6 Simple Time-Saving Tips to Improve Your Magazine’s Flatplan

Flatplanning, which is a map of a magazine issue that shows where editorial and advertising pages will appear, is the heart of the entire production process. And, more than providing a living guide of the production, it ultimately decides how well your final product will attract, excite and retain your readers.

As a long time editor, I know how important the flatplan is to every issue. It is essential to testing and sharing new ideas – but it can also be time-consuming and hard to keep updated. There are many moving pieces, and, the more people who are involved in the production, the harder it becomes.

As a consultant, I hear from many editors, art directors and design teams – especially those using hand-drawn flatplans – that want to improve their flatplanning. How can we improve the current layout? How are stories shaping up? Is there the right balance of text, imagery and space? Is advertising space being optimised? Are the articles the right length and do they break in the right places? Do we have time for a last minute change? The list goes on.

The good news is that you can overcome many of these challenges with a good flatplanning tool and a clearly defined workflow. Follow these six tips to make it all much easier and fun for you and your team. You will enjoy greater creativity and more positive energy, rather than the stress of managing details and deadlines.

"Does your flatplan look like this? Here are 6 simple time-saving tips."

Tip 1: Take advantage of templates

Building flatplans based on templates helps you save time. A template contains details about page sizes, margins, page numbers, headers and footers so that these recurring items are automatically updated and consistent across your publication.

If you usually use a previous issue of your magazine as the basis for a new issue, templates will bring you a lot of advantages. They help you start a new issue with a clean slate rather than having to delete the old content first. Different combinations of columns, images, callouts and other design elements can be grouped together and moved around with ease. This helps you quickly test different layout options early in the planning stage without having to move and position each individual element. In later stages of production, you can add, delete, or reposition articles with much less effort.

Step 2: Separate the flatplan into color-coded sections

Using color coding to identify the main sections of a magazine is a useful way to break down large publications into smaller, more manageable sub-sections. Editors can assign someone to manage different sections, thereby sharing the workload yet still maintaining overall control.

Step 3: Use status bars

Status bars tell you the progress of each section or article. Is it assigned, started, ready for review or completed? With status bars, you get an immediate feel for how far you’ve come and what you need to do to finish.

Tip 4. Set clear deadlines

A good flatplan can help you manage deadlines. Add clearly visible information about when content is due and who is responsible for delivery. Depending on how complex your workflow is, you may want to have different deadlines for each article, page, or section.

Tip 5: Organise content by section

Tip 5: Organise content by section
Group your pictures, text and other content into story folders. One folder per story makes it easier to keep everything organised and to find content you want to reuse or repurpose. You can also make sure that content is stored in a central database or file system so it can be shared amongst colleagues and contributors.

Tip 6: Automate advertising placements

A good flatplan helps you plan the placement of each advertisement. You can quickly see whether left-page or right-page ads are placed properly, making it easier to avoid misplacing ads. It’s also easier to plan sales and pricing of advertisements when you have a live update of space availability.

Many organisations integrate their advertising management systems with their flatplanning tools. Integration enables advertisers to deliver pdfs to an advertising system, where pdfs are automatically added to predefined sections of the flatplan. The amount of time spent sending, copying, pasting and managing files is cut dramatically.

Next steps: Flatplanning tools

PagePlanner is ideal for flatplanning and much more. Book a free, 15 min demo to see what it can do. No obligation! Contact us and let us know what time is best for you.

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About the author
Terje Olsen has been an active participant in the Norwegian publishing sector for more than 15 years. His deep experience spans almost every aspect of newspapers and magazine publishing from print-to-digital and operational to strategic. Before joining PagePlanner Solutions AS as Vice President of Products & Services in December 2013, Terje held positions including Head of Print and Digital Production at Tech Magazine (Teknisk Ukeblad) and Varden, Head of Web Publishing, Orkla Media, Chief Editor and Managing Director, Kragerø Newspaper.