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Editorial spreads: How copy changes affect layout

Editorial spreads, design, tips

Have you ever wondered what happens to an editorial design when a significant number of words are added or removed? Probably not, and why should you, that’s the job of the designer. Perfecting the layout of an editorial spread is a balancing act for any designer. They must assess the amount of copy for the spread, see what images need including and conform to the style and guidelines of the publication. But what happens when the word count significantly changes? Redesign!

Below is an example (fictional) magazine/newsletter spread which has been laid-out to fit a 660 word article.

Example editorial layout 660 words

Removing 100 words from the layout

Say, for example, that the author/editor changes the amount of copy and decides to lose 100 words from the article. The designer can’t just remove the words as the design will look unbalanced.

100 words removed without redesign

As you can see, the article doesn’t have the same flow as the original. Is is apparent that text has been removed as the space in the last column doesn’t look intentional. What the designer must do, in this circumstance, is redesign the spread to make the copy fit once again. This doesn’t take as much time as designing the original layout but it takes much more time than just deleting the unwanted copy. After the designer has reworked the design, the page looks like this:

100 words removed – redesigned spread

At first glance, the design is not obviously different. The main image and title have moved slightly to accommodate the amended article. The strapline has been repositioned and made deeper to distribute the text better and the quote has been moved and enlarged to balance the remaining white space. In most cases, the elements on the spread cannot change when text amends are made so they have to be repositioned to make an aesthetically pleasing spread.

Adding 100 words to the layout

Adding a few paragraphs to an article also results in a redesign. The designer cannot simply add more text to the layout as there isn’t room. Even by removing the quote, they still have 42 words that don’t fit.

100 words added without redesign

Again, they must rework the elements on the page to accommodate the new text. There is no longer room for the quote to be an element by itself, so it has been moved over the image. Both of the images have been reduced in size to allow the extra text to fit. The reworked spread now has the balance of the original spread.

100 words added – redesigned spread

The redesigned spreads are not, at first glance, drastically different from the original spread. However, time has been spent rebalancing them and getting the amended text to work in harmony with the spread. It might only seem like a small amend, but to the designer, it needs care and attention – not just resizing text boxes. We know that copy cannot always be supplied that doesn’t need changes making to it later, but the closer the word count can be to the original, the less redesigning time goes on the job.

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