5 Tips for Designing a Feature Article

Feature articles can make or break your magazine design. Your cover usually displays a teaser about your feature article and might even include an image promoting it. While design options are infinite, there are 5 key items that should be in place in any feature article layout.

1. Headline

Aside from the awesome image you choose for your articles, the headline draws the reader into your article. Headlines use bigger fonts and can be designed to stand out from your overall design. I like to use sanserif fonts for my headlines with a serif font for my paragraph text. This creates a visual hierarchy leading the reader from the most important information through the supplemental text. Headlines can be more than text too. Colored boxes and  lines with different strokes can all be used to create an interesting headline.

2. Big Image

Your design can't be all text! In fact, why not use something that's worth 1,000+ words? Images set the tone and mood for your readers, create color and visual interest, and help put a picture to your words. You can also take your design to the next level by pulling colors from your photo and using them to highlight headlines and dropcaps as well as blockquotes. When it comes to image placement and size, think variety but keep it minimal. One big image followed by a few smaller images goes a longer way then overwhelming your readers with too many big images.

3. Drop Caps

Drop caps help start off your paragraphs. Use a complimentary color, increase the size of the first letter or add a colored box behind the single letter to create a stylized look for your opening paragraph.

4. Blockquotes

A blockquote is a short sentence pulled from your article that captures the essence of your entire feature. Blockquotes are styled differently from your paragraph text and may also be a different color. They can be placed alongside your article or within the main article text with lots of padding (text wrap) around the edges. This separates your blockquote from the rest of your paragraph.

5. Smaller Images

Smaller images coordinate well with the main feature image. They help break up long paragraphs or columns of text and add to your overall article. Using different sized images creates another visual hierarchy that helps guide the viewer throughout your entire article spread.

Putting it all together...

Now it's time to put these 5 tips to use in your next feature article. Remember that a clean and simple design requires proper placement of images and text while creating a visual hierarchy of your elements. This will all help guide your reader through your article and hopefully encourage them to turn the page for more!

Disney's Tangled: Inspired by a Classic Painting

Disney seldom disappointed audiences over the years as classic fairy-tales took a "happily ever after" turn for the better. Princesses were rescued by their knights on white steeds after overcoming certain trials and hardships. Disney's 50th animated film goes back to the roots that many of us grew up with. Audiences can also expect another level of visual grandeur as they enjoy a 3D Disney classic featuring 70 feet of hair wrapped up into a nice little bow of laughs, action, romance and stunning scenery.

The Story

Disney's Tangled


Tangled tells the tale of Rapunzel, the young maiden who has 70 feet of golden locks and is trapped in a tower all her life. Disney's storyline magic weaves through this tale taking us into the blissful life of Rapunzel and her guardian, Mother Gothel. Of course Rapunzel's golden locks were a bit of an accident. During a difficult delivery, the entire kingdom searches for a healing flower to help the Queen. The healing powers used to save the Queen's life passes onto Rapunzel's hair making her quite the little prized possession. With an unhealthy desire to stay young, Mother Gothel kidnaps the young girl and raises her as her own to ensure her lifelong beauty and youth remain. Of course as Rapunzel ages and soon awaits her 18th birthday, curiosity sets in. After enjoying the beautiful lanterns released each year on her birthday by her real parents (the Queen and King), Rapunzel can't help but wonder what else lies beyond her little tower.

Meanwhile we are introduced to the stud of the story, Flynn Rider. He's dashing, manly and a criminal. He's running from the kingdom with the princesses's crown in tow. To make a long story short, he meets Rapunzel and we soon see that while this girl grew up isolated and alone, she is quite capable of taking care of herself with a frying pan and 70 feet of hair. Adventure begins after she strikes up a deal with the suave Flynn to take her to see the lanterns. Rapunzel feels grass and water under her feet for the first time, meets and dances with an entire town and continues to build on her budding attraction to Flynn all before Mother Gothel gets a hold of her escaped daughter.

While the story is beyond groundbreaking, we see a similarity throughout Tangled that reminds us of Disney classics before it such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. While some of these moments are a little too reminiscent of Disney's past blockbusters, it is still enjoyable to have the classic charm back in action. Tangled also relishes on laughs for the sake of laughs with low brow humor and one-liners fit for Dreamworks Animation films. In the end, all the humor plays well enough with the story and keeps an audience of all ages engaged to the final scene.

The Inspiration

The Swing by Les Hasards Heureux de l'Escarpolette

The Swing by Les Hasards Heureux de l'Escarpolette

It is always exciting to learn the process behind any design project. There are many new things to learn from all the designers and artists working behind the scenes. Where do new ideas and inspirations come from? Disney's Tangled features a lush environment not before seen in CG animated films. For the first time, Disney attempts to blend the look and feel of traditional hand drawn Disney films with the newer 3D animated film styles.  Rococo artist Les Hasards Heureux de l'Escarpolette's The Swing was the sole inspiration for the film's backgrounds and environments. Rich colors and painterly strokes blanket the entire movie just like a rococo painting.

It's important to note that designers find inspiration from all sources and classic paintings are a great source. Learning from the master artists that preceeded us is a source of inspiraton that is not only fun,but a great way to improve our skills. In fact, many famous artists learned from the master's before them. They would copy previous paintings to master their skills then add in their own styles along the way.

Your Turn to Share: What inspires you in your designs?