Field Notes | Real Simple | Images

Real Simple uses images in such a specific manner, that you almost don’t even notice it because it is so uniform. When carefully looking through the magazine, the reader begins to realize the uniqueness to each page and image. Without a doubt, the purpose of the specific imagery is an editorial and stylistic decision that matches the magazine’s theme: simplicity.


The content for imagery varies. There are many different sections with different content, which seems to decide the type of image used. Without a doubt, all of the images are bright, high-quality, saturated, and clear to see. This may be done to show specific details of images, especially if it is a product that readers can buy or a story on remodeling a home.

For stories where readers can learn about products and buy them, such as in the ‘the Realist’ section, many of the images appear on a white background. This may be chosen to highlight the product and not add too much clutter. The images also appear to be small as to add more products to each page and still use white space.

In ‘the Balance’ section, where long-form stories take place, the images are larger to capture specific details, show the true color of items, and really capture the reader’s attention. The images themselves are bright, crisp, and have little to no people to not distract the reader. This may have been done so then the reader can picture themselves in the image. Especially since this section focuses on homes, food, beauty, and the workplace. This section also uses a variety of shots, such as wide, medium, and tight shots and every story has multiple images.

Products in a magazine

An example of products on a white background in the February 2019 issue of Real Simple magazine.

Imagery in Real Simple Magazine.

Imagery in Real Simple Magazine.

Imagery in Real Simple Magazine.

Examples of bright, clean, and crisp images used in the February 2019 issue of Real Simple magazine.


Many of the photographs are bright, colorful, and crisp as mentioned before. With that said, there are some stories that use illustrations. The beauty of this magazine is that it is not afraid to use illustrations and it does it in a simple and clean manner. Illustrations are found in all of the sections of the magazine and tend to break up photo heavy stories. The illustrations are in all sizes – small, medium, and large. They also appear in a rectangle or square shape.

One thing I really appreciate is that some of the long-form stories in ‘the Balance’ section have illustrations and the colors all go together. For example, one story that focuses on finding alone time opens with a teal willow tree. Below the tree is a woman in hues of red. Overall, the illustration has hues of teal, gray, and red. These colors are then used in the headlines and rest of the illustrations for this section. This may have been chosen to stay uniform and keep the reader comfortable.

Illustration in Real Simple Magazine

Illustration in Real Simple Magazine

Illustration in Real Simple Magazine


Many of the images appear in vertical rectangles that are well within the margins. They might even be in their own column. There are also horizontal images as well as the occasional square images. There are some images that are circles, but this seems to be very rare. This selection ranges from content. For example, in ‘the Realist’ section, a story on how to not kill your indoor plants has two rectangle images. One appears within the columns, while the other bleeds off the page. This may be a stylistic choice to show more detail of the images. Another example, in ‘the Relating’ section, a story on pet tricks has three tiny images that appear in yellow circles on the side of the page. This may be to highlight the images, which show products that readers can buy.

Rectangle shaped images in Real Simple magazine.

An example of a story using rectangle shape images.

Circle shape images in Real Simple magazine.

An example of a story using circle shape images.