Time: The Basics (of a Basically Designed Magazine)

Nameplates: The nameplate is the name of the publication as it appears on the cover of a magazine or the A1 page of a newspaper. It serves as the publication’s logo or wordmark. Looking back at Time’s covers through the past 87 years, the magazine’s nameplate has changed little. It represents everything that Time is and the way they tell news¾sophisticated, straightforward and simple. More than half the time the nameplate is red, the color most associated with Time, a color that shows the urgency of news.

Teasers (Promos): The teaser is small graphic that promotes a story inside the newspaper, such as on the A1 page, or inside the section, usually on the first page of that section itself. The teaser is usually found at the top or bottom of the page on newspapers.

The cover of Time uses promos and teasers very minimally and cleanly, keeping with the simple and sophisticated style of the magazine. Time also highlights different sections of the magazine at the top of the cover above the nameplate. They do not do this every issue, but it is reminiscent of a newspaper’s teaser on A1. It reminds the audience that they are reading a news-based magazine.

Section Flag: Section flags are the headers at the top of the secondary pages, marking the individual parts of the newspaper or magazine. An example of this in a newspaper would be sports, local and opinion. The section flag usually looks similar to the nameplate and is located in the same position at the top of the page in newspapers.

Time uses two different section flags. The middle of the book uses small red section flags in the upper corners of the pages. These designate Nation, Business and World sections. They use red, the color of the magazine, and are clean and noninvasive. The back of the book, however, uses a more newspaper-style section flag. These have the section in a big, bold typeface with smaller writing below.

Cutline: The cutline is equivalent to a caption for a photograph. Time uses cutlines very infrequently in the front of the book section, but they do use captions for their larger news stories. Their cutlines are usually below the image or in the bottom corner of images that take up an entire page. Again following the theme of simplicity, Time gives a short description of the photograph in bold, i.e. “An uneasy bond.” They then describe the photograph in only a handful of words.

Bylines and Credit Lines: These are attributions to the writer (bylines) and the photographer or illustrator (credit lines). Bylines for Time’s feature pieces are placed below the deck. They are written in all capital letters, and the byline is separated from the deck by a thin cut-off rule. In smaller blurbs the author’s name is found at the end of the piece. Whatever the length or location, Time is very consistent with its design. Reliable, dependable and simple. These three words describe not only Time’s design but also their approach to telling the news. Cutlines also take advantage of the red and black color palate of the magazine, using red when more emphasis is needed. Time has created an identity with these colors, and they are the only ones the magazine uses in terms of typeface and infographics.

Credit lines for most images, especially the smaller ones, are found in the seam of the book, very unobtrusive. Credits for larger photographs are found at the bottom of the page or following the cutline. These larger credits and bylines are all in the same font, producing continuity throughout the magazine.

Boxes: Boxes are used in design to differentiate one story or sidebar from another piece on the same page. Time is a huge fan of rules, but they very rarely form boxes. Instead, the magazine uses white space expertly. The white space allows not only for aesthetically pleasing designs, but content is naturally separated by space instead of boxes. Rules are used whenever white space does not suffice, and they are thin and unobtrusive, again lending itself to the overall clean design of the magazine.

Reverses: Reverses are when the traditional black type on a white background is switched, putting light type on a dark backdrop. The three main colors of Time are black, red and white, and about once or twice an issue the magazine uses a reverse to its design advantage. Reverses are typically used on a two-page spread for a major feature story. Since the magazine is so very white otherwise, the color and magnitude of the reverses catch the attention of the reader or someone who is simply flipping through the magazine.

Wraps and Skews: Wraps and skews are when the body text is indented around an image, photograph or pull quote. They can be of any shape, but wraps are typically rectangular or on a curve.

Wraps are important in the design of Time by means of simplicity. The magazine very rarely will use a text wrap, and when they do, it is only a small indentation around a rectangle photograph placed in the middle of the page. Everything in Time uses clean and simple lines. The use of space and columns, while slightly boring, makes the magazine very easy to read. It also gives the publication a sophisticated feel and lends to readability.

Sidebars: Sidebars are small additional stories that are related to the larger story. They generally are placed next to the main article and are separated by a different typeface, box or screen. Time’s sidebars are typically infographics. They are located in every position on the page. Sometimes they are vertical and fit into the regular column scheme. They are not differentiated by screens or boxes. Instead, Time uses white space and different fonts to separate the sidebar from the rest of the story. This makes the information appear as if they are one story and continues with the simple and traditional design of the magazine.

Pull Quotes: Pull quotes are quotations or a sentence from the article that is interesting enough to be highlighted. Pull quotes grab readers attention and draw them to the story. They are usually larger than the body type and given some additional graphic element to make it stand out from the rest of the piece.

Time’s pull quotes are again simple and uniform throughout the magazine. They have black font, are the same width as a column and in the same typeface as the headline. Since the pull quotes are the same width as columns (and are always found in the column), they are almost overlooked when quickly paging though the magazine. Just like the rest of the magazine’s design, the pull quotes are generally the same size. Time also keeps the same design from issue to issue, providing stability for the reader.


One Comment

  1. Very good work, Kaitlin. This is precisely what I’m looking for. I am especially fond of insights such as these:

    “content is naturally separated by space instead of boxes.”
    “a color that shows the urgency of news.”
    “very minimally and cleanly, keeping with the simple and sophisticated style of the magazine”
    “Whatever the length or location, Time is very consistent with its design”
    “using red when more emphasis is needed.”
    “about once or twice an issue” (this shows me you’re looking for patterns.)
    “Time uses white space and different fonts to separate the sidebar from the rest of the story”

    And don’t think I didn’t notice your lovely Time-red bold lede-ins. : )

    A few other notes:

    • “The teaser is small graphic that promotes a story inside the newspaper.” … actually, it is a text-based element.

    • Please remember to give me a bit more context in each image, eg, on the teasers entry it would have been good to include the nameplate. In fact, one image of that would have sufficed for both the nameplate and teaser entries.

    • “The middle of the book uses small red section flags in the upper corners of the pages.” … In good news design, there really is no room for two versions of the same architectural element because that would just confuse readers, add unnecessary complexity and dilute the effectiveness of each of the pieces. I would say these are topic labels used within the News section rather than flags.

    • I would not consider the sidebar example an information graphics, which generally are numeric data driven rather than text based.

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