Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Design’

Add weight with packaging

In Planning on May 4, 2017 at 12:52 pm

This week, I was struck by this bit of packaging in the Los Angeles Times. And I should say, I’m not presenting it because it takes our president to task, but merely because I appreciate the thought that went into packaging a group of editorials. (That said, if you don’t choose to look at all of them, I would recommend the installment called “Trump’s war on journalism.”)

When is the last time you had a series of editorials designed to drive a particular discussion in your community? I don’t think I’ve ever done anything like this in a coordinated way, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in a Wick newspaper. I think it’s a very interesting way to keep up the pressure and to set the agenda for your community.

If you do something like this, you can link them as sibling assets in BLOX. You can run boxes in print referencing your previous related work online. You can even string them together after the series runs as a special opinion page. (Hopefully, by then it will have generated online comments you can use as well as letters to the editor.)

One reason I mention this is by way of reminder. Remember that guy in Iowa, the one who won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing this year? He won largely for a series of opinion pieces that took big agri-business to task for polluting his town. I bet his work would have had even more resonance if he’d packaged it like this.

What Big Things could you focus on in your community? Can you outline how three or four or five editorials might look? I’ll do it if you will.


I love the NYT redesign

In Design on March 3, 2017 at 9:13 am


I love the newly redesigned A2 and A3 in the New York Times so much that I dropped the paper and sat down to tap this out. If you are looking for a constructive way to fill space when your AP contract runs out, read on. This is it.

The idea, according to a note that appeared on the day the new look was unveiled, was to provide a “a quick and engaging roundup” of what is found in the Times that day.

Page 2, at least today, includes the masthead, a table of contents, a “This Date in History” pulled from past editions, and a 400-word column called “Inside the Times,” which tells some inside baseball.

Page 3 is one-paragraph summaries of inside stories, a quote of the day, a look at the most viewed stories online, something called “spotlight” that might be a couple paragraphs about something you posted on Facebook with a photo, and a small bite called “Here to help.” It is a tip riffing off something in the news. (Today, it’s a suggestion that you watch the film classic “All about Eve” in advance of a new television series about the acrimony between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.)

I could do something like this for our paper in an hour. Once the template was in place, I could paginate it in 45 minutes (because I’m slow.) … Read the rest of this entry »

Have a dominant visual

In Design on October 8, 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.

10 things to know today

In Ideas on December 12, 2013 at 3:12 pm

10 things

The Ontario Argus-Observer has started doing something that has caught the attention of many of us around the company. It’s running a package of Associated Press stories branded as “10 Things to Know Today.”

Editor Scott McIntosh said it was partly a response to shrinking newshole for wire national and international news. Scott wanted readers to have some idea of the day’s talking points, even if he couldn’t provide the full story.

“Even if it is just one sentence, our readers will at least know what someone is talking about when a friend tweets, ‘I’m praying for Oklahoma today,’” Scott said in an email to me.

Scott says AP sends out “10 Things to Know” twice a day, including once at 7 a.m. That is perfect for his cycle. Sometimes the AP sends only a headline and a sentence and he has to find the appropriate story to fill in a couple graphs. It just depends on how much space he has. … Read the rest of this entry »

When all else fails, do less

In Design on October 18, 2013 at 8:33 am

AZ_TDI took some time to virtually wander through the halls of the Newseum to look at the nation’s front pages in the wake of the debt ceiling deal. (I’ve mentioned this before. if you haven’t ever done it, you really should look at the front pages from time to time. It’s really inspirational.)

I was struck by this one, the Casa Grande Dispatch.

It’s not spectacular, but it’s simple and sometimes that is better still. Note the large art element, the teaser to stories inside that is tucked in the shoulder of the Washington deal story. Notice the well-packaged sidebar. It’s balanced. The teasers at the top aren’t great, but they aren’t garish either. … Read the rest of this entry »

USA, yesterday and today

In journalism on September 20, 2012 at 10:38 am

Thirty years ago, USA Today was a revelation. It was a national newspaper that was colorful, breezy and definitely not a gray lady like The New York Times. You can argue whether the changes it brought to the industry were good for us, or whether they were more like an entire meal of ice cream and cookies, but the folks at Gannett were definitely ahead of the curve. A generation later, newspaper stories everywhere are shorter and include news-you-can-use boxes, zippy graphics and multimedia stuff. As our colleague Pete Bakke pointed out in an email, the bite-sized news packaged in USA Today 30 years ago was “the evolutionary ancestor of Twitter.”

Well, like an aging beauty queen, these days USA Today was feeling a bit rough around the edges. So last week it unveiled a makeover. The company promises more color pages, a new business page, opinion pages designed around online commentary and some other tweaks. To my eyes though, the changes are largely cosmetic. Ever more color and even bigger graphics are not the not the quantum leaps of 30 years ago.

This time around I’m struck by the marketeering more than any substantive changes. Reading between the lines, it seems that even the reporter who wrote the story of the changes in USA Today was rolling his eyes:

USA Today unveiled today new designs for its newspaper, website and mobile apps in time for its 30th anniversary this weekend.

