How to Plan a Good Layout

The quality of a text depends on how it is visually designed. A well-chosen and diversified layout supports the message and readability of a text. One of the most important things is the right choice of typeface.

Not only is the quality of a text determined by an appropriate layout, the reverse is also true: a good layout is determined by the text. So we are talking about a correlation. For this reason, it can be beneficial to think about the design as early as the writing stage.

As a graphic designer, your role is to find a fitting form to the content. It's about developing a visual language that supports the written language. By creating an editorial design, you build a dramaturgy. You do this based on content such as texts and images that you receive from the publisher. This is the only way you can estimate the scope, choose a format and make initial, fundamental decisions regarding the design and materialization of the publication.

However, this does not necessarily mean that the text and its composition have to be carved in stone right from the start. Authors and designers can have a frequent exchange and work closely together at an early stage of the project. In a game of ping-pong, they develop a solid concept together, which the designer teases out using rough moods and which the author then fills with content.

In addition to design elements such as photographs, illustrations and colors, typography is a powerful and sometimes underestimated tool in the design of publications. It can take on a wide variety of tasks that go far beyond a simple reading text. Different fonts can be combined in a layout and several weights or text sizes can be used. The right choice of typeface is crucial to give the text the right effect and emphasize its message. 

The following is a guide that can help you create an exciting and versatile editorial design. The list can be used to revise existing content (perhaps in collaboration with the publisher) or to create a vessel for additional content. It gives you an inspiring and systematic overview of possible design elements. However, you will probably find other ways to play with the design. Finally, it's worth saying that we’ll make a rough distinction between three categories: Structuring elements, main and secondary information.

1. Structuring

Structures interrupt the flow of the running text. But not to disturb the reader, but to help them find their way through the text. The task of structuring elements can be to provide breaks. Or they can be orientation aids, as if they were luminous vests in a crowd.

  • Pre-titles and Headlines
  • Concurrent Chapter Information
  • Numbering
  • Paragraphs (maximum 3-4 per page)

2. Main Information

Main information is an integral part of the content, even if it has a different form than the running text. It accompanies the text like a guide leading a group of tourists through the city and making their trip unforgettable. Main information stands above the content, it stands out, is different, maybe more prominent, louder and larger. Nevertheless, it remains short and concise.

  • Lead Texts
  • Subheadings
  • Global Teasers or Summaries

3. Secondary Information

This information is not essential for the text and its comprehension. Secondary information stays in the background. Their design is quiet and delicate. Yet they are important and can enrich the text. They provide the reader with background information, decorate a story, explain keywords, characterize something, encourage the reader to explore a topic in more detail or make data easy to understand and accessible. In short: Secondary information is there when you need it.

  • Indexes (Tables of Contents)
  • Columns (Definitions or Source References)
  • Image Captions
  • Info Boxes (Background Information)
  • Extracted Quotations
  • Tables (Facts or Datasets)
Aaron Aebi
January 23, 2024