In my role as an art director at the game company, Wizards of the Coast, I spent a few years on magazine direction and design. Magazines are a lot of fun and provide a plenty of opportunities for creative exploration. While not every layout can be a hit, with magazines the shelf-life of the mediocre is only 30 days...so the life expectancy provides a low-risk environment for creative ideas.
Here are a few sample spreads and some thoughts about my work in magazines.
Another fascinating aspect of art-directing a monthly is narrow production schedule. While one issue is being printed, the next one is in late design and editorial review. While that issue is in review, the following one has the illustrators and photographers furiously working away and sending in sketches for approval, (while the authors and editors finalize their side of the work). Finally, there are planning meetings for upcoming issues that need to be considered.
Sometimes there are tons of words to work with and sometimes there are few. The editorial design of magazines needs to supply the reader with an interesting presentation and lure them into the article. Lots of people, myself included, read a random passage or paragraph to figure out if the information is worthwhile before starting at the beginning. For these folks we include lots of subheads and pull-quotes to allow them to sample and get their bearings about the content.
Periodically there's an opportunity or need for an illustration. In cases where the need for an illustration reveals itself too late to commission a piece, I might create a graphic. The editor in chief loves this because it's one less hard cost to worry about.
Of course a great illustration will pull an article together in a way that nothing else can. Occasionally an illustration arrives with a surprising color palette. This can be built into some interesting spreads featuring colors one might never have considered.