The art of creating a flatplan… properly

The art of creating a flatplan

Heather Brown

Creative Artworker

Posted on October 16, 2017

A flatplan is the most important tool in designing magazines, small books and larger financial documents. It’s essential to create a flatplan at the start of your job, this will aid you in setting boundaries, like page count, word count, feature articles, images and adverts. One person, usually the project manager should own the flat plan and keep it updated. Then making sure everyone in the team receives the latest version so there’s no confusion. Keeping control of the flatplan makes the whole production process less time-consuming, keeping you within budget, on time and making the sign-off process easier.

What exactly is a flatplan?

Quite simply, a flatplan is a grid layout or thumbnails of all your pages of your document. It allows you to plan your document in advance, giving you an overall view of all your articles and adverts laid out as spreads. Viewing the spreads side by side will help identify any issues that might arise early. This allows you to move articles around so that the content flows better and makes it a more enjoyable reading experience.

A flatplan allows you to layout all your important articles, features or adverts first. The right-hand page is the most important page, as you see this first when turning over pages, therefore your adverts usually sit on this page. A perfect example of this is, if you have an advertorial which is explaining your latest financial plan or offer, you would want to end the advertorial with an advert on the right-hand page. So depending on the page count, start the copy on the left-hand page so that you entice the reader and lead them to the advert on the right-hand page. Finally, you would work the rest of the articles on the remaining blank pages.

Different stages of a flatplan

The earlier flatplans would be scamped-up on paper and stuck on boards for the production team to view. As the articles or adverts progress then the pages on the board would be updated and marked out at what stage they were at. The overall view would be like a large storyboard.

Earlier Flatplans

Nowadays you can now create your flatplans on your computer and colour code each stage of the process. See below for the flatplan style used at Talisman, where we colour code your editorial pages differently from your adverts, as it makes them stand out more. Also, using different colours for each stage of the process is a convenient visual aid and helps you keep track of the evolving document:

  • Awaiting copy – Red
  • Copy received – Orange
  • Awaiting images – Blue
  • Page complete – Green
  • Page signed-off – Black

Computer Flatplans

Different kinds of flatplans

Clients can have a basic flatplan or schedule of their own, which would work alongside the agency’s flatplan. An excel spreadsheet would work well for this. This would let them work from their start date through to final sign-off. For example the column headers might be:

  • Contributors – a list of names assigning articles
  • Sales Department – assigning sizes of Adverts and pages available
  • Deadlines – time limits for each department
  • Notes or comments section
  • Using the colour code system to update the flatplan

Clients excel flatplan

Digital online flatplan software companies

If you don’t want to create your own flatplan from scratch, you could pay an online company and use their software to create your flatplans. Every person on the team can view the flatplan and update according. You can view the pages as thumbnails of your actual document, making it a constant evolving process. This software allows you to add and name categories, name and colour code the tags of the workflow, move pages around and update each page as they get worked on along the way. More importantly you can collaborate with others online, view their comments and share the flatplan via pdfs. Some systems now link the data in your flatplan with other systems, an example being; linking to the ad booking systems where copy chasing is automated.

At Talisman we firmly believe in running our client projects on time and on budget. As well as keeping the client in the know on the project status. A flatplan is the way to ensure we achieve this for our clients.