In today’s world of lightning-fast communication and the need for instant gratification, magazine designers have their work cut out for them to capture and hold the attention of readers. Those of us that remember the days of picking up the latest issue of our favorite publication remember the anticipation of the journey of storytelling that lay ahead. Is that art lost? Design teams today must tightly craft publications that visually grab the interest of the reader, and hold their hands through a journey of captive storytelling. Not a simple task, so sometimes we need a little magazine design inspiration to get started.

This month, we shift our focus to higher ed magazines. These publications exist to communicate to their current population of students, parents, and faculty; retain connections with alumni, and showcase the work of their college or university to external audiences and prospective students.

We found five inspiration-filled publications chock-full of magazine design inspiration:

1. Wake Forest University Magazine, Spring 2018 Issue

First Impressions: Let’s just take a minute to talk about that cover. At first glance you might think – it’s a floor. And feet. What could be exciting about that? Well, look a little closer. What a well-executed image showcasing community. Not to mention some very meticulous production work to create a mosaic tile pattern that looks like something right on campus. The addition of the feet – all wearing very different shoes – represents people from different backgrounds and ties right back to the message of the school’s diverse community.

Consistency Throughout: Titled “The Community Issue,” the 104-page publication doesn’t deviate from the theme. Check the box next to “well-executed.” Each page is a celebration of the University’s diverse community – yesterday, today, and into the future. The storytelling is solid, and the design elements thread the articles together seamlessly.

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2. Gonzaga University Magazine, Winter 2018 Issue

First Impressions: Clean, tight design. One thing Gonzaga does right with their magazine is to let the content shine through. Some might label it under-designed (in a good way.) The cover is eye-catching and leaves you curious to read more.

Digging in: The crew at Gonzaga are smart in that they have a distinct design style for the magazine. Page layouts, color palettes, and typography don’t change much from issue to issue. The content shines through (and they maintain their sanity during production.) Sure, they will reach a point when the publication will undergo a redesign to freshen the look, but they’ll get a few good years out of it.

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3. The University of New York at Buffalo, Winter 2018 Issue

Visual magnet: The cover of this issue is nothing short of eye candy. The bright colors and interesting shapes leave readers curious to learn more about the cover story. The only risk to such a strong, visual cover – can the inner pages hold up to it or will it feel disjointed?

What’s Inside: The design elements of the magazine hold the reader’s visual interest and keep pages turning. The designer was smart to bridge the strong cover with another strong image as the “First Look.” The inner pages are busy – filled with interesting visuals and sprinkled with infographics that relate to the stories. When you do make it to the feature story – the subject of the cover – you aren’t disappointed. Eye-catching photographs are sewn together with a well-written feature that paints a picture of the school’s technical theater program.

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4. Harvey Mudd College, Fall/Winter 2017 Issue

It Stands Out: One thing I like about an odd-size publication is that it always stands out from a reader’s magazine stack – be it electronic or physical. The publication’s square shape is a smart design choice. Though it may cause an increase in production and mailing costs, the benefits are worth looking into. The Harvey Mudd design team is another that benefits from consistent design from issue to issue, and with the amount of content packed into this magazine, I’d assume that it helps the production not to have to reimagine the design for each issue.

In This Issue: The cover of this issue caught my eye. There is an interesting contrast between the illustration on the cover and the Harvey Mudd logo treatment. The modern logo on the aged paper of the illustration is not something that you see every day, and I think it works in this case. The designers do a fine job giving each story design details relevant to the topic – something that can make a publication feel disjointed – but again, it works.

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5. Penn Engineering, Fall 2017 Issue

What’s Inside Matters: I’ll be honest. The cover of this issue didn’t wow me, but it is the contents that make this issue a great example of a higher ed publication. The pages are filled with brightly colored, detailed images that capture the reader’s interest leaving them curious to find out more. Great photography and clean design keep the pages turning.

Favorites: The graphic layout of the “New Faculty” and “Honors and Awards” pages are a nice change from the expected presentation. The content is just the right length with nice, bright photos that all have similar background tones.

See this magazine design inspiration for yourself: Click Here