How to Make Your Publication Look Great

Customizing on Medium has never been so powerful

elizabeth tobey
7 min readApr 7, 2016

Starting today, customization options for publications have increased exponentially.

Not everyone’s a designer (or even has a visually artistic eye — I speak with authority here), but anyone can make their Medium publication look unique and professional by keeping in mind a few guiding principles.

On migration

Publications can be made from scratch on Medium or built from existing work migrated from another platform. Our Help Center has a guide that will help you migrate your work to Medium (and your custom domain, if that’s your jam).

On logos, avatars, and headers

First things first: You’ll want to start designing your publication by creating a snazzy logo, avatar, and header.

We’ve expanded and made more powerful elements that have already existed for publications.

Use transparent .png files for logos, avatars, and headers. This will make your logo look great with all backgrounds and headers. You can make these in editing programs like Photoshop or GIMP.

  • Publication logos (the logo that shows up at the top of each story) should be no larger than 600px wide and 75px high.
  • Avatars (the icon that shows up beside the name of your publication, such as at the bottom of every post) should be 60x60px in size.
  • Headers come in small, medium, and large. You can also put an image in a large header: The aspect ratio is 2:1 with the minimum size being 1500px wide and 750px high.

More about headers

Since headers are brand new, there are a number of different ways that you can achieve a personalized and unique look by playing with our different options.

This is what our homepage customization tool looks like.

On header sizes and image options

The header for your publication can be small, medium, or large. If choosing small or medium, you’ll be able to choose a background color only.

Small header.
Medium header.

For large headers, you can also choose a background image. While we require the image be at least 1500px wide and 750px high, we recommend you make the largest image possible with a 2:1 ratio (meaning it’s twice as wide as it is tall).

Large header.

Large header images might be cropped, depending on the viewing area on desktop or mobile, so you can customize the focal point to ensure the part of the image you want people to always see is right where it should be.

On logos in headers

If you are going to have a logo inside your header, making that logo as high resolution as possible is the best way to make your logo look awesome, everywhere.

We assume all logos are retina, meaning that the logo is uploaded at twice the size we assume it will be displayed. If you upload a 2000px wide and 1000px high logo, Medium interprets it as 1000px wide and 500x tall. We do this so logos look great everywhere, from a mobile phone to a giant retina screen.

Logos scale down to fit inside your header if they are a larger resolution than the area we dedicate to logos, but logos that are smaller than the logo area won’t scale up.

Bottom line: Make your logos as high resolution as possible. Pick a size you want, then double it.

On header layout options

In addition to size, you can customize your header with a logo, text, or both.

Options for laying out text, a logo, or both.

Your logo or text can be left justified or centered within your header. Experiment to see what looks best with various sizes and colors. The world (or rather, header) is your oyster.

Options for aligning titles and logos in your header.

Those People chose a Medium header with a small, square logo and two lines of text for their title, all of which they left justified.

Same Medium; Infinite publication styles.

On header colors and how they affect your publication

You can customize the background color for your header image to be any shade of the rainbow you desire. Our editor requires a hex color (hex colors are a mix of numbers and letters that tell a website what color to render) so that we match the exact shade you seek. You can also choose between “subtle” and “bold” themes. Picking bold will utilize your customized color more prominently throughout your publication, whereas subtle will implement it, well, more discreetly.

Want to find your perfect header color and its hex color? This amazing site, Color Hex, is exactly what you need.


Experiment with this color palette. Your choice of customized color affects all the colors within your publication (including highlights, buttons, and other parts of the user interface), dynamically choosing complementary shades so everything works together.

Backchannel’s customized color choice changes the look of highlighted text and the recommend heart.

This is another reminder about why it’s important to use transparent .pngs for your publication logos. Transparent .pngs will appear as the same color as the background color you choose, making your publication look professional.

You might need to tweak your logo file to accommodate this (which can easily be done via Photoshop, GIMP, or another image editing program).

On tag sections

You can customize navigation from your publication’s homepage based on tags that you use in your publication. Think of these as sections for your publication. Talkback, for example, might use Feedback, Updates, and How To to help people find the specific types of posts they seek quickly. Choose the tags you want to feature in the homepage navigation area — you can select up to seven. About is always a tag, so keep that in mind while designing.

The tool to customize your publication’s homepage tags.

On favicons

Don’t you love it when a site has a cool icon in your browser tab, making it easy to recognize a specific site at a glance?

Us, too.

Now, your publication can have its own custom favicon. This feature is available for publications hosted on custom domains. Want to find out how to get your publication a custom domain? Never fear, there’s a Help Center article for that.

Customized favicons can make your publication stand out in a tab.

Don’t want or have a favicon? That’s cool. You can use ours.

On laying out your publication

While not a new feature, layout is arguably the most important aspect of a publication.

The homepage layout tab allows you to customize the organization, layout, and look of your publication.

The options are nearly endless.

Let’s start with layout: Articles can appear as a grid, in a stream like your home stream, or as a list. In this first option, I chose to have one section, sorting posts by date published, and have them displayed as a grid.

Talkback, as a grid, sorted by the most recently published stories.

Publications, as they grow, often need more organization than this first example. Organization is also crucial to take full advantage of the tags you can put in your publication headers.

For organization, you can build sections to highlight featured articles or order your stream by published date, tags, or trending posts.

Let’s get fancy with our publication, shall we?

In this example, I chose to make my top section a featured area, showing off two of my favorite Talkback posts with the rest of my articles displayed as a grid below.

Talkback, now with featured articles.

Changing a small part of your layout can significantly impact the look of your publication. In this example, I changed my image layout to have no margins and overlaid the images with title text.

The difference is significant (and, in this case, not good).

A grid layout looks significantly different when images have no margins and images are overlaid with title text.

As I said before: The world (of publications) is your oyster.

Go out there and make your mark.



elizabeth tobey

East coaster with a secret SF love affair. I enjoy juxtaposing things. Also: Cheese and tiny dachshunds.