using grids and rulers to design effective magazine spreads

Design ideas and design process

The fourth task I chose was to format effective layouts on Indesign. The brief required me to transfer information about ten novels from a website to a magazine spread, and since I’ve always struggled with my Indesign work looking blocky and unrealistic, I decided to challenge myself with this task.

I began this project by researching and analysing real-life magazine spreads to identify conventions and work out what I though worked well and what didn’t. I mainly looked on Pinterest and at physical magazines I had laying around. I was particularly inspired by these two designs:

Figure 1: A magazine spread that inspired me (via:
Figure 2: Another magazine spread that inspired me (via:
Figure 3: My initial sketches, combining ideas I had seen in the magazine spreads I’d researched












I decided to incorporate elements of these spreads into my designs. I was really inspired by the use of columns and the statement title in Figure 1, and the more abstract design and use of a vertical title in Figure 2. I then created some sketches referencing some of the designs I saw and how I could use them (see Figure 3).

Next, I moved to Indesign and followed some tutorials to help me set up grids and columns. Through my research, I had noticed that text arranged in columns was found in almost every layout, so this became something I felt was important for me to do too.

Figure 4: setting up 3 columns
Figure 5: setting up 4 columns

These were two layout designs that I experimented with, but decided I didn’t like so I did not continue them. I didn’t think they felt like magazine spreads and the components did not fit well into columns which is something I wanted to do.





To progress my first idea, I googled how to create drop caps on Indesign, and used this to enlarge the size of my numbers. This created hierachy within my design as the numbers were clear seperators of my text and were suggested as the most important part to look at. I further created hierachy using paragraph styles to select the characteristics of the book titles and the body text. As my design progresses, I could easily change the characteristics of every book title by changing it in paragraph styles. Using paragraph styles was one of the most useful and time-efficent techniques I used.

The progression of my design can be seen below.


I am really happy with the result of this design and think it looks effective and like it could be a real life magazine. I think all the components work well, especially the combination of the bold sans-serif title and the sans-serif body text. I am also happy with my visually exciting colour scheme, and I’m very happy I changed it from the white it originally was, as the lime green is far more eye-catching. I used a very refined colour palette of simply lime green, a darker green shade, black and white. I think this works perfectly, and has a modern feel. I think the image also nicely balances out the composition and the page number and editor name at the bottom make the spread look realistic. Overall I’m really happy with this piece and impressed that I actually managed to make it in Indesign, as I’ve struggled with it so much before.


The progression of my second design can be seen below:

I yet again used grids and paragraph styles to create uniformitivity and make it look like a real life magazine. I had initially started to try and replicate one of my magazine sketches (Figure 5). The design composed of strips alternating in positioning. Once I had started to create this design, I decided to not follow it through as I didn’t see it working for a magazine and looked far too basic. The sideways text was inspired by a magazine I had seen (Figure 2) and I felt like it would add an abstract and fun look to the spread. I remembered how to use the gradient tools from last task so I used a blue gradient background and combined it with a contrasting bright orange title. I then added the rest of the title in white horizontal text to rebalance the composition. I used the grid and paragraph style tools to design and make the book boxes uniformed. The rounded edges of the boxes prevent the grid from looking overly uniformed and blocky.

Overall my aim with this design was to be eye-catching and engaging and to be able to get the most important parts (like the title) across first and then add the other information, with stuff less important (like the listen to/ watch) smaller, which I feel that I have sucessfully achieved.

Software Tutorials

This image taught me about the importance of grids and columns within magazine layouts and inspired some of my inital sketches and then actual designs.

This tutorial taught me about the basics of setting up documents and how to create spreads on Indesign. I found this really useful as I’ve previously been unsure of how to do this and now I know how to in all future designs.

I also followed these tutorials to teach me to set up grids and margins to allow me to create columns of text and arrange my components in an organised design.

I found all of the tutorials I used super informative and easy to follow, and used everything I learnt in my work. The skills I learnt are very transformable and will be extremely useful in my future work as they cover the basics of document set up and grids- which I have learnt from my research are non-negotiable when designing in Indesign.


Design resources and articles

These were the main sources I took my inspiration from:

Figure 1: A magazine spread that inspired me (via:
Figure 2: Another magazine spread that inspired me (via: 
Figure 6: (via:












Studying these images taught me about the conventions of magazine spreads- for example columns of text, images within the grids and titles, as well as ways of subverting these conventions whilst still remaining to look like magazines- for example vertical titles and disordered layouts. Looking at this variety of styles of magazine design helped me to develop a range of my own ideas, using some conventions and subverting others.


Learning throughout the module

Throughout this module, I have noticed a significant improvement in my design skills across all 3 platforms. Whilst I began this project still very unsure of how to use Indesign and avoiding it all costs, I’ve ended it far more confident in my ability to create effective designs and being able to bring my visions to life. I’ve learnt how to use the table features and layout features (such as grids and columns), as well as becoming more confident in paragraph styles and developing my skills in specific parts like using drop caps, gradients and creating hierachy. Similarly, my knowledge and skills using Photoshop have advanced, learning how to remove parts of images using the clone stamp tool, edit colours in images using the hue/ saturation and using a range of filters and the negative mask shortcut (option + new mask) to smooth skin. Furthermore in Illustrator- which I was already fairly confident with to begin with- I learnt how to use the Variable Width Profile tool,  Offset Path and the shape builder tool to remove the area around the strokes which overlapped the letters, the ‘shear’ tool to manipulate shapes, the perspective grid tool and the pen tool.