Naturally, it should look great. It has to be completed on a deadline. And if you can get it done at low cost, so much the better. An obvious solution is to do it yourself with a magazine design template. There are loads of them on the internet. And if you already know a bit of InDesign, how hard can it be? It might even be fun, a chance to break out of the daily slog and indulge your creativity…
We understand the temptation. But before you Google ‘free magazine template’ take a few minutes to read on. We’ll explain why they’re a bad idea.
Only if you’re already familiar with InDesign! And even if you do have a bit of know-how, bear in mind that InDesign has lots of features and wrinkles. If your template uses a couple of tools you’re not familiar with, you’ll waste time figuring out how to use them.
Ask anyone who’s done magazine design as a profession and they’ll tell you that even the simplest magazine layout needs some thought. A template just doesn’t allow for it – it’s a “one size fits all” approach. If you’ve seen a template you like, compare the length of text to your articles. Will they actually fit comfortably? If not, that’s a headache you’ll have to sort out yourself.
Nobody will dispute that a $25 template is cheap when you compare it to professional magazine design. But it’s a false equivalence. When you hire a professional designer you’re paying for someone who’ll dedicate their expertise, skills and experience to make your magazine look great. When you use a template you’re buying an off-the-shelf product. After that you’re on your own.
The best magazine design should be almost invisible to your readers. The designer’s job is to create layouts that aid reading. That means making them attractive – but not so over-designed that they distract attention from the articles.
That means striking a balance, and it’s a balance that can vary from article to article (and even page to page). A magazine designer understands this and uses their experience to balance design and readability throughout the entire publication.
A magazine template will always be generic. It has to be, otherwise it won’t attract any buyers. But a professional designer will create a magazine that precisely suits your articles, your brand and your readers.
Even if you use a template aimed at your industry – business, food or fashion, say – it’ll still look generic. It will be designed to look like a typical magazine in that sector. Templates are a bad idea if you want your magazine design to stand out from the crowd.
Here are some magazines we work on:
SaaS Mag is the definitive publication for the software as a service (SaaS) sector. SaaS Mag is subdivided into different sections, each with a distinctive look. You don’t get that with a template! What’s more, SaaS Mag is in a non-standard size. Good luck finding a magazine design template that isn’t A4 or ANSI Letter format…
Hometalk is the residents’ magazine from Soha Housing Association. Since we began working on Hometalk a few years ago we’ve resized it and adapted it following a rebrand. If your magazine represents a brand, an inflexible template is not the way to go.
Zerb is the magazine of the Guild of Television Camera Professionals (GTC). The bespoke design means we can be flexible with what goes where on the page. So our layouts always show the images at their best.
If you’re looking at an eye-catching InDesign magazine template, take a closer look. Be critical. Is it just a showcase for beautiful photography? How strong is the page composition, and will your content fit? If you have doubts, talk to an experienced magazine designer instead.
Designing a magazine for print comes with a load of technical considerations too. Unless you know what you’re looking for, how will you know the template covers these? You could be facing a missed deadline while your print supplier fixes the problems.
Above all, a professional magazine designer has tonnes of experience. So you can count on getting good advice. Your designer will tell you if an image won’t work well on the cover, for example.
So think again if a magazine design template seems like a cheap fix. It may cost you far more time and hassle than you expect. A professional magazine designer can take care of all these headaches for you. Your magazine will look great, and may not be as expensive as you think.