Anyone else disfavor pull quotes and negative space in magazines? (Atlantic redesign)

I was prompted to post this by the Atlantic magazine’s [url=] recent redesign.

The Atlantic is the only print mag we subscribe to that I read it cover-to-cover. I guess they say the new look makes appearance more consistent across all platforms, but to someone who appreciates print newspapers, magazines, and books, having the print version resemble reading it on a phone is not exactly an improvement. I try not to reflexively give in to my Luddite tendencies, tho, and welcome others’ views.

They make a big deal about changing their logo to just a capital “A”. Well, I guess that makes sense for apps, but to me, it doesn’t matter at all. Big deal.

My biggest complaint is the new font. It is a custom “condensed” font, which they claim allows more type per page. But they seem to combine that with increased white space - which REDUCES the type per page! No longer possessing young eyes, I’d prefer a larger type…

The short articles up front are now in 4 columns per page. To my eye, that approximates the sense of scrolling on a phone, which I’ve never thought a desirable way to read long material. Moreover, the added columns increase the negative space, defeating the purported reason for the condensed font.

Most confusing to me are the increased use of pull-quotes. What purpose do they serve in a magazine like the Atlantic? Each article has a headline, and generally an enlarged first paragraph. How many readers are going to start/continue an article because of a pull quote on the 3d or 4th page? To me, it is a distracting waste of space.

(As long as I’m being critical, the Jan/Feb issue had an article with a subhead “W’s and L’s” - for Wins and Losses. Is THAT acceptable punctuation now?)

Years back, we discontinued a Discover subscription after a redesign made it less readable to our eyes. Wondering if the Atlantic will have similarly redesigned its way out of our home.

I love pull quotes. Done well, they lure (or pull) readers in to an article they might have skipped over if provocative text in a large font hadn’t caught their attention. Moreover, a page with nothing on it but same-size article text is visually boring. Adding pull quotes is one way to vary the design so each page is not ploddingly identical. Photos and graphics can serve the same purpose, but variety is good (and pull quotes are easier on the budget, plus they offer more flexibility in terms of being made shorter/longer or larger/smaller when layout needs tweaking at the last minute.)

I’m also a fan of white space. It isn’t wasted space, it’s a design element. If you fill up every inch of space on a page, the result is crowded and irritating. White space puts the reader in a more reflective, calmer mood, which is where I want to be when I’m doing serious reading.

As long as we are dissing magazine layouts, the previous Wired magazine layout was terrible - I almost started a pit thread about it several times but never got around to it. You can see an example here: . It was cluttered, hard to read, and all-too-literally “edgy.” Based on a recent letter they published (someone saying they’d given up their subscription in disgust) and the editors’ response (pointing out that graphic designers can get out of control and that the graphic design had already been changed) I gather that my dislike was widely shared.

Anyway, you can never please everyone. Anytime a major magazine decides to refresh their look, they will be slammed by both the “change is bad” crowd plus anyone who simply dislikes the new look for whatever reason. But it is important that publications do update their look from time to time. Think about how publications tended to look in, say, the 1800s. We’d loathe that look today, and it wouldn’t take advantage of all the advances that have been made in design technology, font development, and an understanding of how the human eye and brain work together to process information.

I have mixed feelings on pull quotes. I’m reading along, and it’s like I’m getting a preview of what I’m going to read in about 20 seconds. I understand how they make a page more visually appealing, but I’ve learned to ignore them.

What I hate is colored print on a light background (like pale yellow on white). My eyes are aging, too, and even with reading glasses I’ll sometimes give up reading something in disgust. O.k. You don’t me to read this. Harrumph.

I design pages for a newspaper, and I hardly ever use pull quotes. On the rare occasions that I do, it’s because the article that I needed to fill a certain space came up short and there wasn’t a more convenient way to solve the problem. But in most cases, it’s easier to throw in a filler ad or a subhead or enlarge a photo or have an extra photo. That said, I would like to get into the habit of using pull quotes more often, particularly when an article has a quote in it that deserves to get a little more attention.

I hate pull quotes. They repeat what you have already read, or are about to. In either case, this is redundant.

