The Best Editorial Designs

editorial designs: magazines stack reading magazine

​Editorial design is an art form that looks to tap into the emotions of the reader, to create a visual experience that is moving and memorable.

Editorial design isn’t just the practice of arranging pictures and type on a page. As such, editorial design may be easily accomplished, but great design can only be mastered with dedication and practice, as well as some measure of skill. Consider our list of great editorial designs and see if you agree that they’re effective in creating an emotional response that stays with you after you’ve stopped actively looking at it.

What Makes a Design Great?

​Several factors should be considered when creating a great editorial design. The first item to take into account is the subject matter. Think about the story you want your design to tell. Perhaps you want readers to learn about a musician’s rise to fame. Or maybe you’d prefer they read about the same artist’s fall from grace. One subject could have several possible stories to tell. The best way to choose a subject and its story is to choose the story you think your readers need to know, or at least the story they would be most interested in hearing.

The subject and its story will affect the next factor to work with, which is the mood. This is perhaps the most elusive element of great editorial design. The ability to evoke strong emotion is the ultimate goal of a design, though it is not always a goal that is met successfully. Still, if you’re going to hit your target, you must first put your target in place. When considering the mood of your design, you might decide you want a spread about an animal that’s been placed on the endangered species list to feel urgent and sad. A piece about a famous athlete recuperating after a devastating injury might feel triumphant. You may want a piece about a children’s book being made into a movie to feel magical and whimsical.

Once you have made these decisions about subject, story and mood, you can begin to work on specific design elements, such as color, graphics and layout. A great editorial design will support and highlight the story rather than compete with it. Every choice of font, image and color scheme should reflect and supplement the body of the written work. To make the work of design easiest, make sure you have a compelling and well-written story.

In the end, the best editorial designs should spark an immediate emotion that compels you to look deeper into the story of the piece.

10 Great Editorial Designs

The Wild Things Are Here

​This is a great example of the power of simplicity. There are very few elements in this design, yet it is at once captivating. As a review of a movie that was based on a beloved children’s book, the design does an excellent job of connecting the two different mediums. The background photo uses imagery taken from the movie, while the white outline of the tree set on top of the photo brings to mind the illustrations in the book. The tree also makes a convenient and elegant placement for the column of text that tells the written story. The child-like handwriting that graces the top of the spread as the headline completes the effect of a whimsical, playful story waiting to unfold into real life.

The End of the Line

​The gentle color scheme of this railroad sunset at once relaxes the eyes and invites a content sigh. The words in the larger headline bring a sense of completion, but they are immediately juxtaposed by a sense of continuance and curiosity by the tracks that trail into the distance toward words that are partially obscured by the horizon. The sub headline, though it is given an alternate placement above the main title headline, is the last place the eye falls, and the feelings behind the design are given words: one goal may have been accomplished, but there is work yet to be done. This clever design conveys much despite its simplicity, and the viewer cannot help but want to read the block of text at the bottom of the page after being taken on the visual journey.

Choose Your Own Rum Adventure

​A play on the classic children’s reading books, the headline is immediately captivating and exciting. The nostalgia of days gone by begs continued attention, and a reader is rewarded with an irreverent question that evokes a giggle and a desire to join in the game. The hand-drawn graphics create a sense of comfort and ease, as if a friend is showing you a page doodled during his or her in-class daydreams. While there are a lot of graphics covering the page, there are also ample amounts of white space to keep the busyness from being overwhelming. By the simple act of answering yes or no questions and tracing lines around the page, the reader inadvertently learns what the author intended, that is, what restaurants will best suit your preferences.

After Surgery

This is a great example of the power of simplicity. There are very few elements in this design, yet it is at once captivating. As a review of a movie that was based on a beloved children’s book, the design does an excellent job of connecting the two different mediums. The background photo uses imagery taken from the movie, while the white outline of the tree set on top of the photo brings to mind the illustrations in the book. The tree also makes a convenient and elegant placement for the column of text that tells the written story. The child-like handwriting that graces the top of the spread as the headline completes the effect of a whimsical, playful story waiting to unfold into real life.

