Size matters a new format for client publications?

Posted by: Paul Keers, Axon

Is there about to be another seismic shift dictating the format of client publications?

For years, customer magazines have sought to echo their newsstand equivalents, from their writing and photography to their look and feel. Format - the physical proportions of a publication - is another of those touchpoints. It's often appropriate for a client publication to mirror the format of a relevant newsstand magazine.

But A4 magazines can often be printed more economically than newsstand formats, and mailed out in standard stationery, which appeals to cost-conscious clients. There's also a sound reason for some A4 publications; they fit within standard office storage systems. So B2B clients, notoriously resistant to the newsstand image, often commission A4 magazines.

Unfortunately, any Creative Director will tell you that A4 is a horrible format in which to work. The solution, for a while, was to cut down A4 into a better shape. This worked well, until Green issues came to the fore in the last decade, and clients became concerned about the waste of paper.

Working for clients, and allying communications to branding, means that many issues other than newsstand association can influence a publication's format. We had a client once who wanted a magazine square, to match their branding. Perfectly feasible, and rather stylish; but it was the custom-made square envelopes in which to mail it out that broke the budget.

And mailing is often a concern with publications. When the Post Office introduced Pricing in Proportion, size suddenly became an issue of real financial concern for any mailed-out communication. Clients wanted their publications "handbag-sized", come what may; with the result that Harrods once circulated a Food Special, which had simply been reduced in size - so much that the copy was smaller than 6pt, and virtually unreadable. Where was their sense of proportion? It demonstrated how simply shrinking an existing layout was not a solution - and how well the Reader's Digest is designed.

But now, there is another physical format nudging at our creative and commercial consciousness - and that is the iPad.

There's already one magazine which matches the iPad proportions - Tap!, from Future. Not surprisingly, it's a magazine about apps.

There's no question that the proportions of the tablet are fast becoming an identifiable format of our age, in the same resonant way as the proportions of a credit card, a CD jewel case, a chequebook or a vinyl record sleeve. To physically associate yourself with a contemporary icon like the iPad can clearly hold value for some brands.

But there's a more significant reason for printing in that format. As many translations from print to iPad have proven, it's perfectly feasible to successfully redesign the pages of a magazine or catalogue for the proportions of the tablet. Yet the costs of that redesign and development would be significantly reduced if the print publisher started with a layout that was iPad sized.

If, in the future, publications are actually launched in both print and tablet versions, will we see more magazines and catalogues echoing that physical size as they are created simultaneously for both formats? How ironic it would be if the device which has so influenced our online reading had an impact on our physical reading too.

Paul Keers, Axon Publishing

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Posted in CMA blog
2ndMar 2012

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