It works if all you read is the pull quotes, not the text. Otherwise, it is an insult to the reader.

On occasion, I work as an editor. If I want to spotlight some concept in the text, I use a super-head or sub-head, which are paraphrased, not exact copies of internal text. I respect the reader.

That’s pretty much how I feel. Like Snoooopy said, they often come across a s filler. Yes, I realize that a block page of text can be daunting (tho it seems to work OK in books!), but when magazines already use creative whitespace, superheads, varied fonts, etc, pullquotes simply impress me as a way to pad the page count.

I guess I do not understand how a pullquote attracts a reader who was not capable of making their mind up to read an article or not from the title, subject matter, first paragraph, etc. In the Atlantic, some of their articles can stretch 10+ pages. Who decides to read an article of that length because of a pullquote on page 6? All that does is eliminate up to 1/2 of a column of text.

And to the reader who has already decided to read the article, it is just an irritant. Either you read the pull quote (after all, it is generally large font, with a border or color), and then just realize, “What was the purpose of reading a portion of a sentence I just read or am just about to read?” Or else you have to make the (admittedly minor) effort to IGNORE the big, bold pullquote screaming to draw your attention.

I guess I’m boring or something, as I consider the INFORMATIVE aspect of a magazine like the Atlantic to be the most important thing. Sure, pictures can be nice, and a page should be leasing to look at and easy to read, but above all else, the information must be readable. Pointless window dressing - IMO - detracts. I recognize that there is likely a lengthy continuum, with some arts, design, or other magazines emphasizing a more creative “visual experience.” But I’ve never had difficulty reading text in books, law review journals, legal pleadings/decisions…

The biggest downside for me to having print media look too much like online media is that I get an urge to Control-F or scroll through it or hover over a bolded word to see what the hyperlink is to.

I am not in the business but a newspaper is a different animal than a magazine. Very few newspaper articles are long enough for it to make sense to show a pull quote. Sometimes maybe there will be a 2-3 page feature article but not often.

Pull quotes for me screw up the flow of the text. If there’s a reason to say that thing in line 37, then repeating it between lines 5 and 6, or between lines 48 and 49, or even off to the side in Large Print where it winds up being read as if it were line 1, is just disruptive. If there’s a reason to stress it in line 37, then do it there. If it doesn’t matter whether it’s in line 1 or 6 or 37 or 48, then pick one and just say it once (and maybe think harder about what you’re writing; though it’s true that if you just want to establish somewhere by page 17 that Person X is nice to cats, or that River Y sometimes inundates the valley, it may not matter all that much exactly where on the page that information is.)

Pictures are sometimes useful, and sometimes pleasant, but sometimes neither. Sticking in a random picture just for the sake of using a picture is at best annoying – I know at least one fairly local news site that illustrates with pictures that have only the thinnest connection to the story. If the story involves a particular place, the picture may be of something entirely different that happened in that place three years ago.

White space is useful to a point. But shrinking text to increase white space, especially in a print medium that can’t be magnified, is the not-so-bright idea of people lucky enough to have really good vision. And don’t get me started on colored ink on a colored background. For many of us, that’s just plain unreadable.

I’m a strong proponent of pull quotes, and have used them many times in newsletter and brochure designs. I started doing so 30 years ago, because the studies I saw claimed that pull quotes increased readership. As did short first paragraphs, drop caps, and captioned photos.

Like any behavioral experiment, readership studies can suffer from poor set up, and even fraud. So, I’m certainly interested in any updated studies.

The point of pull quotes - that I think is being missed by the OP and others - is that most people skim through magazines and need to be **seduced into reading the articles. **Sure, there will be a couple of articles you are immediately interested in, because of the subject or the headline or a picture, but not everyone starts reading every article and reads every article straight through. In fact, I’d say No One Does That.

It may be confirmation bias, but when I’m flipping through a magazine I’ll often go past an unpromising headline but get sucked in a page or two later by an interesting photo caption or by a provocative pull quote.

That may or may not be true; I’m skeptical. But as a reader, such suppositions have trained me to ignore pull quotes, and treat drop caps as an artistic affectation that does nothing useful for me. The more you try to manipulate your audience, the more backlash you create.

