How to Choose an Editorial Theme

Editorial themes are a great way to focus your content. By centering an issue of your publication around one central topic or theme, you create a built-in sense of cohesion. Not only does this make certain creative elements easier (color palette, cover, content budgeting, etc.), it makes your publication easier to read as a whole. This, in turn, brings you longer read times, more engagement, and a more invested audience.

What exactly is an editorial theme?

An editorial theme is a narrative theme that ties together every editorial piece in a given issue of a magazine. Yes, this is vague. That’s a good thing, since it gives you a substantial amount of freedom in choosing a theme. Editorial themes can be values, such as honesty, peace, courage, or they can be entire concepts (think contrast, saturation, truth). Editorial themes are, above all, messages. If someone were to read your magazine cover to cover, your editorial theme is what should linger with them, even if they don’t fully realize it.

So how exactly do you go about choosing a theme? It can’t come out of nowhere, so we suggest choosing one of two ways to pick a theme.

Choosing an editorial theme

Image from The Life Style Edit on Issuu

Method 1 – Inside-Out

The first method relies on using pre-established content ideas and building a theme around those. If you’ve already had some brainstorming sessions, or have some editorial pieces settled on and written, then your best bet is to build a theme around what you already have.

To make sure the theme fits, you may have to tweak the content a little, and that’s ok! There just has to be a noticeable link between the theme and every piece in the publication If it isn’t, you run the risk of having your editorial theme seem forced.

Regardless, this method is useful for creators whose schedules are tighter and who need to get started on writing as soon as possible. It’s flexible, but that flexibility can easily become a danger if pushed

Method 2 – Outside-In

Using this method involves building all of your content around a given theme. This theme can come from inside your organization, or from events and themes outside of it. For example, if there’s something happening in the world around which you want to structure your publication’s content, there’s an editorial theme right there!

This can take the shape of current events, a collective experience as an editorial staff, or just the changing of the seasons. Logistically, this method works better for teams that have more time to brainstorm themes as an organization, and where pitches and budgets aren’t as fast-paced. With a longer turnaround time, you can write for the theme, not the other way around.

Related Reading: Quick tips to cleaner editorial design

How to incorporate an editorial theme

Once you’ve chosen your theme, it’s important to maintain it throughout your publication. How strongly you want the theme to be conveyed is up to you. Ideally, your editorial team can find the right balance between making sure it’s conveyed, without being too on-the-nose.

But an equally important way to convey your editorial theme is through creative decisions. From layout to color scheme to typeface, every element needs to work in cohesion alongside your chosen editorial theme. Again, how strongly you want to dive into the theme is up to you, but subtlety tends to work better than being too obvious.

Both methods can work wonders for your publication. Whichever one you choose will ultimately depend more on your production calendar and content style. Use the Issuu Story Cloud to produce a multimedia editorial experience for your readers.


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