Spy Magazine

TURN THE CORNER Above, Spy Magazine gleefully presented flipped spreads whenever the material needed it. Below, this powerful opening image from Practical Horseman demands extra attention presented vertically.


Go Deep

Surprise your readers with a twist (of the wrist)


Magazines are horizontal. Just because it’s a convention that a magazine reads across a spread with a vertical gutter in the middle doesn’t mean that it’s a rule. There are some good reasons to rotate the book ninety degrees occasionally, rewarding readers with a dramatic and memorable change of pace.

Present a stunning image. The most compelling reason to go vertical is that a particular image cries out for a large presentation that would be lost even run the full depth of a page. But running an image vertically down a spread has a psychological side benefit — the reader actually feels like your magazine has become bigger! Being used to an 11-inch (or so) depth, and then suddenly exposed to a 17-inch-deep layout, readers see the vertical spread as a single large extra-impressive page of the book in a different way than they see horizontal spreads, despite the obvious fact that they use the same real estate.

A Change of Chart. A complicated chart with myriad categories is difficult enough to read without the gutter slicing each information chunk into two, which is commonly the case when reading entries across the x-axis. And the symmetrical gutter on the spread can sometimes be a challenge for drawing the optimal vertical columns for the information. Drawing the same chart on a vertical spread not only solves readability issues, the calendar fold is way less intrusive. A chart meant for a spread usually fits more elegantly across an 11-inch width anyway, and feels more impressive a piece of content for the way it exists in its own unique dimension.

Collage AND Collect. Discrete content, like a 10-best listing or a step-by-step how-to, or just about anything that can be presented on a single spread can benefit from a right-angle flip. With the opportunity to create a strong headline that won’t dominate the spread, the self-contained quality of the turned spread makes a clockwise or zigzag structuring of individual elements easier to follow.

Looks like a poster. The combination of a vertical format and the center of your saddle-stitched magazine make an opportunity for a real “detachable” poster element in your publication. Add a double gatefold to the center form and the art can be as long as 30 inches.

A few caveats apply. Multiple pages of rotated content can start to get confusing, so it’s best to stick with a single spread. To make production easier, it pays to make a dedicated document the size of the deep spread, and then, when it’s finished, rotate and copy and paste the elements into your main template. Finally, it’s a trick that can get overused real quickly, so unless you’ve created some franchise content that makes good repeated use of the vertical format, save it for a special occasion. One good turn doesn’t necessarily deserve another.

This article originally ran in the Spring, 2008 issue of FPO.