Two-page Magazine Spread

Introduction

If you want to learn about the codes and conventions of print media, especially the key terminology, this guide will take you through the typical features of a two-page spread and help develop your understanding of this media form. We are using the following mock-up to explore the different elements of a magazine:

magazine two page spread mock up

Before we begin, it might be useful to download a copy of the magazine spread.

Verso and Recto

There are two pages in this example. The main story is on the left and the main image of Justin Bieber is on the right. Traditionally, the left page is referred to the verso and the page on the right is the recto. Therefore, we can say the dominant image is on the recto.

Following conventional publishing practices, all recto pages will have odd numbers and all verso pages will have even numbers.

Gutter

If you open a magazine, you will see the obvious dip in the middle where the pages are glued and bound. This area between the verso and recto is known as the gutter and it is usually left blank, so no important information is lost. In our worked example, the gutter is identified by the vertical white line in the middle. Notice how there is a margin between the main story and the gutter. This ensures the reader can access the story without having to flatten the pages down with their hands!

Bleed

Whenever words or images break across these gutter margins, it is known as bleed. For example, the background of the Bieber image bleeds across the gutter or the main headline bleeds across the gutter. Designers use this method to create a visual connection between both pages, so the reader knows they are linked. Aesthetically, it can look good and demand the audience’s attention. If you are developing your own two-page spread for coursework, it might be worth using bleed, but make sure you don’t lose any important information.

Images

In this example, there is an obvious primary image which dominates the spread. Most magazines will also use secondary images. The main image is probably the first thing a reader will see when they flick over the page, so it is crucial you have a good understanding of representation.

Headline

Look for the largest letters on the page and you have probably found the headline. It is usually positioned at the top of the article or page so the reader can identify where the story begins and learn a little more about its content, providing the reader a quick and easy guide to what is going on. A headline can also help anchor our interpretation of the story.

Subheadings can also stand out because of their size and attract attention. They are a useful way to help anchor the reader’s initial interpretation of the article.

Kicker

Look underneath the main headline in our example and you will notice four lines (or decks) of text. This introduction to the article acts as a link between the headline and the rest of the story. In the publishing industry, it is often referred to as the kicker. It should be 30-50 words long and should keep the reader interested in the article.

In this example, it appears below the headline, but it could also be positioned above the title.

Main Copy

In publishing, words are known as copy. The main copy, therefore, refers to the article or story. If you are making your own product, the copy should probably be 10px. 12px might be appropriate for a younger demographic but will look silly to an older audience.

If you are wondering about the “lorem ipsum” nonsense, this text is used by designers as a placeholder until the writer delivers the real story. Photoshop now includes the placeholder when you create a new text layer.

A lot of design choices go into making sure the main copy is appealing and accessible to the reader so there are some more key terms we need to learn.

Main Copy Codes and Conventions

Columns

The main copy in our example is divided into two columns. This standard style is simple but elegant. Notice how the column is left-aligned and there is a ragged-right edge. Again, this is a typical convention in publishing and readers will expect this sort of design. A lot of publications used a justified alignment to make the material look sophisticated.

Alley

The space between columns is known as the alley. It separates the copy, so the reader knows to follow the story into the next line

Lead and Tracking

The space between each line of text (or deck) is known as the lead. A decent gap will ensure the story is easy to read. The space between letter is called tracking. Again, a sensible approach is needed.

Drop Capital

If you look at the first letter of the main copy, you will see it is a large, capital “L”. Its prominence directs the reader’s attention to the start of the article and lets us know where to begin. This is known as the drop capital. The story is then text-wrapped around this letter to make it visually appealing.

Widow

Look closely at the end of the second column. When the final deck contains only one word, it is called a widow. Try to avoid this conclusion because it is considered a design flaw.

Pull-quote

This visual element can be very attractive, but it also breaks up large columns. Pull-quotes are important quotations from the main copy and should help sell the story. Top tip: in your own media product, make sure the pull-quote is not beside the original text. You should also make sure the choice of typeface and font add colour and some drama to the page.

Byline and Photo Credits

byline is simply acknowledging the writer of an article. You might want to include photo credits as well in your own production. It is good practice to identify the source of the materials used in the article.

Folio

You will usually find the folio at the bottom of the page. It is the page number and might be accompanied by the magazine’s logo. These obviously help the reader navigate their way through the magazine and find the stories they are most eager to read.

Further Reading

Thanks for reading!