Category Archives: Newspaper Design

*side note*
I’ve been keeping track of my blog’s visitor statistics and my first post about newspaper ads is the most popular of any I’ve written, with an average of 15-20 views a day. It also is ranked high in search engines when searching for ‘how to make great advertisements.’
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With that knowledge, I decided that I would write part two…

In part one, I talked about some reasons to be different, aesthetically. Here are a few more reasons, along with thoughts about the ad’s message.

  • limit the amount of content you have. An ad should grab attention not inform the viewer of every single detail.
  • Use only a few sentences, bullet points or short phrases. Similar to writing for the web, you want to give the viewer a break from the massive amount of content in the stories surrounding the ad.
  • Aim your message at a targeted audience. Be sure your audience isn’t just all males or all females.. that’s way too broad. The broader your target audience the less effective your message becomes!
  • Try to portray the uniqueness of your product/service that is being advertised.
  • Steer clear from using most free fonts in the ad. They are generally very poorly designed, have poor default kerning, etc. There are some great free fonts out there, but be picky and be prepared to do a lot of work on your typography to fix the flaws.
  • Be sure your ad is appropriate for where it is placed in the newspaper. Newspapers usually control this, but just in case… it’s probably not a good idea to put a beer ad next to the comics. Your kids will end up seeing that ad.
  • Take advantage of the placement, if possible. If you know the page your ad will be on, try tying your message to the subject matter of the surrounding stories. Or ask if your ad can be placed near certain subjects/stories.

Some of these items apply to graphic design and advertising in general as well as newspaper advertising. Are there any other tips you would add?

As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public.

As photojournalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its images as a matter of historical record. It is clear that the emerging electronic technologies provide new challenges to the integrity of photographic images … in light of this, we the National Press Photographers Association, reaffirm the basis of our ethics: Accurate representation is the benchmark of our profession. We believe photojournalistic guidelines for fair and accurate reporting should be the criteria for judging what may be done electronically to a photograph. Altering the editorial content … is a breach of the ethical standards recognized by the NPPA.

This is the center of the debate. I agree, designers, photographers and journalists shouldn’t add or take things away from a photo that will change the “integrity” of the photo. If you take out a person or a building or even add a person or building, that shouldn’t be done if the photo is being published in a newspaper or magazine. But what if you have a photo of a person with the background cutout and the photographer decided to take a photo with the half of one of the shoes cropped off. Does the designer whip out the graphics tablet and open up Illustrator and paint in the tip of the shoe, to complete the photo? I would say, yes, you should, especially if you are cutting out the background and there would be an awkward cropped foot floating in the middle of the page.

This exact thing happened this week in the Index (see this pdf). They published a photo that had the background cutout of a person’s foot but it was cropped off. It looked horrible and very incomplete. As a designer I saw laziness on behalf of the photographer and designer. But it wasn’t laziness, it simply was due to their ‘ethical’ restrictions. So, after looking at the PDF I realize they DID manipulate the photo, they placed a cutout photo on top of the rectangular photo with big fatty white drop shadow. Don’t believe me, check out this photo. They cutout this photo and placed it on another photo, to look like the person was in a different photo. Now if this isn’t changing the integrity of a photo, I don’t know what is. Maybe it’s unethical to also to publish recipes that are correct (see the Instructions section of the currey rice recipe where they call for chocolate chips and walnuts).

If it’s unethical to enhance photos without changing the meaning or integrity of the photo, then I’ll never work for a newspaper. I agree that we shouldn’t add or delete major aspects of a photo, but simply finishing the job of the lazy photographer I think is justified.

The other thing is that the photos a designer chooses should be ones he can successfully implement into his design. If we, as designers aren’t allowed to make photos look great through color correcting, levels, cropping and slight enhancements, then we shouldn’t use a photo. Maybe we’ll make the writer mad by using only typography or simply find another job, one that allows for creativity.

I heard someone in our discussion say that newspapers shouldn’t look pretty, they should just convey information.

Yeah. Right.

If the paper didn’t look pretty, no one would pick it up besides the newspaper staff who wrote it. Designers also make things functional and usable, not just pretty.  Think about posters, you don’t even look at the ugly ones, you are drawn to the readable, functional, beautiful ones.

My final thoughts: I believe editing photos in order to create the best image for the specific layout or story is what we should do, not follow an ambiguous rules, that don’t keep design in mind. Why can’t the newspaper designers have a code of ethics that begins with “As designers, we believe that….” ?

Check back with me in 5 years, I guarantee I won’t be working for a newspaper.

I found this article by Andy Rutledge to be very interesting. He believes Poynter is doing the public a disservice by putting out studies on the eye movement of people who read things on the web or in print (the study is here). Now, I’ve always found information about the typical eye movement of people to be interesting, but nothing more. In high school, I learned people view a website in a Z pattern, starting in the top left and ending in the bottom right. I used this rule of thumb to design many websites that ended up all looking alike and were really boring. But since I’ve been in college, I’ve thrown the silly “eye-movment” rules out the window. It has never informed me on how to design something. Why? Because the designer can control the reader’s eye with design principles and elements.

