, which refers to the inside pages moving away from bound area.

International Paper's Knowledge Center: Creep []

5. Bleeds & Margins

Most page layouts to allow for bleeds in the design. As a designer you should allocate about 1/8" for bleeds. A bleed basically extends the graphical elements past the document size/trim size so that when the piece is being trimmed there are no white lines around the document size. You're almost guaranteed that during the trimming process the trim will be off by 1/16" of an inch. For that reason you should also give yourself an appropriate margin in your document set up for important elements such as body copy or company information.

6. Fonts

For print projects you should use postscript or Open type fonts. Open type fonts are mac and pc compatible. Although true type fonts are available and look good on screen but they don't work well when it's time to print.

International Paper's Knowledge Center on "Fonts"

Adobe's Introduction to Open Type Fonts

7. Designing with Typography

The main focus in most publications is the article. Although graphical elements are important, typography usage and design is essential in publication design. Many times type usage that is simple, clean and easy to read is most effective. It's important that you not use too many fonts in your page layout. Also try to keep usage of decorative fonts to a minimum. Decorative fonts are too hard to read for standard body copy. Pay close attention to kerning, tracking, leading, as well as widows & orphans.

Kerning: the space between two letters
Tracking: the space between more than two letters
Leading: the space between lines of text, also referred to as line spacing.
Widows: a very short line – usually one word, or the end of a hyphenated word – at the end of a paragraph or column.
Orphan: an orphan is a single word, part of a word or very short line, except it appears at the beginning of a column or a page.

Designing with Typography []

8. Graphic file types

The main file formats that are used for print are TIFF (Tag Image File Format) and EPS (Encapsulated Postscript). Both file formats, regardless of whether the graphic is bitmap or vector, should be in CMYK color mode. Bitmap images should be saved at 300 dpi unless specified otherwise.

TIFF file format should be used for photographs or bitmap images . EPS file format should be used for vector graphics. EPS should also be used if you are using a clipping path on a bitmap image or if you are creating a duotone image.

Because graphics files can get rather large, it's recommended that you flatten all artwork prior to printing so that it takes less time to print. Some printing companies charge you for the time it takes you file to "rip" or process through the server to print.

Designing with a Grid

A grid is a useful way of providing balance and proportion to design layouts. Using a grid in page layouts can be a very effective way of drawing the eye into key points. Some great resources to help you better understand grids are available online:

The Rule of Thirds

Commonly referred to in photography, the rule of thirds can also be a great way of helping break up a page layout or can help when cropping photography or graphical elements you might use in your layout. The rule of thirds basically refers to a guideline where you place the focal point of your design. By instinct many people feel that they need to put the most interesting part of a design dead smack in the center of a layout. That's the wrong answer! In fact, it's proven that if you were to break up your layout into thirds and place the graphical element of interest on the 1/3 or 2/3 line (horizontally or vertically) it would be more visually appealling. Some great resources are available online to help illustrate the rule of thirds.

Additional Page layout resources

IP Paper: Page Layout

How to use pull quotes in page layout

Proofreader's marks

IP Paper: Imposition