I do the control-F thing all the time.
I have a copy of the NEC in print and on my computer. I don’t know why I spent all the money on the paper version. Can’t search to find what I’m looking for and I usually have it open on my computer twice since everything is always referencing something else. Also can’t do that with an expensive paperback book.

That’s certainly a real thing, and thank ghod for animal adaptability. And perversity.

My favorite study in that regard (also dating from decades ago, when I was getting starting in the design business) claimed that the two most read parts of a magazine ad were
a. The subhead
b. The sign-off.

Readers would often not even glance at that Big Bold Headline, because they’d learned it would just be an ad writer trying to be clever or misleading. The subhead would tell the real story of what was being sold, and the bottom of the ad would tell who was paying for the ad.

While I was designing, among other stuff, magazines,
I opened one of the early issues of National Lampoon.
There in the middle of an article was a pull quote…

[INDENT]Wow. This quote is cool.
I’m going to read the entire
article until I figure out where
they wrote this.

Possibly the ultimate pull quote. Which of course, was
not in the article (but I had to check). Sorry, I just took
a guess; I’m sure it was better-written. Doubt I could
find it online, even if I had the hour to spend fruitlessly.

There have been good points made in this thread, and most of them illustrate your comment that you can’t please everyone.

I respect Dinsdale’s comment that there’s a lengthy continuum of design goals regarding the use of white space and decorative motifs. I don’t want (much) white space in a paperback book or in a newspaper. But as you point out, white space can actually change the mood of the reader. I can enjoy a basic paperback version of Lord of the Rings just as much as an illuminated version with a white sidebar on every page — but I adopt a different range of brainwaves for the illuminated edition.

I wouldn’t want white space in the New Yorker, but I also wouldn’t want a New Yorker without cartoons, even though they might dilute the effect of a serious article. There’s some comfort in predictability.

The OP says he buys The Atlantic to read from cover to cover, which is great, but very unusual. Unlike a book, a magazine will not be something where you are consciously purchasing a single continuous story, but rather a hodgepodge of reviews, editorials, and unpredictable articles. The idea that everything the reader needs to decide if they should read the story should appear in the title, subheads, and first paragraph doesn’t not work for me.

If a pull quote takes up 1/5 of a page, it’s just being used a spacer, and that’s not ideal. But a pull quote that takes up 1/15 of a page, and highlights an important point can be very useful in getting a casual reader to give an article a chance.

I don’t mind pull quotes and they do sometimes suck me in. Basically, I cannot read colored ink on a colored background and I never subscribed to Wired for that and other reasons. Their whole layout was just offputting. But if a print mag wants me there are two things they should do: have interesting content and use larger type.

How do readers feel about sidebars. A five page article, say in Scientific American will have a sidebar filling half of the third page. Are you expected to interrupt the main article to read the sidebar? Or read to the end and then page back to the sidebar? Why can’t the additional material be put in the article?

I look upon a sidebar as a kind of long footnote. I can read it or not; it may supplement the article or be related somehow. If I want to read the article, I probably want to read the sidebar.

I’m in book publishing (I do original pagination usually) and I hate doing jobs with pull quotes. I hate the things.

I’m personally a fan of pull-quotes (when done right – as in, truly interesting quotes that pique my interest into reading the article and not just as space filler) and white space. Absolutely. I hate walls of text, and pull quotes often will do a job of pulling me into a story that I may not have otherwise have read in a way a headline or subhead won’t.

That Atlantic cover is absolutely gorgeous. Curious to see how the inside pages look.

Design trends change so often these days, and they feel so deliberate and reactionary to what has gone before more than they used to, that whenever I do my graphic design stuff I feel like I am clinging to the things I liked from 20 years earlier rather than what’s projected to be trendy for now.

But some things are always going to be true, and I am confident when I use those. And that includes negative space.

I see the benefit of pull quotes, but I can’t say that I’m a fan.

One thing I like to do that is not recommended anymore is fully justified text. I genuinely dislike ragged right text whenever I see it.