Mastering the Secrets of Magalog Success,
Part 2 of 3: Organizing Your Design

[Ed. Note: See Part 1 for more information.]

Laying out a magalog is a challenge for every DM designer. But it can also be a very enjoyable (and profitable) experience. It gives you the opportunity to be creative … while still adhering to all the rules of DM design.

Due to the length and complexity of magalogs – with all the design elements, including pictures, graphs, sidebars, and the like – good prep work is key. I approach the preparatory design work by using a list of what I need to do to create a winning design every time.

Here is my checklist:

  1. Study the copy to get to know the prospect.

    One rule stands above all: Always, ALWAYS read the copy. This sounds obvious, but you will be surprised to learn that many seasoned DM designers skip this important step. They think they don't have time to read through the magalog copy, since they are on a deadline and eager to get started with the layout.

    When I first get the copy, I give it a quick read and make notes in the margins when I have an idea or question. Then I read it again, very carefully, to really understand the story, the product, and the offer.

    This is when I put myself into the shoes of the prospects (your readers). I BECOME them. I ask myself lots of questions, like: Am I a 60-year-old male with hip and shoulder pain, looking for a NEW natural joint health product? Am I a female investor – searching for the best way to save for my retirement?

  2. Study the copy again to decide on the magalog's design.

    Once I understand the person who will be reading the magalog, I take a look at the copy again … for the third time. I figure out the BEST way to actually show or present the copy for easy reading and to meet the needs of that particular reader. That is when I choose the number of columns, the fonts, sizes, and formats I will use.

  3. Ask a lot more questions in this phase.

    I ask myself LOTS of questions in this phase, like: How would this person want to see the copy so he or she will read the whole magalog and then want to buy the product? WHEN will this person be reading this? On the weekend? On a bus ride home? While on vacation? AFTER an unsuccessful trip to the doctor?

    I need the reader to look at the magalog and NOT want to put it down until I get their attention. At that point, they cannot stop until they are at the end. If I do a really good job, they read the whole piece … and even keep it for future reference or review. And then they buy the product, which is my main goal.

  4. Conduct photo research.

    After I get to know how I'm going to tackle the design – based on a solid knowledge of my prospect – I decide on the general type of photos or graphics that will look best in the magalog. I sketch out what I'd like to see in which part of the promo, from the front cover to the back cover.

    Then I research to find appropriate photos and graphics. Do I already have things in my library of royalty-free images? Does the client have some that fit my needs? Will I need to purchase royalty-free images (billable to the client)? [Ed. Note: We will be discussing where to find good royalty-free graphics soon, in an upcoming Quick Tip.]

    If possible, I make several choices for each graphic slot in the magalog. That way, once I print my proofs, if my first choice graphic doesn't “sing to me,” I have other options.

  5. Design in chunks.

    My final tip should help you break down the design of a magalog into manageable “chunks.”

    First, design the front and back covers. Send those to the client to make sure you are going into the right direction with the color scheme, headline font, and general feel and look.

    Then, lay out one or 2 pages of copy.

    Next, do the order form. The order form is a very important component, so devote adequate time to it. If it looks confusing or cluttered, the prospect is not going to use it … and probably won't buy the product. Take the time to fill it out yourself. That way, you catch most potential problems before sending it to the client.

    It's important to ask the client for feedback along the way. Don't wait till the end – unless you like redoing everything from the beginning and not being paid for the extra work you've made for yourself.

We're about ready to wrap up our journey into magalog design. In the next issue of Inside Freelance Design, I'll get into how to decide on the number of columns and fonts to use. Until then … happy designing!

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Published: February 9, 2006

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