What are some tips for designing B2B publications?

Designing for B2B publications can be just as similar to designing for consumer publications as it is different.

Matt Claney, art director at WTWH Media in the United States, said that audience and subject matter can be more defined in B2B publications than in consumer works.

“If it’s a technical magazine with charts and graphs, you need to keep that in mind when establishing the look of the entire piece, whereas other content could lend itself to more creative design,” he said. “In any case, it’s important to keep the reader in mind and ensure the information is easy to follow. In both cases, you’re trying to draw the attention of the reader and guide them through the information.”

Claney said that working with the editorial team in regard to content and design is helpful, especially when designing special issues.

“Usually special issues are planned out well enough in advance that the whole team has had time to properly outline the content,” he said. “Use this extended time frame to brainstorm with your editors and determine the one thing you’re trying to do or say with this issue. Make sure whatever art you select tells the same story as the content inside. Also, use this time to create the right cover lines. Show the audience why it’s a special issue.”

Depending on a B2B publication’s industry and budget, sometimes great photos and other art can be hard to come by. It can be challenging for some publications to even obtain images high-resolution enough to use in print. Claney suggests drawing out elements from the images to use throughout a feature such as color and shapes. Images with people are often the most interesting and dynamic. A good font with the right feel can also make an impression, such as in a pull quote.

Kathy McGilvery, design director for WealthManagement.com in the United States, often has to use supplied art but tries to make the most of it.

“If the images are really unattractive I usually convert them to duotone or black and white, and use color elsewhere — for instance in the callouts—to give it a more palatable look,” she said. Jackie Baraona is the graphic designer at the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association in the United States. She’s often forced to use stock images.

When choosing an image, she looks for colorful, visually interesting photos or graphics that will fit nicely on the page (vertically), and leave room for text and headlines. Even when working from stock ​ images, Baraona still suggests keeping your eye out for inspiration.

“Look for inspiration everywhere you go,” she said. “Everything from other magazines to billboards to even a fast-food container can inspire you. Don’t be afraid to do the occasional rebrand to freshen up your color palette and typefaces.” Claney also recommends that designers take time to follow industry trends in B2B works, consumer publications, web design and social media. “Everything has the opportunity to have good design,” he said. “Know your audience and tell the best story that you can.”