What Does it Mean to be Editorial?

Six tips to consider to make sure your magazine doesn't read like a brochure
An editorial designer uncovers direction in the copy.



I am a fan of Project Runway and often hear Nina Garcia in my head, “It needs to be more editorial.” I imagine the designers I work with, from my team to our in-house partners, think of me saying the same thing. Maybe they think I sound like a broken record, but understanding the nuances of editorial design is critical because it’s what sets apart a magazine from a marketing piece. 

While a magazine for a school or association really is a marketing piece (I can hear some editors I know gasping), it should never look or read like one. Here are six things to consider to make sure your magazine is editorial:

Brand. A magazine should amplify a school or organization’s brand. But it should do so through storytelling and a deliberate implementation of the visual identity, including subtle use of color and non-existent use of the logo (except on the back cover).

System. A magazine has a system—type, color, graphics, and visual direction—that holds it together. This system provides both consistency and differentiation, making an engaging experience. Refrain from color picking from images or incorporating unlimited fonts, this waters down the system. 

White Space. A sure way to make a publication feel like a brochure instead of a magazine? Layering graphics behind text and overusing color.     

Don’t be afraid of white space.      

It gives the editorial room to breathe and keeps the reader from being overwhelmed.

Art Direction. This means using imagery that builds on the written narrative, making it more than just a picture on the page. Which means you must first read the stories. 

Pacing. An editorial designer understands pacing and rhythm. Treating each spread as a singular entity results in a chaotic, over-designed publication. Ask yourself: how does the reader enter the publication? How do they experience the pages as they flip through? How will you guide them from cover-to-cover?

The words. The core differentiator between a magazine and other publications is the stories. An editorial designer is someone who reads the copy and explores how to bring it to life through art direction and design.

When I hear from editors, “It is so great that you read the copy,” I know that they have not been working with an editorial designer.