I find it interesting that a school for journalists is studying eye movement of web and print readers. Designers have total control over the movement of the eye with the design principles they employ, so studying eye movement should be done case by case and not by journalists. This is like a school of graphic designers putting a study on how to write for newspapers or for the web. It just shouldn’t be done

Poynter has consistantly put out studies on the the eye-movement of readers, giving specific conclusions about their data. How useful are their conclusions? Andy Rutledge would say they aren’t very useful at all because an eye-tracking test can’t be applied to every publication or website. The reader who they tested on a certain newspaper might have been interested in the article, therefore read more of it. That doesn’t mean everything about that design is great and should be applied to every other aspect of publication design.

My communication friends might not like this quote, but I think, in this case, it is true. Poynter has done a study on something outside the realm of their profession. They are measuring something the designer has the ability to control: eye movement.

They’re making these mistakes, I believe, largely because they’re clearly not designers! The Poynter Institute is “a school for journalists, future journalists and teachers of journalists.” That’s great, but it clearly does not stand them in good stead when they so casually and unwittingly wander into the realm of design.

If you haven’t began to hate me, maybe this next excerpt from Andy Rutledge’s post will make you do so. :)

Eye-tracking Myopia

Here are a couple of examples of Poynter’s EyeTrack conclusions. Let’s examine some of their claims from the studies about online readers’ habits.

1. Users spend a good deal of time initially looking at the top left of the page and upper portion of the page before moving down and right-ward.

Not if the designer doesn’t want that to happen. What they’re referring to here are the behaviors of their study subjects when presented with the specific layouts used in the study. Any competent designer can craft a layout and design to elicit any specific entry/focus behavior on the page.

2. Ads perform better in the left hand column over the right column of a page. The right column is treated by users as an “after-thought” area and should be designed with that in mind.

Hogwash. Yes, a designer can make this so, but she can also design the page so that any area of the page allows ads to perform better. This is, in fact, the designer’s responsibility with many projects. The “after thought area” of a page is created by the design—if it is designed to exist at all, and is not always relegated to the right column.

3. Navigation placed at the top of a homepage performed best.

…For the specific designs used in the study, perhaps. But this again is wholly contextual to the design, the content, and the intent of the designer.

This is the sort of pap they would have designers, publishers, and editors believe and invest in. In their current pre-study promo article, they say, “Because the study adheres to the highest research standards, we’ll be able to offer industry leaders scientific accuracy on which to base the editing decisions they make every day.” However, as their conclusions are farcical and myopic, they don’t actually offer much in the way of valuable information. Their definitions of high research standards and scientific accuracy would seem to be unreliable.

So let’s let journalists write and study the effects of writing on readers. Also, let’s let designers design and study of the effects of design on viewers.

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I recently created a newspaper ad for the Christmas gatherings at Meadow Heights Church. I went for a sort of web 2.0 style, combined with my own style of simple and clean design. Check out the design work for the Imagine Campaign I worked on for them.

I’m new to designing ads for newspapers, but not new to designing and laying out newspaper pages. I worked a semester at the Truman Index. I stared at very full newspaper pages with columns and columns of text all the time while trying to fit even more stuff in there. It’s all about how much crap (stories?) you can fit on one page.

So, why not break that rule when making newspaper ads?

  • Newspapers seem to disregard the idea of negative space. So I realized that to make a great ad is to use a lot of negative space.
  • Also, using very large text, larger than the largest headline on the page works well.
  • Scope out the newspaper before designing an ad for it. See how they layout the page, and do the opposite: use negative space, use text on an angle. Why text on an angle? Because no other text on the page will be angled and the eye will be drawn to your ad.
  • If you are lucky enough to have an ad on a page with color, and you know there will already be a lot of color on the page, do this: Make yours black and white… Why? Because there is a lack of color the eye will stop on your ad for “rest”.

Check out Great Newspaper Ads pt. 2 from August 12, 2008

Newspaper Ads in an hour

I kind of fell into doing a few designs for a newspaper ad to be featured in Kirksville’s Daily Express. I was chatting with my boss about how I saw my logo for the Drug Coalition on the billobard and she mentioned she had an hour to get an advertisement designed.. So I offered to help since I was taking her time by talking. Here are the two possible black and white designs:

Newspaper Design
Last semester I worked at the Index and did page layout and designed small information graphics. I learned a lot when it came to dealing with a lot of text. The Index put to use the idea of modular design. Modular design is where each story and things related to a story can have a box drawn around it. So you can’t have a story (including related photos) laid out in any shape other than a rectangle or square.

Graphic Design is a much broader spectrum than Newspaper Design. So a lot of times you can recognize the graphic designers that have worked a lot with newspaper, because they start using newspaper-only design rules in their other types of design. For example, using justified text, when left-aligned is much more pleasing to the eye; or being limited to only one typeface because that’s how they did it at the newspaper. It’s ok to use 2 typefaces, and they don’t have to be the same ones for every design.

Here are two frontpages that I did the layout for.

This first page layout is an example of what we would do every week. This time we had a unrelated photo to add, and it usually has a unique title. Well, for filler text I put “Grapes of Wrath” with the tree photo… and the copy-editors liked it and kept it. So, you never know when your spur of the moment thoughts will be worth something.

For this one, I had to come up with a concept to go with the story. I chose to have a photographer shoot a photo of a person laying on the floor with a toe tag on their foot. I then cropped and colorized the photo to look dead. I also had to create a shadow below the foot on the ground because the photo ended.