Atlantis Rising is a long-running magazine devoted to “ancient mysteries, unexplained anomalies and future science.” In effect, anything speculative and sometimes fantastic about the history of the world.
As a personal ‘what-if’ project, I took some time to examine the design of AR. Like many magazines that explore this type of material, they use a decorative and enthusiastic design style with coloured backgrounds and photo-illustrations.
I come from a different design æsthetic, having worked on news and current affair magazines. The thought of applying those design principles to this kind of content was interesting, and would set them very clearly apart from their competitors.
The table of contents is one of the most important pages in a magazine. Here we give the reader their first exposure to the layout and typographic standards that will be used throughout the book. Consider what you put on it, and what you leave out. I looked at the relatively high amount of info that is on a page in AR and decided to keep that for this package because it’s a real-world thing to work out. If we needed to list the articles, departments and masthead on one page, that meant a reduction in imagery, and an importance on developing a clear hierarchy of type styles and spacing to avoid clutter. The cover story gets the stand-out treatment, with a bit of retro pop culture for imagery and a touch of self-effacing humour.
The two typefaces – Gotham and Quint – were chosen for their modernity while still having classical sensibilities.
Two front-of-book editorial pages. The reader is first exposed to the ‘file tab’ page header, a nod to researchers and information organisation. Running headers should sit quietly in the background, subtly orienting the reader to where they are in the book.
Again, with a dense content offering, I paid attention to typographic hierarchy and white space. It can be tempting to overdesign pages like these, but people read them for the content and it’s best to stay out of the reader’s way here.
We also see our first partial-page ad. Ads in AR are much like those in trade publications. They tend to be very busy, bright and not always examples of good design. You need to account for that in your template, because your page will look great until you add the ads, and then it can all fall apart when they clash with each other or an editorial layout that intrudes on the ad space.
Both sides of the magazine revenue stream need to be respected to satisfy readers and advertisers. The best thing to do is to give ads their space. Clearly define it and separate it from the content. Here, I’ve used both white space and a rule to divide editorial from advertising. I also worked backwards. I defined my layout grid based on standard ad sizes. What was left was the editorial area.
Now, even if we put a bright cyan and magenta ad below Mr. Kenyon’s editorial, both will read as separate items. That’s the best result you can hope for in a situation like this. Getting your advertiser to not design bright cyan and magenta ads is another matter entirely.
A bits and pieces section is quite popular for readers looking for short items that take little time to read. These combine well with partial ads, though it’s not a good idea to do that on an opening spread like this one. The Aether section are web teasers. Each short tidbit contains a URL to the longer story on the website. Wherever we can develop synergies between print and electronic content only helps publishing.
Regular columns. There’s enough flexibility here to accommodate partial ads. While the images and pull quotes are quite generous here, the three-column layout means the image could drop to one-column wide quite easily if you get another ad at the last moment.
It’s preferable to keep your material self-contained to its defined space, as opposed to continuing articles later in the magazine. Readers today are much less tolerant about having to hunt for info when other media deliver a concise and complete experience without effort on their audience’s part.
Ideally you want flex in the front and back of book for ads, minimising intrusion into the feature well. Smaller magazines live on partial ads. Unlike larger pubs, they don’t have the luxury of receiving most of their ads as full pages, so planning for partials is essential.
Feature. In a tight page count, the only place you get to hit hard with design is the opening spreads of your features. My style is to go strong, bold and simple, letting the weight of an image combine with the illumination of the head. Both elements do not need to be big. With Poseidon running a page and a half, he has all the graphic weight. The head in this case is the counterpoint and should not compete.
Subsequent pages are subject to how much advertising has been sold. I’ve often had to design pages like this where only one or two small touches can reasonably be used. Once those ads are in there, anything more would be overkill.
Atlantis Rising © ® Atlantis Rising, LLC. All rights reserved.
Design concepts © Scott Dutton.