Sep 29, 2010

Thinking inside the grid

The best news designers can take a blank news page each day, with the same confining grid, and see something different. They can take the day's news or features and see a piece of art.

Stephanie Grace Lim is an acclaimed news designer, illustrator and photographer. The Society of News Design, the professional network which praises and critiques news design worldwide, has recognized her on many occasions. Her work is fun, whimsical and smart — the perfect combination for visual storytelling.

Lim used to design the San Jose Mercury News' entertainment tab covers, including the one pictured below.

This design is advertising alternative ways to spend a weekend in San Jose. The "detour," is not an obvious choice, but it fits perfectly.

The page is clean. With white space keeps a reader from being overwhelmed by text or graphics. And the toy cars and pop of orange color are eye-catching, to say the least.

This is just one example of the talent and tenacity news design requires.

Sep 27, 2010

A History of News Design, part 1

In the beginning, there was news, but there wasn't design. At least not much.

Back when concerned citizens first started newspapers, the idea was to get information out, not to make it look good. Since newspapers was the primary source of information, editors took for granted that citizens would read it. The front page didn't have to be eye-catching.

This front page is from 1964. A lot of people probably read it back then, when no other news source was available, but if The BG News tried to pull a design like this today, not many would read it.

That's a lot of text, and it doesn't flow well. Nearly every story is L-shaped, and L-shapes are tough for readers' eyes to follow. Also, there are about nine stories on the front. Today, most newspapers get away with three or four longer stories because big photos, big headlines, big design takes up space.

Actually, most of the tricks newspapers use today to get readers' attentions are not present: Big photos, punchy headlines, even bylines are absent.

But many of these differences come from how the paper was put together. Not many photos were used because it was so much more difficult back then to apply photos to the giant sheets of metal they sent to the printer (again, more about process later).

Design didn't actually start to change until the rise of the computer. The creative, design-heavy front pages seen today weren't possible without programs like InDesign and PhotoShop.

A History of News Design, part 2 coming soon

Sep 26, 2010

Funny newspaper moments

Pop culture, much? What will these television shows and commercials consist of once newspapers are finally dead? Here are some fun videos of newspaper mentions in real life.

I like to think newspapers still get this kind of readership and respect.

Newspapers should be a reason to get up in the morning. Especially during a weeklong series. Or a three-part series. Or an ongoing series. I love a good series.

This is actually how a newspaper runs. Panic = fuel.

As any of my friends can tell you, I love Watergate. That was such a good era for newspapers, and lucky for us, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham did everything completely right. Everybody talks about how the Washington Post brought down a president, but I think more than that they proved the system works. What many people today don't realize is that the Watergate scandal broke over a period of two years (1972 - 1974) and during that time Nixon was actually reelected to office. Woodward, Bernstein, the whole lot worked themselves into the ground trying to get to the bottom of it. From it came a book and a movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. In this clip, Woodward is trying to figure out what is going on. (Don't you think that's an accurate definition of a journalist? Someone who's trying to figure out what is going on.)

A clip from Disney's Newsies. This movie immortalized the Newsboy Strike of 1899. Newsboys were the kids on the corner shouting "Extra! Extra!" trying to get citizens to buy their newspapers. The kids weren't paid too well, if you can believe that. So they went on strike to get better pay. It worked. Sure, Disney hyped it up, as per usual, but the magic doesn't diminish with age. Remember, headlines don't sell papes. Newsies sell papes.

Sep 25, 2010


It's 6 a.m., and you're pissed because you had to wake up so early for work. You put the coffee on, think about adding a shot of Bailey's, but decide to be professional today and so have just the coffee, and then you check the front porch for the morning news. You know it will be there, because someone has gotten out of his warm bed even earlier than you: the paperboy.

If half this blog is about what will go away when newspapers do, then we can't ignore this most noble of professions. Being a paperboy is almost a rite of passage in a young man or lady's life (even though some were girls, everybody was still considered a paper*boy*). When I was a kid, I wanted to deliver newspapers. But my parents decided to move three miles outside of town, and I was unwilling to bike all the way there and back every morning. And it didn't even matter anyway, because one family in town had a monopoly on the paperboy business, and it was impossible for anyone else to break in. I would have been good, though. I would have been really good.

It just won't be the same, waking up to coffee and the sound of your old Windows 98 booting up to check Google News. Plus, without the responsibility of having a steady job, young kids who were once destined to be paperboys in a pre-Internet society will probably turn to the streets selling heroin and sleeping in opium houses.

Sep 24, 2010

Man, I love college ... newspapers

As a college journalist, I enjoy looking at professional papers of all calibers, from The New York Times to the random papers in small town Alabama. Each paper has its own merits (well, most of them do), and I often get ideas based on the designs of others.

Or I learn what not to let a paper look like.

Either way, it's a learning process. And you can't know good design without looking at it.

But professional papers are not the only ones worth taking a gander at. Collegiate newspapers and reporters are in the same boat as many of us — they are working, going to school, being journalists and attempting to put out the best paper possible.

While not conveniently located in one place, many college newspapers have great news design and content. It just takes a little digging.

I like to start with the ones in Ohio or nearby from familiar schools. Ohio University and Kent State University are the only schools in Ohio, other than Bowling Green State University, to have accredited journalism schools. Because of that, those papers are my go-tos.

Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. is also a well-known college publication. I can always learn something from what the kids at the Daily News are doing or designing.

But college journalism by no means stops in the midwest.

Papers all over the country are being put together by college journalists and designers. Often, these papers rival their professional counterparts.

So don't discredit college papers. They are great tools for learning and emulating. And sometimes they provide a good laugh.

Sep 23, 2010

Embrace Design

Welcome to "Til Death Do Us Part" — where two newspaper junkies will revel in all the greatness newspaper design has to offer.

We realize newspapers are supposedly on the decline. The economy's rough; the Internet is becoming the go-to for breaking headlines. And maybe we shouldn't have put so much stock in the advertising business model.

But print journalism is not dead. As newspapers continue to circulate, their page designs will become even more crucial to drawing readers away from their glowing screens and back to the reliable newsprint broadsheets.

In fact, the Internet makes news design more accessible, more necessary and easier to share. The front page design of most newspapers worldwide is a few clicks away. But you already know this.

We are here to show you a few things you may not know about news design. Maybe you will even learn to love it as much as we do. Or at least appreciate it for the time-consuming, calculating creative process it is.

So stayed tuned for an archive of news design — the best, the worst, the artists behind the graphics and why it all matters.

In the meantime, take a second to pick up your morning edition and see what its design team slaved over the night before. Go ahead. Tear it apart. After all, design is all about the reader.