How to Assesses Your Publication Design
Why do editors and art directors fight over design? Because each views it his own way. Management sees design another way still, and often underestimates its impact on a magazine’s success.
Obviously, everyone wants the product—whether on paper or in electronic form—to look attractive and unique. It’s good for building loyalty, sales and recognition in ad agencies. The readers, however, don’t really give a darn about what it looks like, so long as it delivers what they need. Substance is what they pay for. If the design brings that substance to the casual viewer’s attention, it is fulfilling its highest function. If it helps explain the substance by organizing it into logical components to guide the viewer through faster, blessings on it! If it manages to do all that attractively, well, so much the better. But attractiveness, in and of itself, is not design’s primary purpose, and if it is, then fights become inevitable.
Case in point. There’s a fourth member of the publishing team who regards the design in his own special way: the author. He wants to be made to look important, wise. So when the April issue of Publishing Executive came, I admit I first looked for my column on “Curb Appeal.” When I found it, I thought, “Hey! What happened to the other two drawings I had included? It takes more effort to come up with telling illustrations than words, and I am convinced that pictures pull you in. Yet they’re gone! In their stead, two ugly boxes with shadows that out-shout the dignity of my gentle, simple, instructive piece. And here, instead, is the intrusion of those commercial-looking boxes that look like ads!”
And then I actually began thinking about those boxes. What is their value to the reader? What do they say? Why did the editor pull those thoughts out and ask the art director to display them in such a highly visible way?