I want to design a startup newspaper or magazine: Where to start?

So you want to design a startup newspaper or a brand-new magazine? You may wish to try this yourself, or considering hiring someone to create prototypes and a template for you. Here are some thoughts and links to get you going, from Ron Reason News Design. (I have designed quite a number of startups, as well as redesigned many existing publications.) Want more input? Feel free to write me at ron (at) ronreason.com:

  • Start by writing up a mission statement for your publication. What are you going for in terms of content? Audience? Brand identity? This will help drive your design.
  • What size and shape will the publication take? A broadsheet might be more serious and traditional, but a tabloid might convey something more fresh. It will also be much cheaper to print, and waaaaay easier to produce. Your decision may be impacted by conversations with printers about what formats they can print, and at what price.
  • What about your logo, and font mix? A great logo is a foundation for a new publication – it should be designed well, with integrity, and be able to proudly sit atop  your publication, as well as your website and on your business cards. Your font mix will say whether you are conservative or traditional, or if you are fresh, modern, new.
  • Research your software needs. Most newspapers and magazines are produced on Adobe Indesign (having moved away from QuarkXpress in recent years). As a publisher or editor you may or may not have to have this software, but your designer or consultant will.
  • Take a keen eye to how your publication will court advertisers. To get advertisers on board, it will be critical to show them as clearly as possible what the new publication will look like – with their ads in place. (You either need to mock them up, or ask potential advertisers to share high-resolution image files with you, of ads they have placed in other media.) You need to stand out in the market.
  • Start with prototypes, end with a press test. Prototypes or sample pages will help you know whether you are headed in the right direction; once you determine your “look and feel,” assemble enough sample pages to create a realistic press test. (Some printers will do this for free to get your business.)

It’s not impossible to start up a newspaper or magazine these days, but these are some of the things you will need to think through at the start.

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