Art magazine design is one field where it’s imperative to reach beyond the ordinary for solutions. For this genre the odd, obscure and unusual are a good thing. It’s expected, even the norm. But the other extreme exists too, the ultra classic and laid back approach that makes it clear the designer hasn’t mistaken his craft for fine art, and is not trying to compete with it. It’s a delicate balance: the right design environment will let the art be the center of attention, but it will still establish a strong identity for the publication.
Magazines and spreads about performance art, included here, are another matter. The visual interest comes from the interaction of musician and instrument, the conductor’s cues to his orchestra, dancers’ bodies moving through space doing impossible things. Use the best photos you can find, and remember you need something for visual interest, but you don’t need everything. If you have dramatic photos, keep the layout very simple, and focus on acing the typography.
Art director’s notes: For art magazines, generous use of white (negative) space is key to allow each art work room to breathe. Heads, subheads and titles may be positioned in unusual ways – vertically or on the diagonal, larger or smaller than usual. Captions must include information on dimensions and the media the artist used, and should be placed in close proximity to the art, or clearly keyed to it.
When content is very specific and focused on one type of art, you can either go classic with the layout or reflect the unique qualities of that art form. For example, if you were to design a magazine about African art, you might use graphic elements taken from African art motifs. When the art is mixed, keep the design elements non-specific and consistent.
Always respect the integrity of 2-dimentional art works by showing a piece in its entirety. If you do crop to a detail, say so, and use the word “detail” in the caption. You want to be sure a portion of a painting or drawing is not taken to be the whole — that would distort the artist’s intent.