Photo: The opening spread from a December 2008 issue of Canadian Geographic

I love flipping through old issues of Canadian Geographic. Not only do I learn about our country’s past, but as a designer for the magazine it’s interesting for me to assess previously used story layouts.

In today’s design world, we often use the word “dated” when reviewing any type of design work. And more often than not, the term is used with a negative connotation. But the fonts and colours that might look dated to us today worked quite effectively at the time.

The layout above recently caught my eye. It was for a story from our December 2008 issue, about a young man who traveled through an alpine terrain some 200 years ago. In 1999, his remains were discovered and studied closely. Because of the environmental conditions, his body was preserved so well that the scientists were able to get all kinds of information about him. What he last snacked on, drank, what infections he carried, how he might have died.

Due to the nature of the story, illustrations were used for visuals in the layout. I think they were done very well.

Without even having to read the article, the opener gave me chills. My eyes immediately went to the lonely, fading figure of a man standing in front of cold, rocky mountains. Splashes of colour in the foreground only intrigued me further. Then, the title “The messenger” and the intro followed and as a reader I was drawn in.

Throughout the following pages, the overall design, with the help of an integrated map in the background, helped carry the mood of the story. I felt touched by the courage of this young man and saddened by the circumstances of his death. To me, that’s what an effective design does: leaves the reader with an emotion, a strong reaction to the story, no matter how old it might be.