Real Simple Field Notes: Space


Real Simple is a monthly print magazine produced on 9×10.75 in. paper. The publication is roughly 200 pages each issue. Based on Real Simple’s mission statement, the format of this magazine works well. The mission statement reads, “FOR TODAY’S TIME-PRESSURED WOMAN, THE GUIDE SHE CAN TRUST TO MAKE HER LIFE A LITTLE EASIER IN A WORLD THAT’S MORE COMPLICATED BY THE MINUTE. WITH SMART STRATEGIES, GENIUS SHORTCUTS, AND SHOPPABLE SOLUTIONS, WE HELP HER SIMPLIFY, STREAMLINE, AND BEAUTIFULLY EDIT HER LIFE, ARMED WITH CALM, CONFIDENCE—AND THE POWER OF THE RIGHT LIPSTICK.” Real Simple’s content is meant to be straightforward, simplistic, and helpful for women. Due to the magazine’s relatively larger pages (compared to many monthly magazines on newsstands), there is more room on pages. This makes the magazine feel less cluttered and streamlined, just like the mission statement. With 200 pages of monthly advice, which is a lot of content relative to the  other magazines on the newsstands, it is essential that this magazine is simply designed. The lengthy and large format lays the groundwork to make this possible.

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The margins are 78 pixels. The gutters are 36 pixels. Real Simple use’s the grid in a multitude or ways. The largest column count is 5 on one page, which are 120 pixels wide. Other pages have 4 columns of text, which are 150 pixels wide. And there are other pages that also use 4 columns but are only 144 pixels wide because the margins between columns are larger. Pages with 3 columns consist of 1 larger column, which measures 312 pixels, with 2 complementing columns of equal width with measure 144 pixels. Pages designed with 2 equal columns are 336 pixels wide, but these pages include other graphics to break up the space of dense text. One page that introduces a section and features a large photograph is designed with one column that measures 720 pixels.

This publication works despite the varied use of the grid because all of the pages feature large amounts of white space, giving the elements on the page breathing room. When the eye scans the page, the reader notices that each page has a lot to read, but they are not overwhelmed because Real Simple’s grid features ample margins and large areas of white space. Additionally, Real Simple’s page designs feature linear elements which guide the reader’s eyes through the pages in a orderly fashion. The lines separate content and columns, and tells the reader where to look next.

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5 Columns

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3 Column


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2 Column


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1 Column


Content organization:

Real Simple is organized into 6 sections with many subsections. First, reader’s come across the table of contents, which is two pages, followed by a note from the editor, which is one page.

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Table of Contents


The first section is, “Your words,” which is a front of book section that features questions from readers with answers from professionals, and answers from readers to questioned posted online. This works well as a FOB section because the content is short, quick bites of information.

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Your Words


Next, Real Simple presents “The Realist.” This section features “uncommon wisdom for modern times,” according to the magazine. It is full of large graphics, or infographics that complement short bites of information.

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The Realist


Then there is “Life Lessons,” which is text heavy, but uses some illustrations to break up pages. These pages make great use of the grid to break up text heavy pages.

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Life Lessons


After “Life Lessons” is the largest section of the magazine, “The Guide.” This section consists of fashion, beauty, family, home, health, and money subsections.  It includes charts, photo shoots, and text heavy pieces with very little use of visuals. This section comes together as a whole because of the themes in the content (each piece guides readers), but it fails to look like a section in terms of design. All of the subsections look very different from one another. I think they should separate these subsections to be their own sections, rather than falling under one umbrella of content.

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The Guide


Next is the feature well, which are 3 in depth, longer stories. Overall, this section presents an equal ratio of images (photographs, illustrations, graphics) to text. But within the three pieces in the section, some are more text heavy and some are image heavy with very little text.

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Features 1


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Features 2


Finally, there is the food section which is a visual heavy piece, showing large photographs of food with little bits of text.

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Food 1


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Food 2


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Food 3

Layout and white space:

Most of the pages throughout Real Simple have one story per page, with many sections within each story. Some pages have 2 stories per page, but this is more in the FOB section, where each story is just bites of information. Within each section of the magazine, there are anywhere from 2-8 stories in a section.

Real Simple is like an encyclopedia of information in each issue. The editors pack a lot of content into each issue. As I said before, because there is so much information to present, it is essential that the designers include large areas of white space so that they eye has time to rest and relax on each page. Without their excellent use of white space, this publication would be overwhelming and unreadable. Particularly in the text heavy stories, the designers use white space between columns and around text, which makes each piece easier to read.


One Comment

  1. A clarification, Jessica … print publications are typically measured in picas and inches; pixels are for digital publications.

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