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6-step process to create, design and print an A4 magazine

We won’t lie, you have to do a lot of planning and make a lot of decisions before you can get the first edition of any bespoke printed magazine in your hands.

Step 1: Research and decide on your audience and key theme

First things first…you need to decide on an audience for your magazine and a key theme or concept for your magazine that aligns with this target audience. If you haven’t got an agreed target audience then take inspiration from your customer base, prospects or other personas that you might have. Your audience will probably look very different in 12 publications time but having a starting point, will help you immensely throughout the creative process when producing your first edition.

Key theme

Your key theme is the link that essentially threads the whole magazine or your series of magazines together. If you look at any range of successful printed publications you will be able to notice that each has an identity and that the theme/s that each of these has, reflects this. For example, Empire magazine is about cinema; Men’s Health is about fitness, nutrition and lifestyle; Print Life is fundamentally all about…print. Although all of these publications have their nuisances and do take detours, a tenuous link will always be present in articles to keep it relevant to the intended audience. After all, how can you create articles that are of interest to your audience, if all of your articles are always left field? Another option is to theme the editions of your magazine, it’s a surefire way to bring articles together that otherwise might seem out of place when placed next to other articles.

Why are the theme of the magazine and the audience so important?

Combining your key theme and target audience will help you to narrow down and decide on the look and feel of your A4 printed magazine. Take Empire, they target cinema and movie lovers; so the content of the magazine as well as the design reflects this. The cover will always feature the biggest new releases and reference the latest news surrounding the films that are in the works, as this is what resonates with their readers.

Unlike media magazines, corporate magazines have themes that closely relate to their business’ services and products, as well as their customer base, to help them market more of their offering. This isn’t a rule of thumb though, there is no reason that you can’t have a theme that isn’t directly associated with your offering. Take a travel agency for example, they could produce a magazine about cooking that features recipes and food tips from around the world, if this is what appeals to your audience. Alternatively, your target audience could be just a fraction of, or even an expansion of, your current customer base. E.g. a cookware seller with a broad customer base could decide to create a custom magazine specifically aimed at vegetarians, if they wanted to create a specific touchpoint that would connect with this segment.

Top Tip: If you are drawing a blank regarding a theme for your magazine then why not take inspiration from current trends and what is already on the market…gather different magazines from a range of companies and check how they portray their style and content. From here you can then pick out aspects of the magazines that you like as inspiration, before thinking of ways to put your own spin on them.

magazine and postit notes

Step 2: Concepts, article ideas and imagery

Once you know your key theme and audience, it’s time to start thinking of article concepts, imagery and tone of voice. At this stage, it’s also wise to decide on the number of pages that your magazine will have. Top Tip: Most magazines have a 4 page cover on a different paper stock to their inner text pages, the smallest page count is typically 4 pages cover with 32 text pages.

When it comes to writing your articles, remember that your articles will typically stem from your theme and that your imagery will stem from from the content within your articles. It’s also worth considering the tone in which you want to write your articles. The language and tone of voice used to write your articles is most likely going to be determined by your brand guidelines, your audience and the writer’s personality. Considering all of these factors together, instead of in isolation further down the creative process, will not only make conceptualising your magazine far easier but it will speed up the entire process.

Step 3: Writing articles and turning your image ideas into reality

Before you create your design brief, you ideally need to have finalised your written content – this way, your designer knows what needs to be included in the magazine…it will also help them to organise the articles, space and imagery in the best way possible. You will likely need to edit the copy and styling once your first draft has been completed by your designer, having it 90-95% of the way there though will again save you time in the long run. Top Tip: if you have content within your magazine that you need to be approved by a third party, then get these pages designed first so that they have time to be edited if necessary.

As previously mentioned, when writing your articles we advise that you stick within the same branding and tone of voice that you use for your other content (such as current blogs and adverts), to keep a level of consistency. You can however push these boundaries.

Articles within custom magazines allow businesses, that may only otherwise only ever offer very corporate communications; the opportunity to show both their personality and the breadth and depth of their industry/product knowledge in a way that might benefit their customers or prospects. Top Tip: Remember to break down your final content into bite-sized chunks that are easy to read, then source images that lend themselves to your articles.

Tick box guide to writing articles for magazines:

  • Write
  • Read
  • Proofread
  • Ask for feedback (and approval if necessary)
  • Repeat…until you are happy with your article.

Use it, don’t lose it

If you are short of time but you regularly produce well written and engaging content for your blog, then you can still very easily create your own custom magazine. A lot of research and effort usually goes into producing blogs and more often than not, a lot of content is cut in order to achieve a particular word count or layout. Instead of losing it, use this ‘cut’ content to form the basis of one of your articles…statistics, research and facts work particularly really well for this. In some cases, it may even be appropriate to add in rewritten snippets from your blog posts - avoid duplicating content though as your custom magazine is the perfect place to deliver exclusive content.


Step 4: Creating a design brief and communicating with your designer

Bringing your ideas to life is an essential part of creating your magazine. In order to do this, you need to construct a brief that clearly details your vision, expectations and details everything that is important to turn your concepts into a printed publication. Designers aren’t mind readers, so detail everything you can and follow up the written brief with a meeting or call. This way, everyone can be on the right track. Communicating deadlines is particularly important at this stage, as you don’t want to run of time to perfect your design or get your magazine printed.

A great way of delivering the copy and images that you want within your magazine brief, is to do it on a page-by-page basis; alongside with layout, colour palette and imagery that you would like for each article. Top Tip: Designers are visual people so instead of using 500 words to describe how you would like your article formatted, why not insert a picture or include a mockup or sketch.

What to include in a design brief:

  • Your goals and how you will measure success
  • Your target audience
  • Any deliverables and deadlines
  • An overview of the entire project
  • All content (copy and images on a page-by-page basis)
  • Inspiration
  • Adjectives to describe the look, tone and feel that you wish your magazine to have
  • Budget

Once the designer has created the first design draft, go through this with a fine-tooth comb and feedback on everything…ensure nothing is missed. Two sets of eyes are also better than one so once you have checked the magazine yourself, get someone else to do so as well. Even if they only offer one additional opinion on a few pages, these suggestions might be the making of your magazine.

When feeding back your changes, don’t forget to document what you are discussing with examples and explanations. This way, there is a record of all requests that everyone can refer back to. The easiest way to do this is by using a proofing software to record and share your feedback and amends with the designer. If necessary, you can also follow up with a screen sharing call to check that nothing has been lost in translation.

Step 5: Print my magazine

Once you have finalised your design and have the print-ready artwork files then it is time to find a commercial printer to print your magazine. Here at Real Print, bringing magazines to life is our speciality. When you order from Real Print we will print your magazine using our own state-of-the-art machinery, onto the same high-quality stock (unless you change your specification) to ensure that you will get the same great result every time. Let’s face it, after all the hard work you will have put into researching and designing your custom magazine, you don’t want to be let down. For any enquiries regarding any type of print that you need, please do get in touch, we’re here to help.

Step 6: Magazine delivery

Once you have taken delivery of your print order then you will need to distribute your custom magazine to your intended audience. How? The possibilities are endless. Here are just a few for you to consider:

  • A direct mail campaign – delivering your magazine straight to your customers’ front door.
  • Royal Mail door drop marketing – great for localised or demographic targeting.
  • Handing magazines in-store or at events.
  • Leaving some of your printed magazines at a network of distribution points.
  • Sending out your magazine with your customer orders, enquiries or invoices.

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