Attract Magazine Readers with Short-Form Columns

If you publish a periodical of any kind, you want to build your fan base.

But this can’t happen if people won’t start browsing. That’s why the short-form column is your secret weapon! Shorter items, called briefs, may consist of reviews, letters from readers, graphic pages, or mini editorials. For many readers, the heart of a magazine is not in the middle, where in-depth feature articles are tucked away; it’s at the edges.  

Briefs pages are essentially a little newspaper within a magazine, offering bite-sized ideas in a visually friendly format. They are most suited toward casual, brisk, or humorous articles, and they are irresistible because they are mentally grazable and visually attractive.


Reel In Readers with These 5 Irresistible Brief Formats

When building your brief pages, here are several formats to try:

1. Linear

The most traditional brief uses a linear layout, which is the most efficient format for text-heavy pages.

Like a two-column “Editor’s View” (a capstone article just inside the front cover), conventional briefs bring a no-nonsense approach your readers will appreciate.

If you use a linear layout where one story flows into the next in a continuous stream of text, add design elements that communicate the bigger theme of the entire page. Headlines should not break across columns; art elements should be inserted or items reordered to achieve a visually engaging journey.

2. Layered

Layered briefs add more and more small elements to a page until it is stuffed full.

A layered brief might include six separate stories, three photos, a cartoon, and text boxes or arrow bars. Layered pages are enjoyable to read but even more fun to create!

3. Collage

Collage layouts use art and text as equal partners, with more visual elements per text block than a traditional brief.

For cohesiveness, place related text and images in proximity to each other. And it is usually wise to separate grid blocks using white space (versus lines or dots) so different items pop.


4. Art-Driven 

This format takes a “go big” approach, often characterized by one-item-per-page layouts.

Art layouts nicely compliment more text-heavy pages, adding a luxurious tone and giving readers a mental break.

5. Alternative Story Form (ASF)

Do you learn more by reading or by watching?

Viewers who prefer the latter will appreciate ASF pages presenting information through a graphic, map, chart, or table. Infographics have exploded over the past few years and are a sharp addition to any briefs section. Though these pieces are time-consuming to create, they are highly entertaining. And they convey a wealth of information in a fraction of the time a full article requires.

Like what you see? Your customers will too. Use various short-form columns as intellectual “toys,” inviting the reader to explore your pages and dive deeper into your brand.

Designing Magazines

by Jandos Rothstein

How does a designer create graphic solutions to the behind-the-scenes editorial challenges at a magazine? Designing Magazines is the complete guide to understanding the inner workings of magazines and their day-to-day management--and a great guide to using that knowledge to create visually stunning, editorially effective magazines, in both new designs and rebranding. Thirty-five experienced editors, designers, and consultants, all at the top of their fields, present their insights on the goals and process of magazine design. Chapters focus on problems faced by designers, ethical considerations, the future of the field, and many more relevant but rarely discussed issues. A look at magazines that have risen above the crowd to achieve special social importance--and how design has been a part of that success--provides additional inspiration for magazine designers everywhere.