Gettysburg

​The bold, graphic lines of a gigantic letter “G” sharply contrast with a pastoral vista of mountain foothills covered with trees and a sky full of billowy clouds in this striking design. The gentle fade of the sky into the whitespace above the top of the letter keeps the image from being too busy, and the sparseness at the top of the design helps bring the eye down into the center of it. The real ingenuity, though, is the use of the tip of the “G” to serve as the plateau on which a statue of General Warren overlooks the battlefield at Gettysburg. The sharp contrasts of this image bring to mind the discord between the peaceful scene of today versus the violent battle that the site remembers from 150 years ago.

The Call of the Casbah

​This design is a solid example of the way good writing fuels good design. The title of this piece is by far its most intriguing element. Upon reading the words, a sudden scent of Moroccan spice faintly tickles the nose, and the heat of the desert seems to rise up around you. The pristine blue sky set against the bright clay walls of the ancient fortress is a dazzling invitation to come explore the city for yourself. The white typeface pulls a cohesive element through the entire layout, balancing the white space below the spectacular image, and the pop of color in the medallion centered in the text coordinates with the colors in the photo above. Simple and striking, this image beckons you to visit this exotic scene.

The Masters

​This detailed design relays a lot of information in deceptively simple layout. At first glance, the cluster of circles is recognized as representing the dimples of a golf ball. A closer inspection reveals a clever way of displaying several portraits that doesn’t involve a static block of square headshots. As the eye follows the curve of the golf ball down the page, it comes to a silhouette of a figure at the top of his backswing. The reader cannot help then but to follow the line of circles back up to the top of the page, this time in reference to the swing of a golfer’s club. The dynamic design pulls you, the reader, into the image, and leaves you wanting to practice your own swing.

10 Years After 911, A Look at Our World

​A study in simple chaos, this design takes the reader on a journey. By following one end of a yellow line from the left side to the right, the reader learns about some of the changes that have occurred in America during the 10 years since that devastating September day. The reader cannot help but be drawn into the narrative as lines are traced from side to side. While the crisscross of the overlapping lines is almost dizzying, the use of a single color on top of black and white keeps the effect from being completely engulfing. The sense of confusion that the reader feels upon first looking at the design may be reminiscent of the confusion the nation felt upon first seeing the startling images of the Twin Towers. The design may also hold a subtle hidden meaning, as those wild lines connecting one point to another resembles the maps depicted in movies about conspiracy theorists, with red string tying seemingly unrelated people and events to one another. The overall effect of this piece is disorienting and overwhelming, much as a person might feel when thinking about the way the country has changed since the attack.

Who Are You Calling a Slut

​This image immediately captures your attention. It boldly depicts a controversial topic, placing a provocative word in large letters with a neutral, unassuming font. The columns of text that write the story create the gentle curves of a woman’s legs. This design’s cleverness is displayed in the way the strong graphic still fits into a basic six-column layout, albeit a manipulated one with two columns being blank and two columns being shaped rather than straight. As a graphic that suggests the form of a woman rather than a photograph that actually depicts one, the reader is left to decide for themselves whether the overall image is offensive or brave. But whether you are offended by it or you applaud it, you feel something when you see this design.

Well Rounded

​The title and graphics supply a perfect complement to one another in this effective design. The circular form of the bottles arranged around the title echo the concept of roundness. Likewise, the designations for the flavor profiles of the bottles’ contents illustrate the concept of a well-rounded “diet” of the different varieties of the beverage in question. The multitude of colors is compensated for by a large amount of white space, effectively subduing what could otherwise be a garish presentation. The text set inside the ring of bottles is understated, letting the bottles take command and tell the story themselves. If beer is a libation you enjoy, you’re likely to recognize a favorite label, or you could see a new one that you’d like to try. Either way, you just might be inspired to pop a top off a bottle of refreshment for yourself.

Find and Create Your Own Great Editorial Designs

Find and Create Your Own Great Editorial Designs

It’s easy to spot a good design. Whether bold or understated, controversial or comforting, or exciting or calming, a great design will catch your eye, hold your attention, and leave you feeling exactly how the designer meant you to feel.

However, it takes considerably more effort to create a unique design that effectively evokes emotion and tells a story than it is to find one. It takes a careful balance of images, text, color and white space to create an design that is neither overwhelming nor underwhelming. Starting with a strong story concept is crucial to good design, as a good design will flow naturally out of a story that is captivating and well-written.

We hope our selection of great editorial designs will inspire you to find and create your own masterpieces of visual story that will make a top editorial design list in the future.


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