Wick Communications

Have a dominant visual

In Design on 8 Oct 2015 at 3:36 pm

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 4.20.50 PM

Many of you know that Ed Henninger is one of the leading newspaper design consultants in the country. This month, he penned a column for the National Newspaper Association explaining the importance of including a dominant element in your print newspaper pages. I asked and he said I could reproduce that column here. Please pay particular attention to what he says about grip-and-grin photos and what makes for compelling art. Thanks, Ed.

— Clay

Want to make your page – especially your front page – more compelling? Give it more impact? Get more readers to give it a closer look?

Use a dominant visual.

Most times, that will be a photo. But occasionally, it may be a grouping of smaller pix or a graphic or illustration.

Whatever that visual may be, there’s one quality it must have to make it work. That quality? Size. If your visual isn’t large enough to dominate the page, then it isn’t a dominant visual.

How big? My guideline has always been three columns wide by eight inches deep, four columns wide by six columns deep – as a minimum. Again, that’s a minimum. And, yes, those figures apply to tabloid pages as well. If your visual isn’t big, it hasn’t got the impact and pull you need to bring readers into the page.

Other points

Relative size: One of the ways you can guarantee the dominant size of your key visual is to take care that no other visual elements compete with it for attention. You can do this by making sure that other elements are no larger than half the size of your dominant visual.

Optical center: As indicated in the illustration, optical center is an area of the page that’s above the left of dead center. Precisely how far above and how far left? No one’s been able to determine that, but we do know that optical center is an area of the page where the reader’s eye naturally falls first. And that’s where we want to place the dominant visual element.

The fold: Does your dominant visual have to be above the fold? Well, on the front page, the answer is usually, “yes.” If you place the visual over the optical center, it goes without saying that it’s also above the fold.

Grouping: Instead of one visual element, it’s OK to package a few together. This can work well, for example, if you have a group of photos taken at the same event.

Content: Select an element with compelling content for your dominant visual. Check-passing photos and grip-and-grin shots certainly have their place in community newspapers, but they lack the interest needed to give the key visual strong reader appeal. If it’s a photo, look for action and strong color.

Cropping: Give the element even greater impact by removing unimportant or extraneous content. A photo of a car/truck crash, for example, need not show yards of pavement at the bottom and miles of sky at top.

You want readers to look forward to the content and impact of your pages – especially your front page and section fronts. One o the best ways you can do that is by offering them a dominant visual.

Want a free evaluation of your newspaper’s design? Just contact me at edh@henningerconsulting.com or (803) 327-3322.

If this column has been helpful, you may be interested in my books, “Henninger in Design” and “101 Henninger Helpful Hints.” With the help of my books, you’ll have a better idea how to design for your readers. Find out more at henningerconsulting.com.


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