Monthly Archives: February 2011

Powerful Photos

Pictures hold memories, share experiences, and capture moments. But most importantly, pictures tell stories.
Some photos say more than words ever could.

This photo is no exception:

Firemen raise the American flag at Ground Zero in NY

The graphic invokes raw emotion and really captures the feelings, positive and negative, that resulted from the Sept. 11th tragedy. Taking the memorable painting from Iwo Jima and recreating it, likening it to this experience, made the story impactful. Among all the photos of fire, destruction and death, this photo captured the strength and the patriotism of all Americans, and provided an inspiring, positive image against a background of suffering. It shows ordinary people rising to an extraordinary challenge. The use of gray around the men and flag allows the colors (mostly red, white, and blue) to pop, and emphasizes the historical symbolism. The eye is drawn to the flag first and then naturally follows the pole line to the men. It works perfectly.
This picture is icnonic and will be remembered, as September 11th will, for a long time.

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Back in Black and White

A newspaper without art or pictures is a rare sight in 2011, but even rarer is a front page with no color at all.

How does a gray block of columns interest readers? Well, it’s not easy.

Here’s a look at two papers that made it work:

The headlines are eye-catching, and the font types are similar across the page, working together as a cohesive unit. The decks draw readers in step by step and make the stories easier to follow. They also break up the monotony of the long, vertical columns of text. The thin rules down the page are not distracting and are just thick enough to provide the necessary divisions without drawing attention to themselves. The large, italic headline across the top indicates the main idea and gives the reader an overview of the page. Everything below is a specific peice of this larger story, so the reader can pick and choose what to read based on interest. I do think the headline would have worked better sans-serif, though. Or at least not both serifed and italicized. This newspaper also fit more text on the page than the other two, without being overwhelming.

This paper's headlines are the most easily visible, and the fonts work well together with more variety in typeface than the New York Times. The gutters are wide enough that the paper has breathing room. In the Baltimore American and New York Times, the columns nearly ran together, creating a chaotic look, especially with the skinnier columns in the Baltimor paper. The headlines are all at the top (except one) here, so it is easy to see the divides between stories. One simply reads down and back up until the story ends and the next headline begins. The one headline further down in the page has the illusion of a pull-out quote and works the same way, breaking up the columns of text and the strict modular feel of the paper. The headline at the top is a great size and the sans-serif font is easily readable. Again, I wish the nameplate was bigger, but I feel the nameplate's larger size makes it more visible than that of the Baltimore American. The white space works best in this paper. Though the Baltimore American had more white space, the white space was uneven and looked awkward, whereas here it is used consistently and sparingly. This paper is the most organized, and I think it works well. The subheads are a great size, and all the text is the same size below. This paper makes scanning the news easy.

And here’s one that didn’t:

This newspaper's set-up is confusing. The wide middle column of text under the main headline goes up to where the deck starts, creating confusion. At first I thought I was supposed to start reading here, and then I thought each of the three columns was a separate story. In fact, the middle column continues from the bottom of the first and then ends with a table. The third wide column begins another part of the Titanic story. The skinny columns to the left look funny next to the larger columns across the center and right of the paper. They look like they contain ads, but it's hard to tell. If that is the case, the column should contain a mix of stories and ads to break up those small boxes. These columns also use smaller text, which I don't like. The text (aside from heads and decks) should be the same size across the page. The main headline is also larger than the nameplate, which is lost in the background. I also think the second part of the two main decks is too large. The text should decrease in size as it goes down, but the second phrases are in bold and the same size as the subhead before it, so it stands out more, which is backwards to me.

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The Inclusion of Infographics

From the Desk of Rachel Bevels

Design Editor, The News Daily

Charles,

I have a few suggestions to run by you. In considering the layout of the paper, I concluded that infographics would brighten the page and add visual depth to the news. I believe an infographic could give the reader the gist of the story quickly and entice them to read the rest. Infographics also highlight main stories, allowing the reader to see clearly which stories are most important. Infographics would also open up the possibility of running a series (3 days or so) on a developing story. I think this visual component would allow for variety and could even disrupt the modular layout of the page without causing confusion or chaos. I think it could be good for our loyal readers who see the same paper design day after day.

