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October 4, 2007

Krazy Kids’ Magazine Design

Madmag
How bad is the design in children’s magazines today? Are the fonts too garish, the ordering of elements too haphazard? Do kids’ reads really need to SCREAM at their short stack readers? Jandos doesn’t think so. Today he takes a look at magazine design for the ankle biter set, and finds it has changed from when he was reading such publications as MAD and Ranger Rick:

Kids magazines certainly weren’t always as bleak as the current versions. The magazines I remember loving in my childhood—Ranger Rick, Dynamite—a pop culture journal from Scholastic with a snarky (by 5th grade standards) sense of humor, and Mad
all featured stories that sustained for pages, a comparatively
challenging vocabulary and more sophisticated (and toned-down) color
pallets and typography. Kids liked Mad, even though it was
black and white and had jokes they didn’t get because it seemed
grown-up and cool. I see no big change that requires Kiddie Time
to be the way it is now—it’s aimed at kids in third, fourth and fifth
grades who are, by that time, reading chapter books–gawd-awful chapter
books—but chapter books! And without pictures! So why is TimeMaxim and Lucky and not for Time and Fortune?

It would be tempting to blame child psychologists–those killjoys who
thought that smurfs and dragons working out tedious interpersonal
problems would somehow make for better television than 16-ton anvils
and cliff plunges. But, I would guess that, while every kids glossy
claims a team of shrinks and educators on board, they’re probably not
actually paid, they probably don’t really come into the office, and
they probably have especially little to do with how material is
packaged—instead contenting themselves to object to a word or sentence
here or there. I would love to hear from someone with experience on the
design or review side of kids magazines on this. It seems more likely
that the wacky colors come from fuzzy inherited wisdom—inspired by the
aesthetics of cartoons and toy packaging.

Find more on this topic at Designing Magazines.



About the Author

Michelle Ryan
Michelle Ryan
Michelle Ryan is obsessed with good food, great shoes and Alabama football way down South in Savannah, Georgia. She hasn’t met a kitchen gadget she hasn’t at least thought about buying (trying them is another story) and devotes her time to Bikram Yoga, baking and trying to overcome long-held finicky eating habits.