The Importance of Layouts and Templates

Whether you’re a design newbie, or a seasoned veteran, sitting down to create a new publication can be a daunting task. There’s nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank page, feeling stuck, and unsure of where to begin. It’s often easier to change things that don’t work for you, than to completely start from scratch, which is why we suggest starting with an existing document. It can be the design of a similar publication, or a simple template that has preloaded margins, column guides and style sheets, that you can quickly adjust for a head start. The advantage of dong this, it that the basics of the page are already in place so you can focus on your content and styling.

Why use a template?

Whether you are creating a 12-page or 120-page publication, if you plan to create a series with the same style, you’ll definitely want to invest the time to develop style sheets, and come up with a few layouts that you can repurpose each time you publish. This will help you keep a visual consistency not only throughout each publication, but also from publication to publication over time.

Some of our publishers have done a great job of this, and you can see how it helps reinforce their brand to have consistent styling throughout each publication.  Check out a few issues of Hacker Monthly or Livestrong, or portfolios by professional photographer David Livingston and you will see what we mean. Each of these publishers have developed a consistent style using templates that is unmistakably and identifiably their own.

Not an expert at design? No problem. Using a professional-looking template can increase your credibility, and make any publisher look like a pro. Find a template that has a style that resonates with you and use it as a springboard to get yourself started. You can see some great examples of this in our blog post Easy Design with Templates in Apple’s [iWork] Pages, where we turned a basic Symphony Program into a business services guide for an event planning company, a sports team yearbook, and a fashion magazine, with just a few changes in font, colors and photography.

Finding Templates
Where to look and what to look for…

Some software comes equipped with built-in templates, and you can also find great free and paid templates online at the companies’ websites, like Microsoft has for Word and Publisher here, or Adobe has for InDesign at Adobe.com

Still can’t find what you need? Other resources exist where you can buy specific designs for your needs and many of these sites make their templates available for a variety of design programs like Inkd and Stocklayouts.com.

When picking your templates, there are a number of things to consider for your publication:

1. Is this template for an 8.5″ x 11″ document? If it’s designed as a 17″ x 11″ spread, do I know how to adjust it to the right size?

2. What sort of page-layouts are included in the template?

3. Does the template have the right ratio of graphics to text for my needs?

4. Are there hidden layouts that I don’t see? * Hint: if you are using iWorks Pages, there probably are!

5. Does the style suit the audience I am trying to reach? If not, is it easily changed with a few font/color tweaks?

6. Don’t feel restricted by the stock photography or color palette used in a template. Keep in mind our example of the Symphony Program being transformed into a fashion magazine or an event planner’s business collateral

7. Ask yourself, “This template isn’t designed for my specific use-case, but does the overall layout and feel fit my purpose? Could I transform it into something that works?”

Ready to customize your template?
A few tips for making any template fit your needs.

– Unless you get a template directly from our blog, you will likely have to alter some of their settings to accommodate MagCloud’s printing requirements. Before you start making any edits to your template, be sure the document settings match those in the MagCloud Help Section.

– When you make changes to fonts and colors, always do this by editing the font or paragraph style sheets. This way, if you don’t like a change that you have made, it will be easy to adjust and will change that style use on all of the pages of the template.

– Always start with the original file and make 2 or 3 versions, each with different fonts or colors. Then save each as it’s own template so that you can compare them and easily decide which one you like best.

Ready, Set, Start Publishing!

Now that you have your template selected, it’s up to you to make it your own. Need a bit of extra help? Check out our other Tips & Tricks blog posts, or visit the help sections of your software’s site. Many of them have great how-to resources and videos to help you on your way.

Adobe InDesign

Microsoft Office

iWorks Pages

3 thoughts on “The Importance of Layouts and Templates

  1. John 29 Sep 2011 / 4:27 AM

    So MagCloud doesn’t provide downloadable templates anymore?

      • Brooke 3 Feb 2015 / 11:27 PM

        Can you design a pdf in adobe acrobat? What specs shoud I use?

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