In addition to infographics, I want to suggest adding typography over the photos. I believe this would eliminate dead space in the pictures and allow us to add energy to the paper. The typography is one of the most important aspects of the front page, and I think doing something visually arresting could really pay off. The picture and typography could build off one another, making each of them stand out more than otherwise and, again, it would emphasize the importance of a story. Also, it eliminates confusion about which story the pictures belong to. Finally, the space we save by imposing letters on images would allow us to add more news to the front page or add white space for a less cluttered look. It opens up a world of design opportunities.

I also advise that some stories be boxed, as they define boundaries for the reader and eliminate confusion. They make the paper look more organized with clean-cut lines and definition. Boxed stories could also indicate importance, as only special stories are usually set off in boxes. They also free up space, because two stories can butt against one another without being mistaken as one story. Pictures can then be positioned in more ways, because the box prevents the picture from being confused with another story. Boxes also allow for background colors, which would brighten the page and further emphasize importance/boundaries. With a wide audience, we need to incorporate a wide range of designs to appeal to the most people. With so many dailies in circulation, we need to offer something atypical, something more innovative to keep our readers coming back.

I hope you will consider these design suggestions. I know they would enhance the page. I have included examples of papers that I feel employed these tactics successfully.

Rachel

I like the way the words wrap around the cutout of Reagan here. I also think the arrangement of the text and headline within the picture allows the image of the former president to be bigger.

I like the infographic here because it adds color to the page and emphasizes that particular story. The design works well, because the large story/infographics of the lightbulb are on the left, allowing for pieces of stories inside to be featured on the right, where the reader would flip the page.

I like these pictures here because they add depth to the story of the treasure trove by revealing the treasures through multiple photos, which unless done in this manner would be too many photos for the front page. I feel like these pictures are a narrative of their own. The photos really draw in a reader and make this story stand out among the others.

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Legibility = Likeability

The Tuscaloosa News staff has an eye for design…

When writing works well:

The fonts used on this page are similar, with the main variation being heaviness of type (the main headline is boldest). The most important headline is sans serif, so it is distinguishable from the nameplate and highlights the heirarchy of the news. The other headlines are all done with serifs, but the font is similar to the sans serif font, so it isn’t distracting. The tracking is perfect, and I have no trouble reading the words. I also enjoy the typographical symmetry of the left and right. The INSIDE stories stand out well in all caps, using those extra stories to draw in more readers. The red words at the top of the page are a little big, especially since the color makes these words stand out already, but I like that the red in the headline is pulled from the red of the player’s jersey. The main headline needs to be bigger, something more like a 48 point font, but the type family works well, I think. It’s simple. And this is the only paper that used typography with a natural flow, decreasing down the page.

But these papers missed the bull’s-eye…

For fool-proof font flubs:


I don’t know who let this print. Letters are overlapping other letters all across the page (even in the nameplate)! The kerning has clearly been altered too much, sacrificing legibility. Also, I think the swimming headline is a good size, but it looks strange because every other headline on the page appears to be the exact same size. All fonts are serifed (is this a word?), which creates a dull look and only makes the problem with kerning worse. They are also all bold. If the news staff wanted to use that font so badly, they should have used various forms, like condensed, (though they have enough of that going on), italic, bold, light, etc. The subhead is also too small for my taste. Being the only one, it needs to shine on the page, not fade into the woodwork. If you want a paper to crash and burn, use typography like this.

Testament to terrible typography:

The typography here may not be as bad as that of the Rockdale Citizen, but it’s worth mentioning in the same category. The headline about Beshear looks ridiculous with that much leading. The white space is just awkward while reading. As we saw with the others, this paper hasn’t chosen headline sizes well. I assume the main story is the board discussing nutrition, but honestly, do I know? No, because every story has a similarly sized headline. Where is the heirarchy? And where is the variety? Every headline is in that same sans serif font. Sure, it’s legible, but if the headlines can’t interest me, I’m not going to read them. The caption also might have been better in an italic font, not bold, like everything else on the page. Or maybe not in the same size font as the stories. It is too similar to the font on the rest of the page. I like captions to assert themselves as such — same with headlines. While on the topic of obnoxious fonts, I also dislike the nameplate. From far away, I wouldn’t be able to read the name with all those fancy, curling letters. If I were walking down the street in a hurry, I would buy the most quickly recognizable paper (not this one).

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