Kickflips and layouts

Designing for the underground press is a complex balance of aesthetic versus information. A-Side Studio offers advice on how to roll out a skate fanzine.

Small, independent magazines offer a great platform for creativity. As a designer, you can flex your creative muscles to ensure that your title stands out from the crowd and communicates in just the right visual tone for your audience. It's also your job to appease potential advertisers and not to upset your stockists, because you can't afford to lose sight of the commercial considerations of the magazine. As an art director, you're part of an editorial team, and you need to meet regularly to establish visual threads that complement the written content, and to work your way around the inevitable set of hurdles that will stand in your way.

Editorial design requires extraordinary attention to detail, from the overall look and feel of the magazine down to the smallest detail, such as making sure the page numbers are correct during artworking. It's an intense process from start to finish and by the deadline you'll be glad to see the back of it.

You'll need to enlist the help of specialist illustrators and photographers to add substance to the publication, which requires extensive research and planning. Working with an array of freelance creatives can be like trying to herd cats, so organisation is the key to a smooth production process. Make sure you allow your chosen artists good time to complete and amend their commissions. Choose your artists carefully - their work may look great, but does their style work with the article? Some image-makers require more guidance than others, and regular progress reports will simplify the process. Be aware that commissions won't always work out, so it always pays to have a fallback plan.

An image-rich magazine will chew through RAM, so a well-specced machine is important. Adobe Creative Suite is by far the most efficient software package for the job, because it allows seamless integration between applications and most of your contributors will work with Photoshop and Illustrator. InDesign is perfectly geared towards building large documents without restricting your creativity.

This tutorial covers some of the broader issues that you may face when designing a magazine and offers some technical pointers on how to go about building spreads.

Click here to download the tutorial for free