The complete overhaul of the newspaper is designed to showcase USA Today’s prowess in visual storytelling and bring “stronger voices” to its stories. The new logo reflects “the pulse of the nation,” the company says in a statement.

Stronger voices! Visual storytelling! Pulse of the nation!

The company released a YouTube video extolling the changes. The narrator breathlessly intones, “We are reclaiming our leadership in visual storytelling with a new brand identity that’s as dynamic as the news itself, that’s an expression of our editorial voice, and vice versa. …” Like Andrew Beaujon, who posted the quote on Poynter before I found it, I don’t have any idea what that means. (Incidentally, for whatever reason, Gannett pulled the video from YouTube after Beaujon’s post.) … Read the rest of this entry »

Home page is no front page

In Design on May 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Does your front page really matter in a digital age?

The question comes up because more and more people are finding their way to our stories online without first stopping at our home page to browse. Perhaps you never thought of it this way, but that home page is the de facto front page of your digital operation.

In fact, Google’s Richard Gingras said recently that three-fourths of unique visitors to online journalism come from “external sources” – places like Facebook, Twitter and gosh only knows where. If that is the case, it means readers are clicking only what interests them and are not swayed by your placement of a story in your news mix.

Great. I was putting too much thought into our front page anyway. Now I can just throw a bunch of things against the wall and let them fall wherever they will on the page… right?

Well, no. In fact, I can think of several reasons to continue thinking of your front page as your regular masterpiece of reporting, writing and design. … Read the rest of this entry »

Take a sideways glance

In Design on October 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Hey, did you see this?

When Moammar Gadhafi died last week, it was front-page news around the world. Ian Lawson, pagination director for the Ledger Independent in Maysville, Ky., says he wasn’t thrilled with his first efforts to render the importance of the occasion. He messed around with some six-column photos and big headline type.

Then he got horizontal. Lawson told Julie Moos at Poynter that he had used horizontal layouts on the broadsheet for feature fronts in the past. But this is the first time he ever tried the technique on the front page.

To be honest, I don’t love it. For a couple of reasons.

I don’t think the event was momentous enough in the life of local residents to justify such an unusual layout. I would save this for something big and local – the resignation of a mayor, the closure of a local school, a state championship for the town’s high school football team. For that matter, wasn’t the death of Osama bin Laden a bigger event for most Americans? Why didn’t he try this back then?

Secondly, I’m thinking about how this looked in the rack. The only story available to potential newspaper buyers is the Gadhafi story that had already been covered up and down on television. I think I would have liked it better if the flag had been on the other end, so the local headlines and the big shot of Gadhafi had made it above the fold.

I do like the effort to surprise. I give Lawson a lot of credit for taking a chance. And he was fully aware he was taking a chance. Here’s what he told Poynter: “To be honest, I’m still waiting for the email telling me my publisher’s head exploded when he saw it.”

Incidentally, the sports front in the New York Times (was it last Saturday?) had something similar. It was a lovely horizontal shot of an Olympic swimmer at Walden Pond.


With headlines, size matters

In Design on May 27, 2011 at 9:01 am

Recently, I read a headline-writing tip from Ed Henninger, one spread far and wide in an e-mail blast sent by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. Henninger is a well-known newspaper design consultant and has lots of good ideas. If you rifle through his blog, you’ll see that much of what he has to say about the various designs he runs across is pretty much common sense. Most of this stuff is stuff that you know, if not intuitively, then after a few years of experience with newspapers.

Anyway, the piece that grabbed my attention had to do with the size of headlines. Take it away, Ed:

Readers expect us to give them a sense of hierarchy on the page. Over the years, they’ve grown to expect that the largest, boldest headline will be on the most important story. Occasionally (see the illustration with this column), a lighter and smaller headline may be placed above the lead story if that headline goes on a feature package. But the lead headline will clearly dominate the page.

Henninger (and I) see a lot of headlines that seem to have more to do with fitting in the allotted space than they do with the story. Particularly on some inside pages, I see small but bold type high on the page, then a 55-point light headline at the bottom, and maybe four decks of 30-point in the middle. Just a jumble. What you need is a hierarchy, visual cues for readers desperately wanting to know what to look at first. … Read the rest of this entry »

Redesigns go beyond newspapers

In Design on May 27, 2011 at 8:56 am

I was fascinated last week by some changes at Google News. Actually, that’s not true. To my eye, the changes are incremental and just mean I have to get used to a subtly different look. More to the point, I was fascinated to find the premier search engine and the leader of online delivery acting much like the newspapers with which I’m familiar.

Throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, newspapers that could afford to do so hired consultants to tell them they needed to redesign their pages. Every five years or so, editors and publishers would get the itch to tweak fonts, packaging ideas, paper size and everything else. It has never been science, though sometimes those who claim to know present it as a sort of science, speaking in hushed tones about the way the eye travels down the page and so forth.

Well, I’ve begun to notice that our favorite Web sites behave similarly and for similar reasons. A bunch of guys get in a room, perhaps armed with data on the way users interact with the site, and decide that things must change. Google obviously puts a lot of thought into their changes. Most of them are designed to make the experience easier for readers. Sound familiar? … Read the rest of this entry »