Field notes on space: National Geographic

National Geographic is a monthly magazine with 140-160 pages per issue (the January 2018 issue had 144 pages). It is 6 7/8 x 10 inches, making it smaller than the average magazine. The general focus of National Geographic — the natural world, science, geography — is one that we can talk endlessly about and across multiple issues. Publishing monthly makes sense because it is frequent enough to match the number of topics there are to explore, but infrequent enough that it still feels exciting and special to receive a magazine in the mail (unlike a weekly magazine, which generally gives off a newsy feel and can start to feel routine after a while). Additionally, as the magazine is smaller than average, the size is more reminiscent of a guidebook. With the uniformity of the yellow-bordered covers and the perfect binding, National Geographic feels like something you want to collect — it’s not a magazine you throw away after a week.

Margins are 1/4 of an inch on all sides and the gutters are 1/8 of an inch. For feature stories, there are usually four columns per spread, so two per page, and the width of the columns are 2 3/4 inches. The magazine feels very uniform — even if a page has a photo taking up half the page and there is only one column of text, all columns in the feature stories are the same size. This works to give the magazine a very clean feel and provide consistency among the wide amount of color and variety in all the photos.

The average story in the January 2018 issue is about 12 pages, and there are quite a few pages that just photos. Therefore, on the pages with text, most have a good portion of white space on all sides, the most usually on the top. This works because it prevents the page from becoming too overwhelming with text, and the extra white space on the top helps the page breath. Additionally, this balances out the full-photo pages.

In conclusion, National Geographic’s emphasis on photos rich with color and beauty means that the rest of the magazine has to feel very clean and consistent, and I certainly think it makes this work with its format and use of white space.