Magazine design – The Art of being Luis Marden

Magazine layout design

The most beautiful and evocative photographs can be dismissed in the hands of someone untrained in layout design. Layout design, in this case for magazines, is when carefully chosen photographs are selected by the editing team – sometimes a combination of editor and art director – and then woven by the designer into a visual feast for the eyes and intellect; attracting the reader’s attention while proffering the contents.

Here’s an example of magazine layouts taken from a past issue of National Geographic magazine. This November 2000 article features Luis Marden; writer, photographer and explorer whose 64 years with the National Geographic shaped their magazine.

Beautiful intro spread. The loosely spaced headline is an Art Deco like typeface, it acts as a 1930's link to Marden's 64 years of involvement with the magazine. The pictorial page at right has a sepia-toned image of the man himself - with a Mexican sombero!. The contextual link is a memorabilia - a little National Geographic Society flag, which places everything into perspective.

National Geographic magazine articles are famous for their photographs and well-written articles, so the designer always have to grapple with text extensive layouts. The editors are not stingy though, they provide lots of spreads for effective visual pacing of the article. The fact that advertisements are confined to certain sections of the magazine helps enormously too. The right hand page is a montage of photographic memorabilia and 'artifacts'. Note that the white expense of space counterbalances the text-heavy page opposite. Interestingly the article starts off with a 'headband': "He will hate that you are reading this." Set in capitals, it discretely sets the reader up with a proposition not to be refused.

What's the rational for the orchid festooned photograph at right-hand page? The caption reads: "Variety is not the spice of life to Marden; it is the main course. No wonder, then, that he loves orchids in their 25,000 species, including the Brazilian Epistephium mardenii (right, at center), named for its discoverer. Marden's global odyssey began in earnest in 1936 when the 23-year-old staffer surveyed Mexico's Chich´n Itza (inset photo)." The orchid photograph was taken at the U.S.Botanic Garden.

More artifacts and memorabilia! Any decent photo-studio should be able of create this 'tropical' effect - sand, a palm frond and seashore. The photo-composition is exquisite, notice how the elements lead your eyes along a visual path.


About ranman

Design educator with a Masters of Design degree. 32 years of design experience. View all posts by ranman

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