Friday, October 7, 2016

Some ideas for designing square-tab pages from AARP

When newspaper publishers decided to save money by reducing page widths on broadsheet pages and page heights on tabloid pages, they created some awful canvases for page designers. When The Orion switched to a square tab last year, it took some time for the paper's design staff to recognize they needed to treat the full page the way they had treated each individual story when they were designing a broadsheet. In most cases, though, they were still seeing a single page rather than a spread, at least from a design standpoint.

So, I've been looking around for examples of successful designs in this 11-inch by 11-inch square. I like what the AARP Bulletin has been doing with its paper because Design Director Todd Albertson and his team have figured out how to minimize the shortcoming of the square.

Some examples from this month's issue:

This single page is pretty typical for the Bulletin. Notice the page label at the top separated by lots of white space from a simple bold, all-caps headline and a dek. A sidebar gets extra graphic treatment 

Longer pieces get a facing-pages treatment with a large headline in the top left corner of the left page and an explanatory dek. Notice the use of subheds to break up type and an infographic that ads editorial color on the right page. No jump lines necessary with this layout, by the way.

Standing features in magazines are called departments. The Bulletin identifies them for readers with a heavy blue horizontal line. Notice how the art elements are used on this page and the pages above. Again on this page, the headline is position in the top left corner with plenty of air surrounding it and not stretched across the top of the page, which is the default for The Orion page design. I think this approach helps the page look less cramped and squat. 

Another two-page spread, this one with art at the bottom of the first page and at the top of the second page. Notice, too, the use of the sidebar on the right page. There's a lot of text here, but it doesn't seem overwhelming because of the placement of the art and the dominance of the left-page photo. Notice, too, that all these stories have headlines and deks -- headlines to draw the reader into the story, deks to provide additional information about the story to help readers decide if they want to read further.

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