The digital magazine industry is flourishing, with steady growth projected over the next five years. Brush up on your magazine design skills to stay ahead of the competition.
Digital newspapers and magazines are predicted to reach 1.88 billion users by 2027. With a rapidly increasing demand for digital magazine designers, adding magazine design skills to your toolbox is a wise investment.
Understanding how magazine design skills differ from those needed for crafting an online portfolio or small business website is crucial. The distinction lies in recognizing how users interact with digital magazines.
When readers visit a business website or a portfolio, they’re often skimming and looking for specific information. But readers engage with online magazines by immersing in long-form articles, browsing through different sections, and expecting rich, multimedia content.
Magazines excel in this domain — they deliver in-depth, high-quality content you read from start to finish because you enjoy the experience.
As a designer, you can help publishers by crafting an enjoyable online experience for readers that enhances readability and combines writing, images, and web design to keep readers engaged with the high-quality content the magazine offers.
Exploring online magazine examples in detail helps you understand how to design for these projects. Read on to learn essential tips for designing a winning layout for magazines and see those design principles in action with actual magazine designs.
4 tips for creating strong digital magazine designs
Translating the print magazine experience into digital form means paying particular attention to layout, images, typography, and interactive features. Follow these tips to make a good digital magazine into a great one.
1. Put enticing content above the fold
In many ways, online magazine layout design parallels the print layout. In a print newspaper, for example, content that’s above the fold is everything on the top half of the front page, which is immediately visible when the newspaper is folded or displayed.
Just as people decide whether to buy a newspaper based on what’s above the fold, visitors to your website decide to stay or bounce based on what they see before they scroll. Ideally, your digital magazine should have at least one attractive image and a compelling headline above the fold, signaling to viewers that further engagement is worth their time.
2. Use high-quality, original images
Studies show that images make online content more popular, but not all images are equal. An eye-tracking study found that photos of real people attract more attention than text, but the opposite is true for generic stock photos: People’s eyes skip right over them. If your budget allows it, invest in a professional photographer who can visually tell each story alongside the text.
3. Prioritize functionality and aesthetics in your typography choices
Typographic design carefully balances personality and readability. Both in print and online, designers often use a display typeface (for example, an all-caps, graffiti, or handwriting font) for headings and a more standard, highly legible typeface for the body.
In digital publishing, there’s an additional concern: web-friendliness. If you want your magazine to look the same to everyone, you’ll need to choose a web-safe font (a font preinstalled on most devices) or a web font (a font hosted on the web).
4. Take advantage of interactivity (but don’t overdo it)
When reading a print magazine, you scan the table of contents to find an interesting article, open the magazine to that page, and settle down to read. Make it just as effortless for readers of your online magazine to find the content they’re most interested in. Offer readers seamless access to their desired content through a hyperlinked table of contents or by categorizing articles according to type and theme.
Before incorporating flash elements, consider the reader’s perspective. Avoid overwhelming them with auto-play videos, parallax effects, and elaborate animations to let them focus on the text.
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4 digital magazines that are getting it right
These four digital magazines combine style with substance for a delightful reading experience.
1. GRID Magazine
GRID Magazine is an award-winning indie travel publication from the Philippines. GRID’s beautifully presented articles dive deeply into Filipino culture and take the reader on unique and fascinating travel experiences.
This magazine’s landing page has a clear visual hierarchy, with the extensive feature article image drawing and holding visitors’ eyes first before they move to the two smaller images. GRID’s designers pair serif fonts and sans-serifs to add visual interest, combining all-caps headers in DIN Pro Condensed and body text in the elegant wedge serif Blacker to create an elegant and interesting font pairing.
GRID, active since 2014, boasts an extensive archive and offers readers diverse browsing options by content type and topic. GRID staff curates special digital collections of articles on the same theme. For example, the “Myth, Magic, and Cities” collection presents pieces on traditional Filipino medicine, common superstitions, and taho, a delicious childhood snack. This flexible yet structured information architecture is an outstanding content-first design example.
GRID also offers their readership a regularly updated news feed of cultural events, festivals, and contests to keep them updated on events of general interest.
Cultourista, designed by Mia Freitas, is a tourist-oriented magazine created by Portuguese locals. The magazine’s visuals are crisp and vibrant, with a minimalist layout and an aqua-based color scheme reminiscent of Portugal’s iconic beaches.
Cultourista incorporates ample stunning imagery within its feature articles, showcasing the tourist attractions. Instead of heavily promoting subscriptions, the magazine subtly includes a newsletter sign-up field and social media icons in the footer of each page, inviting interested visitors to engage further.
Adding a unique touch for future tourists, each page of Cultourista’s site features a useful Portuguese phrase, such as “até logo” (“see you later”), “boa tarde” (“good afternoon”), and “à nossa” (“cheers”).
3. Dog Learner
Dog Learner, an educational magazine for dog lovers curated by canine professionals, delves into various topics like nutrition, behavior, training, and breeds. On its landing page, designer Claude Robert Lefort presents five articles above the fold, achieving a well-balanced layout without visual overload. By placing the primary article in the center, increasing its size, and accompanying it with extra text, the design creates a clear visual hierarchy that encourages reader engagement.
Dog Learner’s design uses charming visuals to connect with dog lovers as they explore different parts of the site. Their logo and favicon is a stylized dog with perky ears, creating a consistent and recognizable brand identity. A photo of this same dog pops up on the newsletter sign-up page, encouraging readers to subscribe. In a creative twist, the about us page showcases a dog playfully holding the founder’s photo in its mouth, adding a personal touch while reinforcing the magazine’s canine-centered focus.
4. Brush Up Mag
Brush Up Mag, a trade publication catering to artists and illustrators, adopts a distinctly different approach from Dog Learner and showcases a single full feature article above the fold. However, the web design subtly encourages readers to scroll down by providing glimpses of the tops of other images. This strategy complements the nature of an art magazine, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the featured artwork without the distraction of multiple front-page options.
In contrast to GRID, Brush Up Mag doesn’t have an extensive archive. For that reason, the designers present all past articles within a single, unified grid. Each article in the grid includes a title, a category tag, and a vibrant thumbnail that showcases each featured illustrator’s work. This approach is helpful for newer magazines with small archives.
Webflow makes digital magazine creation a delight
These four digital magazine examples are just a tiny taste of what’s possible. Different types of magazines bring their own design challenges: In a business magazine geared toward the general public, for example, you might focus on offering various browsing options (like sorting by topic or type of article), while in a niche publication for avid metalworkers, you might lean heavily on high-quality photos.
If you’re creating an online magazine and want to jump-start your design, consider browsing our collection of Webflow magazine templates. The right template creates a structure you can adapt to suit your site or web app.
With Webflow’s visual website builder, you might swiftly create one of the most popular magazines on the web.