Vocab Lesson 3: F.O.B., B.O.B. and the WELL

Vocab Lesson 3: F.O.B., B.O.B. and the WELL If you spend enough time around magazine staffers (and if you're attending tomorrow's Pub Crawl event), you're likely to hear the terms F.O.B. and B.O.B. and the well. No, these aren't variations on a common curse phrase... these are real terms that you need to know. Instead of pretending you're in on the game, learn what they really mean after the jump...

F.O.B. stands for front-of-book. Similarly, B.O.B. stands for back-of-book. While that gives you a hint of what it means, there's a bit more of an explanation, and it actually introduces an additional term.

Despite not actually being a book, magazines are often referred to as such. So when we say front of the book, we mean the first section of the magazine, everything that comes in FRONT of the big section of feature stories. The F.O.B. is made up of mostly recurring pages such as the table of contents, the staff listing, the letters page(s), and a variety of columns, reviews, and pages full of sidebars and mini-stories. Some magazines have front-of-book sections that go well past the magazine's physical middle, while others have only a few F.O.B. pages before their feature stories start. Here's just a sampling of F.O.B. pages:

Likewise, back of the book means the back section of the magazine, the pages that come AFTER the main feature stories. The B.O.B. can include practical pages such as resource listings, credits and directories, but also reviews, columns and other pages here that are similar to the F.O.B. pages. 

Both F.O.B. and B.O.B. pages are most often based on well-structured templates and style sheets and are treated in a similar way from issue to issue. The typefaces and color palettes are often kept the same, and there's a consistent use of illustration and photography. This consistency helps the reader by giving them immediate visual clues to what section of the magazine they are in, allowing the content to be the star rather than an ever-changing design which could become distracting. 

But just because these pages follow well-established design guidelines doesn't mean they are easy to design. There is great skill in putting all the various pieces of content together in a consistent way that isn't also boring in its repetition.

BOB.jpgBut enough about the F.O.B. and B.O.B. ... the editorial heart of a magazine is its well, also known as the feature well. This is the section of longer stories that change from issue to issue. It contains most of the stories that are mentioned in big type on the cover, and most of these stories take up many pages. 

Here the design, photography and illustration is more varied, yet there is generally still an overall style, albeit much looser and more flexible than the front- and back-of-book pages. Sometimes the section is introduced by an opening page for the section, other times it just starts right after an F.O.B. page. 

Of course there are magazines and special issues that defy the F.O.B. / Well / B.O.B. organization. As you read your favorites, start paying attention to how the mag is set up and how each publication treats these different pages.

*Editors' Note: Sadly one of the magazines pictured above (Blender) is no longer being published. But don't snub discontinued publications ... they are still great sources of inspiration!

"Vocab Lesson" is a recurring feature on our SPD Student Blog. Tune in every Wednesday for a new word of the week. And if you come across a term you can't quite figure out, email it to us at spdstudentoutreach@gmail.com and we'll define it in a future post.
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