Flatplan is a vital part in any publication production. It gives you control over the publication production process and is very important for an art director to have insight into how various stories are laid out and how will they be arranged in the publication. Each member of the staff should have its own copy of the flatplan so they also can follow production process.
What is a flatplan
Flatplan is nothing more than a diagram of thumbnail pages in which each story is represented by the number of pages (thumbs) it consists. Ad pages are included also and it is advisable to color them differently from the editorial part of the magazine so that they can be recognizable as such.
Flatplan is very similar to movie story board and art director uses it to arrange layouts and pages in a rhythmical way so that the magazine has a flow. For example if you have several 8 pages long stories it is good to break those stories with a few shorter stories. In this way you can maintain balance and pacing throughout the publication.
Flatplan changes almost daily since some stories can be made longer or shorter if some ads drop out or new ads come in. Each time such a change occurs new flatplan is printed out and distributed to the staff members.
Art directors should go one step further with their flatplan and this involves printing out each finished page in a smaller format and attaching them either to the wall or to the pinboard. In this way art directors can see how each page looks like and what follows after each page. This will help him see any flaws in the rhythm and flow of the magazine. He can then rearrange stories in a way that will be better for a magazines character.
Make sure that your flatplan is always up to date
The common mistake is to have two stories one after another that consist of the same dominant color. This is a common mistake if few designers work on different stories and each of them chooses to use, for example, red as the dominant color. Now art director can change the order of the stories so that they are not next to each other or the layout is changed so that the stories do not resemble.
Flatplan is also important for a production manager. Magazines with large number of pages can print for a few days. This is vital information for production manager and designers because they will know which pages should be done first. Printing sheets can be made of 16 or 32 pages so it is advisable to mark the ends and beginnings of each sheet on your flatplan.
As you can see flatplan is a very important tool in magazine production and should be used daily for a reference of finished layouts, layouts that need to be done, materials that arrived, ads and so on.