for new readers or to boost reader engagement? Grab the attention of younger
eyes with a fresh take on design and layout.
For associations looking to grow their publication’s readership
by engaging a new generation of readers, a fresh take on design and layout can
be a helpful tool.
But as with all design decisions, association publishers must
take their association’s core demographics into account before making any
decisions that impact readability and usability, cautions Norm Grandstaff,
owner of publication design firm Ideas Communicated.
"When you look at most trade association magazines, you have
to consider that at least one-third of the readers are going to be 50 or older,
and they’re the decision-makers,” he says. "You want the magazine in their
hands for the longest time possible, and you want them to have better ad recall
and hopefully act on those ads.”
To keep that generation of readers happy, avoid using
typographical or design elements that might make a publication appear trendy
and younger at the expense of basic readability, he suggests. Skinny, sans
serif fonts, for instance, might be a hot design trend, but the harder-to-read
fonts may be fatiguing for older readers.
"With readers over 50, the last thing you want to do is give
them something that is tough to navigate or read,” he says. "They have a short
amount of time for reading with all these other things competing for their
time. It’s not that you’re competing against other magazines, but you’re
competing against kids’ soccer games or football Sundays.”
Tolerance for Edginess
Appealing to a new generation of readers is a worthy goal,
Grandstaff says, and younger readers are seeking more flash and color in their
reading experience. Growing up with high-energy music, television, and special
effects, younger readers have a higher tolerance for edgy aesthetics.
So instead of making changes that might impact a layout’s
navigation or readability, use graphics that are more stimulating and art
that’s colorful and bold, Grandstaff recommends. "That’s a way to bridge the
two,” he says.
Scientific American and The Economist are examples of publications with traditionally
stodgy design that were able to appeal to new, younger readers without
sacrificing readability, he says. The
Economist, for example, uses new graphics that pop without altering the
magazine’s familiar layout and architecture.
Age isn’t the only demographic that association publishers
should take into account, Grandstaff says. Design tastes vary between readers
living in New York City and those in Los Angeles. If you know more of your
members reside in one area or another, it is safe to design a little more in
their favor. Regional design awards are a quick way to see how design trends
vary from region to region.
While it can be tough to know where to land on the see-saw
between readability and flash, reader surveys can help. Knowing readers’ ages
can help publishers make solid assumptions about their design interests.
In the end, designing strategies for a demographic or region are free from hard and fast rules. However, disrupting the norm, breaking design rules, or doing
something out of the ordinary can make an article—and your publication—stand
out from the crowd.
Lee is manager of communications, National Apartment Association.