Computer Arts

10 pro tips for art-directing magazines

Tank’s Liz Muller shares her top 10 tips for creating magazines that look and feel just right

Personality

Designing a magazine isn’t just about looks, but about how it makes you feel. If it were a person, what kind of person would it be? What would that person say in a conversation and how would they see themselves in relation to others?

Multi-tasking

There’s a lot of scope for learning when you work for an independently owned title. We have to do a lot, from managing and producing shoots and location scouting to liaising with photographers and stylists, pitching directly to clients, set-styling, designing and conceptualising.

At Liberty
At Liberty, art-directed by Liz Muller / Tank

Weekly meetings

Have weekly meetings at strict, set times – they work wonders. Monday mornings are good for staff meetings: we find that’s when we get calls and make plans, and then we can talk some more, so Tuesdays are best for having editorial meetings and getting down to business.

Collaboration

You need tight collaboration within a magazine team, with an open dialogue between editors and art directors. We work with the editorial team and the fashion team – we have weekly meetings with the fashion team in particular, and I oversee some of their creative output.

Be restrained

Magazine design needs to be invisible for the message to be seen. The pages are already filled with glorious imagery, so the typography and grid should stay constant throughout: these form the backbone of the magazine. I never use any more than two fonts on a page.

Tank
Tank, art-directed by Liz Muller / Tank

Play to strengths

Give people the tasks they’re best at. It’s important to use people’s strengths by letting them do what they’re good at. In my own career, having a mentor was the most helpful thing – working closely with an art director really helped my confidence.

Team bonding

It’s important to bond with your team: there might be times when you’re pushing the magazine out overnight, or working until the early hours of Saturday morning, so it helps if you’ve bonded well. And it’s important that art directors can work well with editors and managing editors.

Outside influence

I look to other magazines to see what’s out there and what not to do, and I pay attention to format and so on. But I also like to explore things that don’t have anything to do with magazines or fashion for inspiration, and I like doing a lot of tactile things with my hands.

Impactful image

We tend not to do cover stories too much. Unless we’ve purposefully done a cover story on someone, we choose the image that best sums up the magazine and the spirit of the theme. We pay a lot of attention to the power it has and how striking it will be on the shelves.

Cover elements

Our cover images need to be adapted to the logo. The format tends to be a large image with a logo and sometimes a punning title or similar – we’ve only recently introduced coverlines. We have strict rules regarding use of the logo, so the images we choose need to adapt to it.

Tank
Tank, art-directed by Liz Muller / Tank

 

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