Contents page design

I thought I’d post some randomly selected contents pages from different magazines… I’ll update this post as I find more interesting pages. This selection was made just from magazines I had immediately at hand, I didn’t go searching for any particular magazine, just grabbed the nearest ones. I also focused on the secondary contents pages… you know, the ones with the regular departments, reviews and other regular content you find in every issue, that are usually templated and easy to find, as opposed to the feature contents page which is usually customized to some degree in each issue. Click the link to see them…

(I’ve posted an image of the page after each text entry….apologies for the image quality, I had to use my camera-phone!)

The first is this one from the February 2008 Wired. I was never keen on Texas Monthly under Scott Dadich’s creative control, and I’m still on the fence about a lot of what he’s changed on Wired, but I do really like this contents page. I think the combo of images and page numbers on the right is interesting looking, and makes me want to see what those images are all about… if you look to the column of text on the left, you see that it’s divided into departments, not individual stories. So you read for example ‘Posts 55‘ then under that in ‘FASHION Hip coutoure monitors your vital signs TERRORISM Quiet on the set! Cue the dirty bomb! STOP-MOTION The evolution of high-speed photography’… so basically a list of stories in that department, but none with their own page number, you have to turn to the begining of that section and read through it to find the story you want. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though sometimes I’m conflicted when trying to decide how much you need to spell out for the reader (on turning to page 55, there’s no mini-contents there, just the start of the first story, and a large graphic in the top right corner (it’s a right-hand page) to indicate you’re at the start of a new department.) Going back to the contents page though, I think it’s easy to read, easily recognisable as a contents page (which I think is vital in a magazine like this which is crammed with full-page ads at the front of the book, tempting the reader to skip through the first third or more of the book), and very visually interesting without going overboard. I also like that the designer held back on using too many colors and graphics, again helping to seperate it from the full-page ad on the right and throughout. It’s also cool that the column of text on the left is just that – easy to read and navigate, allowing you to comletely ignore the use of graphics on the other side of the page if you wish.

Next is the contents page from Huck #0006. I’ve talked before about skateboard magazines, and while I feel it’s unfair of me to lump this into the same category (it’s not a skateboard magazine), I do think it has alot of the same characteristics. It’s trying hard to be different, both graphically and editorially. I think that the expectations set by this genre of magazines allow for the use of some really shoddy photography masquerading as edgy or creative, along with the graphic design. This contents page is consistent with the previous feature well contents page in design and tone, and I like how they’ve labelled sections ‘THE FRONT’ and ‘THE BACK’ (self-explanatory), but I don’t like that there’s nothing there graphically that makes me want to read the magazine. In fact, the only reason I’d want to go on is to see if they continue using this format and how (they don’t).

Here’s the contents page from the February 2008 British GQ. There is A LOT in this magazine! This page is really simple, easy to navigate but maybe a little overwhelming in sheer volume of text. It’s divided up into categories like ‘DETAILS’ (the front of book shorter stuff), ‘CARS’ (self-explanatory), ‘FEATURES’ are at the top, middle of the page, and are given a little more room to breathe, and a larger font on copy and page numbers. In a change from the norm, this is actually the first contents page in the magazine, and when you turn the page you’re greeted by the traditionally first single full page image with the same large date and ‘CONTENTS’ across the top, which I think is good, it cuts down the chances of your reader skipping the entire contents page section completely (you want to be able to tell those advertisers the reader spends some time there, right?). The fonts themselves are easy to read, even on the smaller stuff, and I like that they repeat their fold-out cover at the bottom of the middle section, including running the photo credits (I wonder why they chose to run it with coverlines and banner intact, instead of just the image alone?). Finally, I think the right-hand page placement says that they do value their readers enough not to make them search hard for the contents page (normally I’d expect this to be on a left-hand page so the advertiser could be given prime placement on the right-hand page opposite the contents). Clean, simple and easy to read.

Here we have the April/May 2007 issue of Giant. I really like this page. I’m showing the first of their two contents pages as they’re both formatted identically, and look very similar. The photography is good, it’s easy to scan through the copy at the bottom of the page (though I suspect – but would have a hard time saying exactly why – that readers of this magazine would probably skip the contents pages faster than at other magazines with a similar amount of editorial, regardless of content. Maybe I’m getting that impression because of the photographers names being highlighted so prominently among the text at the bottom…do many of the readers care that much about who photographed who?) although I think labelling or captioning the photos would help a lot, and might tempt readers to spend a little more time here. It’s interesting that they’ve spread the quote or lyric at the top of the page across two pages (it finishes on the next contents page), but I think more could be made of this by actually quoting something really interesting from an interview or story, that would make the reader think “Holy shit! How does it end? I’ve gotta know now!” Graphically interesting, not much that’s challenging to read, but I think if they ever re-thoguht their contents page text and actually decide to bulk it up, they’d be forced to re-design the whole page to actually be functional. So, visually appealing, but functionally inadequate.

The May 7, 2007 issue of New York. One contents page, on what looks like a five-column grid, using the center three columns as a showcase for a compelling quote, photograph and to highlight the other features. The quote could have been a little larger/shorter, or perhaps had a highlighted phrase … I think right now it’s getting a little lost being stuck above the photo. At first glance it looks very classic and classy, and the photography is beautiful. I think the department pages copy at either side of the page is a little small and should have been given some more room to breathe, but unlike Giant magazine above, perhaps the staff at New York assume their readers pick up their magazine and head straight to their favorite column, and don’t need to know as much about what’s there beforehand. The copy size there looks significantly smaller than their regular body-copy used throughout the magazine, so they either backed themselves into a corner and were forced to go with smaller type due to column width, or they just don’t feel the need to have much there to begin with. All together however, I really like it, I think my only big probelm with it is it would be easy to skip right by it as there’s no real call to read anything, or labelling as a contents page… it could almost be a masthead with a photo stuck on.

Explore posts in the same categories: contents pages, design, Magazines, Photography, Why is it like this?

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3 Comments on “Contents page design”

  1. Sharif Mahmud Says:

    I want a design of contents

  2. Brad Teare Says:

    Very nice overview. Thanks.

  3. […] Here there are some websites that I found useful, in them there are analysis of some content pages, and I found these analysis really useful:                                                                                          […]

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