Sometimes it just is not possible to have amazing design in a publication. This is not to say it is poorly designed, or that one should not strive to design it well, but at times issues get in the way.
One of these issues is time. Publications tend to be on deadlines. Sometimes the deadlines are purely of the publication’s own making, but often the deadlines are influenced by outside concerns such as advertisers who need their ads to be out on the street by a particular date, or a printing press whose schedule leaves them a narrow window to print that particular project.
When coming up against such a deadline, one has to make choices. Do I have time to tweak this page to look as good as it can, or do I need to move on? Do I correct the spacing on this article or do I tweak the photo so it prints correctly?
Another issue is the budget. Can you buy graphical elements, or are you going to be forced to either build them yourself (often with limited time to do so) or do without entirely. Can you afford to spend a few additional hours making the final adjustments, or have you run out of the budgeted amount you can pay someone to do the layout?
Advertisements, while usually necessary to keep the publication profitable, create their own design issues. Depending on the circumstances, the publication may have limited control over what the ends themselves look like. If the advertiser is happy with the ad, but it isn’t quite the right size (a problem I found to be pretty common), or it has colors which clash, you can find yourself in a bind.
Further, the sales associates may only have been able to sell a particular ad by promising specific placement—like on the front page. As more ads are promised particular placements, your flexibility rapidly declines, and often you will find the promised ad placements are in key locations where you would ideally want articles and photos.
Speaking of limited flexibility, the location of your masthead rarely changes. It is the publication’s personal advertisement, and needs to be located so that the potential audience can see it sticking up in a magazine rack or newspaper stand. Usually this means putting it right up at the top of the page big enough for a passerby to read it without even really trying. Which means that article you really want to feature is already overshadowed by at least one element on the page.
When faced with such challenges, one simply has to work around them as best as possible, knowing it might not end up ideal, but that getting the product out in solid, although not prefect, form on time and budget, is better than perfect design a week late and way over budget.