You may not know the answers, but these questions will help direct the piece into being useful to your readers.
What will help?
We have to understand the complexity of the communication process, and simplify the message to make it easy to absorb. Since our readers are normally searching only for limited information at any one time, we must fulfill three critical criteria:
1. Expose the reason why they should bother, which results from our displaying the “what’s in it for me” value in the places they look first: the captions, headlines, pull quotes. Unless those are loaded with gobbets of irresistible bait, the potential readers won’t bite.
2. Organize the stuff for immediate findability and overall typographic clarity, and use signage that pops off the page.
3. Write and design for immediate comprehension.
This blends content with form, editing with design. Our products are a mosaic, synthesizing the meaning of words with the shapes we present them in. What we give our readers and how we show it affects how they interpret and understand it, and later on retain it.
In any conversation, people are readers/listeners/viewers simultaneously and participate in an exchange. Reading is only a one-way conversation, to be sure, but it is a conversation nonetheless. It shouldn’t be a lecture. Be aware of how you are “speaking” visually.
The attention must not be on the visual, but rather on the message. Its graphic component should be transparent. Choose the data that are significant to the viewer, focus on them, make them clear and accessible. Do not focus on the containers of the data.
If you manage to do that, does it matter whether in lousy business times the magazine’s look is mournful or brave in the face of adversity, somber brown or cheerful pink? Does prettiness trigger first-glance attraction? Not really. Substance does, and our most important task is to make that substance jump off the page and bite the reader on the nose by every technique available.