By Norbert Küpper
Common traits in the design of books, newspapers and magazines
|The jacket of the book "Längengrad" ("Degree of Longitude") conveys the atmosphere of history, science and mystery.
The generous type area of the inside pages exudes importance and exactness. A good example of a perfect coordination of contents and design.
|"Bastionen des Lichts" ("Bastions of Light") belonged to the 50 most beautiful books in 1997. Extremely reduced maps show where the lighthouses can be found. Square photos of different sizes radiate a great sense of calm. The black-and-white pictures create a documentary effect.|
|"Technik der Eleganz" ("Techniques of Elegance") was among the 50 most beautiful books in 1999. The double page is typical of the contrast of small detail shots in black and white and the large colour photos. The typography is simple and clear.|
When entering a kiosk at a railway station, the customers are usually at a loss with the enormous variety of magazines on the most different subject matters. What they have in common, however, is a clear trend towards a polished typography, visualization of topics and an increasing use of infographics.
Infographics are a relatively young member among the channels of information. In the twenties of the past century it was Otto Neurath who started with a system for a visual presentation of figures. In the eighties, software for business graphics was developed which enabled users to present figures as graphic presentations in the form of pies, temperature curves and bars. Those years of creative infancy have been overcome now. Especially in business magazines professionally designed infographics play an important role - together with texts and photos - as a channel of information for the reader.
Of course, a great number of magazines have to rely on their front pages for retail sale. They are a necessary means of identifying the subject matter of the publication. Surprising covers or unusual motifs are rather seldom. It seems to be a must for ladies’ magazines to present a lady’s portrait on the front page. And for ‘Men’s Health’ it seems inevitable to display a male nude with a six-pack for the sake of identification.
The visual features of a magazine cover are usually rounded off by a varying number of headlines, which more often than not are incoherently arranged around the main motif. Lack of space at the kiosks force the publishers to supply the left part of their magazines with texts to indicate their topics. But especially with the covers of magazines, more visual clarity, simplicity and concentration to the essentials would work wonders. And especially with magazines it becomes clear that designers are overridden by the editorial staff. Lacking in precise knowledge on reading behaviour, the editors tend to do what everybody does and overload the covers with headlines. A surely undesirable trend.
Stock exchange booms have led to a rise of the business press in recent years, which at the moment is at a decline because of exchange losses. As an answer to that covers with innovative typography have been designed. The inside pages of a great number of business papers present exemplary order and clarity.
A relatively new trend is the sectioning of magazines and marking the sections with different colours. Sectional front pages are supplied with short articles followed by lengthy contributions. By structuring magazines into sections, especially compact volumes gain clarity for the readers. While the same lengths of articles lead to signs of tiredness with the readers before they have got halfway through the magazine, an organization according to sections allows a new start after each part: short elements take turns with longer ones and boredom is thus avoided.
|An unusual cut like that on the cover of this Austrian magazine serves as an attractive eye-catcher at the kiosk.|
|An unusual cut and a variety of different shades of colour give this cover of the French magazine Madame Figaro a striking appearance..|
|An extremely blown-up detail creates an exciting cover for the Italian magazine Donna.|
|A consequently innovative visualisation serves as an excellent means to distinguish one magazinefrom others, as can be proved by the cover of Max. Another well-chosen idea is the coordination of colours for motif and typography.
|With he covers of fashion magazines it seems to be a must to show a portrait surrounded by a maximum amount of headlines. This is far from what one might call good readable design. But, of course, it signalizes great variety and influences the customers’ decision to buy.|
|The trend for typographically interesting covers comes from business magazines, where it is difficult to supply abstract topics with visuals. The typography on the cover above consists of capital letters and a touch of gold, which signalize wealth and prosperity. Thus, the topic indicated on the cover of Manager Magazin is skilfully visualized.|
|Not only business magazines design covers that are marked by typography. Also the magazine Art relies on visual clarity through typography.|
|The word "Peace" is placed in the centre of the cover of the Green Peace Magazin. The main topic of this issue is Mr. George W. Bush’s visit to Germany.|
|The black-and-white photos of the photo reportage in the magazine Mare create a documentary effect. It is opened with a double-page photo. The following pages show pictures of different sizes and a lot of white space.|
|By means of unusual perspectives, detail shots and a typograpghy with a highly technical appeal this photo reportage from the magazine Motorrad (motorbike) aims at their target group most skilfully.|
Generally, the main focus with newspaper design is not on quickly changing trends, but on the improvement of readability and reader guidance within the paper. For this reason, the front page is used as display for the entire product. Especially Scandinavian newspapers specialize on detailed tables of contents and concentrate on a single pithy lead picture on their front pages. New sections are given larger section heads and some papers have even introduced colour guide systems to introduce the readers effectively into topics of interest.
In the whole of Europe a trend to use colour photos is discernible. And it is not the quantity that counts nowadays, but the quality: few large and well-cut photos per page will do. Surveys among readers and tests - like those that were carried out with an eye-track camera - are meant to help newspapers to take the readers’ needs into account when redesigning their publication. It has been proved, for example, that framed-in articles do not attract the reaers’ attention, so that some newspapers do without frames now. Other tests have shown that readers avoid lengthy articles, which has led to the European trend of topical pages. Such a page is devoted to a single topic, which is then presented by means of different articles, photos and infographics. An especially impressing example of this method is the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
Every newspaper tries to create their own distinctive appearance by means of typography. In the area of headlines, therefore, there is great typographical versatility. It is not a certain typeface that is trendy, but a highly individual and unused one. With the paper Sonntag Aktuell from Stuttgart, e.g., the Polo as typeface for headlines has been in use for some time now. It is the only paper in the world that has chosen such a typeface.
|The front page serves as the newspaper’s display. Important topics appear in teasers and colour guide systems help the readers find their way through the paper.|
|The elections for the American presidency were a neck-and-neck race for quite a while. The photos of the Westdeutsche Zeitung visualize that situation perfectly.|
|Infographics aim at a visual presentation of figures. In the above shown example, the photo of the depressed looking manager Ron Sommer supports the contents of the infographics. A phantastic idea.|
|Extreme cuts guide the readers’ view and create curiosity. When used consequently, extreme cuts contribute to a paper’s unmistakable look.|
|The Norwegian newspaper Sandefjords Blad conforms to the Scandinavian ideal. The sectional front pages have larger heads. A decent colour guide system helps the readers find their way through the paper. A single large photo dominates each page.|
|Bpecial pages like this from Norrköpings Tidningar, Sweden, make ample use of white space und photos of different sizes.|