Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Planning Your Publications:10 Reasons to Craft a Blueprint

I've been planning and producing publications such as newsletters and magazines for 20 years now, and one of my key ingredients for success is creating a thumbnail, or blueprint. Of course, having a Story Lineup list consisting of all the articles planned, who is writing them, and relevant artwork and graphics, is also crucial. But having a visual roadmap is also essential. Here is why:

  1. If you're working with a graphic designer, it's important that they have a sense of your vision of the layout, which can't be accomplished as well through written notes. The thumbnail shows how you want the visual plan to be represented.
  2. If you are producing and designing the layout yourself, you still need a visual guide to keep your plan under control and running smoothly. It's a great reminder to stick to the plan.
  3. If any photos or graphics are missing, the thumbnail is a reminder of what is still outstanding as you progress through the various stages of layout.
  4. The thumbnail allows other contributors to see the publication plan ahead of time. If they are responsible for recurring articles such as editorials, columns or departments, it reminds them of what content they will be responsible for each issue.
  5. Once layout has started, it costs time and money to start rearranging the stories, or even changing your mind about what the lead stories and priorities are. The thumbnail helps decide this early on, and serves as a "pre-editor."
  6. If you are planning specialized content or sections, the thumbnail allows you to conceptualize this in advance, so you can plan how that copy relates to your standard editorial.
  7. Sometimes, photos and graphics don't come in as planned. Maybe the photo was poor quality, or that new department logo got postponed. Having the layout in front of you allows you to easily make adjustments in the spacing, such as adding a story if needed, or enlarging the other artwork to compensate.
  8. After the publication is printed, comparing the thumbnail to the printed final is a great learning exercise. What remained consistent from plan to final? What changed? If there are repeated changes in ine area, chances are you need to evaluate that content and plan more effectively.
  9. Mailing and postal issues: planning in advance means that you can organize your postal information, such as your indicia and postal permits. If you have changed your address or you are starting a new publication, the thumbnail is a reminder to get these details organized. You can even show it to your postal representative ahead if time so you can address any mailing issues.
  10. Finally, the thumbnail is a great tool if you need to expand a publication from the length it has been running. The blueprint can be used to show others what the newly expanded publication would look like, and can help support your cause by showing that you have thought it through and can speak to the visual look intelligently.
What about you! Do you use a thumbnail or blueprint, or do you have other planning tips you'd like to share in the comments?


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