For nearly a year I’ve worked with NOLA Baby & Family to design their print magazine that goes out to around 10,000 people in the greater New Orleans area. The publication was founded in 2006 by local mom and entrepreneur, Ann Herren. Each issue highlights useful information with local parents and families in mind.

I started working on the magazine in March 2015, building on an adapted design from the previous designer. This December, however, I was offered the opportunity to take a stab at a full redesign.

I. love. redesigns.

There’s something beautiful about being able to start with a blank document and build something that makes people feel something. Many people don’t realize this, but the majority of a graphic designer’s job is to establish design systems for clients. Good graphic designers bring structure to establish consistency through guidelines and rules.

In this post I will walk you through the process of redesigning Nola Baby & Family magazine and highlight what it takes to build something for an already established brand.


1. Starting from the beginning.

Publication design is one of my favorite types of graphic design. Using fonts, a color palette, illustration, and photos you visually show the perspective of the brand. It is a genuinely collaborative process between the client and designer. I work to learn the goals of the client and build on her brand with my years of experience as a designer. In this case, we were lucky because I had already worked with Ann for numerous months, so I already had a deep understanding of her design aesthetic and knew that we could mesh our two styles.

It’s also very time consuming. In general, to put together a print publication like this for 60 pages it will take around 20-40 hours to establish the design, lay in the copy, and work through the rounds of revisions.

For publication design I also often have the opportunity to use a variety of Adobe Creative Cloud programs. Primarily, I layout the pages in Indesign, edit the photos in Photoshop, and work on the illustrations in Illustrator.

2. Finding the right fonts.

Body Copy: For this publication, I started with a serif and a sans-serif font for the body. My primary objective in this case was legibility, but I knew I wanted fonts that could also stand the tests of time. After laboring over finding the right fonts, I ultimately chose Vista Sans and Lora. These are both incredible fonts because they are easy to digest and don’t cause eyestrain or headaches.

Headlines: The next step was finding the right combination of fonts for the headers. We were already using a number of different fonts in the previous iteration of the publication, but I knew I wanted to switch things up a bit. I took Neutra Text from the original publication and also started to use Gotham and Mallow Typeface.

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3. Establishing text styles

After establishing the fonts for the body copy and headers, I started to play with different type solutions that made sure that everything worked together. This included building different types of headlines for the sections and redesigning the headers for the recurring columns.



4. Building a color palette.

Color is by far my favorite design tool. I love the way that it sets the mood and establishes the reader emotion. For the previous iteration of the magazine, we already had a pretty good color palette, but I was always a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. I decided that my best bet was to vastly pair down the total number of colors, to establish more visual repetition. Ultimately we decided on these colors.


5. Picking an illustration and photography style.

The next step was finding an illustration style that resonated with the audience. In a best case scenario, I would have loved to create illustrations for all of the publication, but when we are in the heat of cranking out an issue, it’s not realistic to be able to split my time between illustrating and designing.

There are, however, a host of great options for affordable stock images and photography. In this case, I knew I wanted the illustrations to be playful and ultimately decided to stick with this illustrative style.



For the photos, I strive to find photos that feel warm and inviting. This helped establish a style that I’m sure makes our readers smile while they’re flipping through each issue.



6. Pulling it all together

Now that we’ve established all the different individual parts, it’s time to start thinking of the total package and pull the design together. This is the most fun part of the design process. You get to establish what works and what doesn’t work in real time. Here are some of the final sections that I built.



7. Designing special sections

Every issue also includes some sort of special section that is a little outside of the traditional style. These sections are meant to stand out and give the magazine life from month to month. In this specific issue, we wanted to create a special Mardi Gras section that was bold and vibrant. Using variations of color already in the color palette and using some of my favorite fonts from the publication, I designed this special two page spread for the issue.


8. Designing the cover and the Table of Contents.

The last thing that I pull together for any issue is the cover and the table of contents. These two sections are dynamic and entice the reader, first to open the publication and then to continue reading.

The Table of Contents pulls in various articles from the issue. My goal was to create a three column layout that was dynamic enough to provide visual interest while also being straight- forward and readable.


Similarly, for the cover, I aim to make the text bold and readable, while still allowing the photo to make a deep impact. Nola Baby & Family works with Twirl photography for the majority of their photos and they do an amazing job at creating beautiful images that tell adorable stories.


In conclusion:

As you’re now aware, it’s no easy task putting together a publication. But once you’ve established a system, it becomes infinitely easier. You establish a framework for each of the sections and from month to month you trade out the copy and images to create new stories.

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