For many magazines, visuals are utilized primarily through photographs. But it wasn’t until I looked closely at an issue of Wired that I realized this wasn’t the case for the magazine. Wired put almost an equal emphasis on illustrations, graphics, and images that not all magazines do — at least, section-wise.
It makes sense, once I thought about it. Wired is a very technology-driven brand, and the focus on small graphics to create visually striking pages is a smart and strategic move. Also, for Wired to have a reputation for good design, it needs to focus on illustrations and graphics just as much as photos.
I counted exactly how many photos, graphics, and illustrations Wired used in the Dec. 2015 issue (excluding ads, of course). Illustrations came out to 12, graphics at 8, and photos at 20. Yes, photos are the most, but what I thought was interesting was that they used photos mainly for the feature well at the end, and primarily for the FOB sections, they used illustrations and graphics.
One notable exception to this is their “What’s Inside,” section in the FOB, in which they feature a certain object or phenomenon and break down its components. They’ve done items like Febreze, vodka, and tide pods. It’s one of the most visually striking pages because they always choose one strong photo that bleeds off the page and place the text accordingly.
As for the other stories, generally, the photos are not placed on top of one other, they stick to the common rectangle shape, and it’s rare that Wired will have more than one large photo on a page. Sometimes they’ll blow up a photo so that it takes room on two facing pages, but even then, that will be the only large visual element on the page. They will, however, use multiple photos when it is a multi-page story, which usually happens with their features.
Wired also has no problem putting text on photo whenever they’d like, whether it’s in their “What’s Inside” section as showed earlier, or even the article itself, as it does in this article about J.J. Abrams and Star Wars. Here, the last column of text starts on the photo where there is blank space, away from Daisy Ridley’s face.
The images themselves, on the other hand, are very unique in terms of composition. Wired does a good job of making sure their photo selection results in images that complement each other and includes wide, close-up and medium shots.
The illustrations are also well thought out, detailed, and clever in their own ways. There is a recurring illustration in their Mr. Know-It-All section that appears in every issue. I don’t quite understand it, but looking at it is just very interesting. One illustration in this issue I particularly liked was a two-page illustration regarding the world of Star Wars, as well as the section front for the features well (also Star Wars). It was the same illustrator who drew both, and you can tell that he put a lot of time and effort into creating the details in the illustrations.
With graphics, sometimes it will take the entire page, but sometimes it will take just a small section. I particularly like these three two pages: one which features illustration and a graphic (in a section called Chartgeist), another which has a photo, illustration and graphic icons, and another that has a full-page graphic.