I’ve been designing magazines, brochures and a wide variety of printed documentation for over twenty years now and I have to admit that I have not seen a news magazine better designed than The Economist.
The Economist’s design is so intelligent and user friendly from page one that I have no idea how it can be improved upon as a news magazine.
The Economist follows a multi-layered nested design that reels the reader in from a very general level of introduction to serious in-depth reports, in a step-by-step fashion, with extremely well researched, fact-filled and superbly written news articles supported by sharp-witted photo captions, maps and illustrations.
The Front Cover of the magazine is a testimony to the considerable thought that went into its design. All the major news stories of the week are summarized on the front cover with Pensivly short titles, right next to the bright read trademark logo so that you can have a pretty good idea about the “news leaders” of the week without even looking inside.
The second level of information presentation consists of the CONTENTS list. Here all stories and columns are listed sequentially, by page numbers, which is pretty standard across the industry. However, Economist also telegraphs which stories are more important than the others by including screen boxes for the prominent stories. Such summary-boxes include a photo or drawing that captures the essence of the story, plus a few sentences and page numbers so that you can immediately jump to the story itself.
Next comes THE WORLD THIS WEEK pages which greets us with a short paragraph devoted to all the major stories of the week. Here the shorts are offered under thematic headlines and not by the physical order in which they appear in the magazine which aids comprehension and retention considerably.
On the third level of this magnificent information design, we are welcomed to LEADERS – those news stories that require serious attention. Usually 3 or 4 LEADER stories are each given a full page of detail, followed by minor leaders each of which typically takes half a page.
This is followed by LETTERS – a colorful breathing space where well-informed and usually witty reader letters are shared.
The “real magazine” begins after all these preparatory presentations, when the reader is “warmed up” properly with care, so that if you are too busy to digest the magazine cover to cover (quite a feat in itself) you can just read the shorts of THE WORLD THIS WEEK and/or a few of the LEADER stories and get the gist of what’s going on around the world.
The icing on the Economist’s cake is the SPECIAL REPORT located in the center of each issue. These reports are so timely and so detailed, I end up saving some of them even long after the magazine itself is sent to the trash bin. I have no idea how many writers and researchers are preparing these magnificent reports but quite a few of them are good enough to form the outline of a perfect master’s thesis in many universities around the world.