There are many types of editorial design, however, the most common examples take the form of a magazine, book or insert.
Lifestyle magazines are perhaps the largest area of editorial design, with editorial designers working to make a layout engaging and informative for a specific audience group. This is done by laying out content in a way that is aesthetically pleasing and informative, using editorial design principles such as white space, typography, imagery and colour. For example, for a home and garden magazine, a designer may pair a serif typeface with floral imagery and a pastel colour palette to create an editorial design that is calming and inviting.
Books are another form of editorial design, with designers developing a layout and typographic system to create a visually engaging and insightful product. For more information about books and how they are created and published, please see our dedicated article on book design.
The principles of editorial design
The principles of editorial design are as important now as they have been for centuries. While there is no right or wrong way to tackle editorial design, the principles we are about to explain have accumulated over time and are now widely considered to be the core principles of the craft. These design elements include
- An effective grid system
- Confident use of white space
- Considered typographic design
- Expressive image-led design
- Balance, rhythm and hierarchy between elements
- Accessibility and legibility
An effective grid system
A grid system is an invisible but fundamental framework that editorial designers use to organise layout and content. A well-designed grid will ensure everything on the page is balanced and easy to read.
An editorial design that has a good grid system will also encourage the reader to continue exploring an article or editorial piece. As well as making the content easier to read, a grid system will also increase the legibility and accessibility of content for those with visual impairments.
Confident use of white space
White space is an editorial technique that allows the reader’s eye to focus on one element at a time. It can be created by leaving large empty spaces between text, images and illustrative devices. Careful consideration should be given to each element, with just enough white space to balance out the various elements on a page. From here, white space not only adds to the aesthetic of a publication but also provides a sense of balance and organisation.
Considered typographic design
Typographic design is another editorial design principle that relies on the use of letterforms to express messages and information in a way that doesn’t require the reader to spend a lot of time deciphering. Good typography can be playful, illustrative and even work closely with photography to create unique visuals. Employing a ‘type as image’ design language can feel studious and considered while also making the editorial design more readable and accessible.
Expressive image-led design
Image-led design is a principle that relies on imagery and photography to help express a message. This highly visual medium can help to make editorial design engaging and informative at the same time. It can also help to strike a vibrant tone that readers will carry through the rest of the editorial design.
Photographic and illustrative imagery is often designed to a grid system, which allows the designer to create an aesthetically pleasing layout for their audience. Appropriate art direction of these assets will provide good control over the tone, especially when paired with strong written content.
Balance, rhythm and hierarchy between elements
Combined, the elements above form a sense of hierarchy. It is important to establish a balance between all elements to make sure the tone is correct and that the most important information is easily accessible. A quick test is to check the order in which a reader digests information. This can be measured by asking a group to mark down on a page where their eye is drawn to first. If that is not the title or a piece of key content, then the balance is wrong and should be addressed.
Editors design pays close attention to the balance of editorial content and how it is presented to the reader. The size of headlines, spacing and typeface all contribute to editorial design’s sense of rhythm. This is just as important to designers a designer needs to juggle both the written and visual order when producing a piece of editorial design.
Accessibility and legibility
Designers will often work closely with editorial teams to ensure that their design is accessible and legible. This can be achieved by using a typeface that is easy to read, with a low x-height and strong open counters. Editorial design must not just look good but also that it can be read. It is also important to strike the right balance of colours in an editorial design. This is because some readers struggle with low-contrast colours, making a design difficult to process.
If your business would benefit from a fresh approach to print design and production, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strong brand identity is defined to ensure all printed materials are unique, consistent and effective.