How to become a magazine designer (a detailed guide)

Updated 1 May 2023

The magazine designer position focuses on creativity and taking an artistic approach, which is perfect for those who enjoy implementing their vision in a publication. The job has many different aspects that allow creative people to produce work within a technical framework. If you want to pursue a magazine designer role, it's helpful to understand the job outlook and its specific technicalities. In this article, we discuss how to become a magazine designer and provide in-depth details about the job.

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What is a magazine designer?

A magazine designer is a professional who creates a magazine's visual layout and aesthetic components, such as the front cover, content pages, sponsors and back page. The designer organises images to create an enticing end product that captures the target audience's attention. Visual elements are typically more important components of a magazine than written content. Magazine designers are important to a publication company, as the success of a magazine relies on it having an attractive aesthetic that resonates with readers.

Related: 17 jobs at magazines (plus salary and duties info)

How to become a magazine designer

If you want to learn how to become a magazine designer, consider the following tips:

1. Obtain a degree

The minimum requirement for becoming a magazine designer is obtaining an undergraduate degree in a related field. Most magazine designers have an art-related degree in graphic design, advertising with an art focus or something relating to publication design. Alternatively, some professionals pursue a degree in communications, marketing or journalism to learn more about the magazine creation process so that they can combine their artistic vision with practical knowledge.

Obtaining an undergraduate degree is important to the role, as it allows candidates to learn about the business aspect of magazine design and provides them with first-hand experience in the field. During the course, you can make valuable connections with individuals and gain insight into the design process of various publications. Depending on your degree, you can also learn important supplementary information to assist your professional development.

Related: A beginner's guide to earning your undergraduate degree

2. Look for internships

An important part of developing your professional career is taking internship opportunities. Most individuals take on internships alongside studying for their degrees. Some internships offer short-term contracts of 1 to 3 months that students can complete during the holidays, but the most valuable internship opportunities last for 6 to 12 months. When you complete your internship, the hiring company may offer you a full-time position if they appreciate your contributions.

You can learn more from an internship programme than from learning theoretical topics in school, as you're contributing to real work in an actual working environment. Those looking to become magazine designers can observe how established professionals complete work and evaluate their thought processes during the creation period. Some internships pay interns, while the majority don't pay but may offer the opportunity for full-time work pending completion.

Related: 13 key internship benefits (including useful skills)

3. Consider further education

Pursuing a master's degree is not required to become a magazine designer, but it can help you secure a job more easily. Those with master's degrees typically receive higher starting salaries due to the extra effort they put into their education. Master's degrees allow you to learn more specific information about the role you're applying for and spend more time learning the necessary theoretical information to succeed.

Related: Should I do a master's degree? Here's what you need to know

4. Develop your professional network

Growing and developing your professional network is important for any job, as it allows you to rely on your contacts to acquire certain jobs, access specific resources or acclimate yourself to a new working environment. You can develop your network during your education, internship opportunities or other extracurricular activities. As you progress in your career, you interact with more professionals and grow your network.

Related: Your complete guide to networking at events (with steps)

5. Search for jobs

Once you've acquired the necessary certifications and work experience, you can begin looking for magazine designer jobs. You can find these opportunities on online job boards, local job listings or through a contact's recommendation. Ensure that you have a well-crafted resume and cover letter ready to submit. For entry-level positions, you may start out as an assistant to a designer or contribute to specific components of the magazine until you can progress to managerial responsibilities.

Related: Guide: using Indeed Job Search

Magazine designer necessary skills

The following are some useful skills to have if you want to become a magazine designer:

Trend awareness

Magazines are publications that put heavy emphasis on imagery. To keep readers' attention, designers may cycle through various design trends to keep things interesting. Each publication has its own target audience with unique interests and tastes, so it's important that a magazine designer can create visuals that match their audience's desired aesthetic. There are various trends these professionals keep track of, such as typefaces, colour combinations and image placement.

Critical thinking

Art and design are creative endeavours that require you to use critical thinking skills during practical situations. A design that doesn't match the right aesthetic can hinder a publication's reach and subscription rate, so it's important to use context, analysis and critical thought to curate a relevant product. When magazine designers receive a brief or a theme for a new edition, they use their analytical abilities to create the layout, plan the imagery and compile visual elements together.

Related: Why critical thinking is important plus definition and tips

Graphic design knowledge

Magazine designers utilise graphic design as their primary medium due to the evolution of design and its transition to digital forms. Specific applications make the magazine design process easier, which allows a designer to complete all of their daily activities. Having knowledge of these design software allows you to be productive in the role. If you want to improve your graphic design knowledge, consider taking supplementary courses.

Computer skills

Most of a magazine designer's responsibilities take place on a computer due to the digital nature of the design and organisation process. Designers consider specific requirements such as dimensions, printing specifications and colours when creating a magazine. Digital software allows designers to operate in a single application, eliminating complex processes common in traditional publication design and publishing. Magazine designers also require computer skills to communicate with their peers.

Related: How to develop your skill set for career success


Magazine designers work in a team to create a cohesive end product that includes a mixture of information and design. These professionals may work with different departments to achieve the company's goals and work closely with editors and content managers to ensure high-quality work. A magazine requires input and contribution from multiple employees and departments, and a diverse team requires strong collaboration and leadership. As magazine designers progress professionally, they may take on more managerial responsibilities, which also requires strong teamwork skills.

Magazine designer work environment

Magazine designers may work under full-time contracts or freelance positions. Many large-scale publications hire a team of designated designers, but smaller ones may hire freelancers part-time. Full-time designers frequently collaborate with peers to curate high-quality publications and receive input from other departments. Freelancers may not operate under a collaborative structure instead of taking charge of the majority of design aspects. Entry-level candidates may work as assistants before taking on more responsibilities as they gain experience.

Related: How To Write a Graphic Designer Cover Letter (With Examples)

Magazine designer responsibilities

Magazine designers have a limited scope of responsibilities that pertain strictly to the aesthetic creation of publications. The following are some primary duties of a magazine designer:

  • discussing with the company the theme of the following publication

  • using design software to organise digital layouts and imagery for print publication

  • organising imagery, written content, sponsored advertisements and cover pages

  • deciding on publication branding

  • selecting colours, fonts and general aesthetics

  • assisting with the design of other company assets, such as websites, business cards and email signatures

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