The name of National Geographic Magazine itself is completely unique and thus unmistakeable as a brand. The title implies an exploration of the physical world; according to dictionary.com, “geographic” means “
The headlines are typically 2-3 words that easily roll off the tongue (e.g. “Saving the Seas”; “Life After Loss”). Because of how short they are, the headlines don’t always tell much about what the article is about. For example, “A 9,000-Year Love Affair” is about the history of alcohol, which you wouldn’t know until you read the deck. The headlines are creative and often use alliteration, while typically providing the reader with the main subject of the article without giving much other detail. All of the major features have decks, but most of the shorter articles don’t. None of the articles have subheds.
Promos on the contents page are 1-2 newsy sentences. The department names aren’t completely self-explanatory, but they’re all short and pretty straightforward. They are not generic. “3 Questions” is a Q&A with a photographer; “Visions” dedicates entire spreads to photos from the wild; “Explore” has a different theme in each issue, such as food (which contains multiple small articles about the history of food around the world); and “Startalk” contains interviews and conversations between celebrities, often about the planet or some other environmental topic.
Pull quotes are common in Nat Geo’s long features, especially ones that are less photo-heavy; pull quotes often appear on spreads that contain no images, and they don’t often appear anywhere else — they’re never placed in a spot that could distract from a photo. In the February 2017 issue, pull quotes appear in the same article in almost exactly the same format/page placement twice (see below). The only difference between these two uses of pull quotes is that one includes attribution, while the other doesn’t.
Cutlines are unusually long in National Geographic, which is fitting for the publication because Nat Geo is known as a photography-based magazine. While images are important to all magazines, Nat Geo is especially driven by photography, so all of their captions are very descriptive and long, usually 2-5 full sentences. All captions are written in active voice, while much of the content in features is historic fact (thus, written in the past tense).
Each article’s byline reads “By (first name) (last name)”. In articles containing many photos, all of which come from the same photographer, the photographer’s name is listed right under the byline: “Photographs by (first name) (last name)”. On the contents page, the author and photographer is listed for each feature (see contents page above). This gives as much importance to the photographer as the writer.