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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