GO AHEAD. READ IT. QUICKLY. “red…yellow…green…bl…” you get the idea. Now comes the fun part. Read it again…as quickly as you can. But this time, read the colors. Start with the first word: What’s the color? Then go on to the second…and the next…and the next. Not so easy, is it…reading the colors when the words say something else? It’s called the Stroop Effect, and one of the things it proves is this: Colors. Say. Things. Trying to read “red” when the color is blue kinda makes the lobes of your brain smack together. We know that the word “red” should be in red, “blue” in blue, etc. And the point is: So do readers. So…be careful when using color. Make sure it makes sense with the words and the story. If not, your readers may feel like they’ve been Strooped.
Some pages, like that at left, aren’t designed so much as they are assembled. There’s not much design there. Others, like the center page here, might deserve some credit—the page shows some attention to correct placement of elements, use of color and negative space. The designer of the page at right deserves mention—and he gets it, along with the writer, at the bottom of the page.
Credit where it’s due
“DO YOU SEE DESIGNS,” the publisher asked, “where credit is given to the designer?
“I’m trying to encourage our designers to step up and use their creativity a bit more. We always have bylines for reporters. Does anyone do something on a special layout like, ‘Designed by Joe Smith?’ I thought it might be great to give some credit and a good chance for the designers to take more ownership.”
Right…on both counts. It “would be great” to give some credit and it would be a “good chance for the designers to take more ownership.”
Her note came as an email. A day or so later, we talked.
Here are some of the ideas I shared with her:
OF COURSE, GIVE CREDIT! If the designer has created a page with strong visual appeal, let your designer—and your readers—know you’re pleased with the effort.
THE ‘IF:’ Notice the condition I created in the previous paragraph: ‘If the designer has created a page with strong visual appeal…” Don’t go giving out page design credits too easily. Make sure the work is worth the credit.
IT’S NOT ABOUT ‘FAIRNESS:’ Don’t try to be “fair” when giving credit for design. Credit must be deserved, and it must come only when a designer creates an extraordinary package. If Curt hasn’t done a well-designed page in three months, well…Curt will have to wait, even though Caroline has regularly been getting credit for her enticing food pages.
SET SOME STANDARDS: What characteristics define “extraordinary” or “enticing” at your newspaper? What do designers have to do to get credit? Are there guidelines? Is there a checklist? Do staffers vote for the best page? Is it “publisher’s choice?” As a designer at your shop, what do I need to do to get design credit on a page I’m doing?
DON’T OVERDO: If you want some striking pages, don’t set the bar too low. Let your designers know you’re not just going to name a “page of the week” or “page of the month” all the time. If a week or two goes by without a design that sings…so be it.
GIVE EQUAL CREDIT: When you reward a designer with credit, be sure to give her a credit line that’s at least as large as the credit you would give to the writer and/or photographer. To do less would imply that the design is less important than the story or the photos.
SOMETIMES, GIVE MORE CREDIT! If the design is outstanding, give the designer a credit line that’s larger than the byline or photographer credit.
SAVE IT FOR CONTESTS: One of the best ways I know to reward excellent page design is to be sure that design is submitted to state and regional contests. And if the design wins, spend whatever it takes to send the designer to the awards banquet, so she can bask in the glow of recognition.
It doesn’t take much to reward good design with a credit…and it can help generate better design at your paper.
Why work with filled text boxes (bottom)
when keeping the box transparent gives you a better idea
of what’s going on around you?
MAYBE THERE’S SOME REASON I’m unaware of, but I don’t get it—other than the fact that it’s often set up as a default. Why is it that so many designers work with filled text boxes? It’s one of those details that drives me nuts when I’m working with pages sent to me by a client. I know it’s a default in QuarkXPress. My problem with filled text boxes is that the white fill hides the column guides. As a result, I occasionally lose touch (especially when I’m zoomed in to a small area on the page) with the details of my design. I keep all text boxes empty. It makes my work go much more quickly.
I AM AN UNABASHED FAN of Adobe InDesign. I don’t—and won’t—apologize for that. Every time Adobe updates InDesign, it offers new capabilities and I’m convinced that some of those upgrade functions come directly from Adobe listening closely to InDesign users. InDesign CS6, recently released, includes a function that’s a real time-saver. In many newsrooms, the design and pagination software is burdened with a bajillion fonts. Although designers may only use a dozen fonts or so for news design, they need to include all those fonts in their software because the fonts are placed in ads that are imported to the page. If they don’t have those fonts, the type in an ad may blow out. As a result, editors often have to scroll up-scroll down-scroll up-scroll down-scroll up-scroll down during pagination just to get to the fonts they need. InDesign CS6 comes to the rescue with a simple preference. You can set the number of recent fonts you want to display at the top of your fonts list. In the illustration above, I’ve set it at six. You can go as high as 50. Having all those fonts at the top means no more scrolling. What a bright idea! What a relief! Thanks, Adobe. A COMMENT from follower Emily Roberts:
IT’S A CARDINAL RULE of page design: “Don’t! Bump! Heads!” And the example above is a perfect picture of what happens with an unfortunate head bump. The headline really reads like this:
Arden Chaffee wins barroom brawl
Mayor of Year Award turns bloody
You can’t blame readers if they don’t see that these are really two headlines. The type size is similar, the number of lines is the same and the two heads run right into each other. The only difference—one that’s easy to miss—is that the barroom brawl headline is just…a…bit bolder than the Mayor Award head.
Some suggestions on how you can keep this from happening on your front page:
1. Keep the head on the left (Mayor Award) a bit short, to open more space between it and the head on the right.
2. Make the barroom brawl head three lines deep (or the Mayor Award only one line).
3. Adopt a style that calls for vertical rules between packages. Such a rule here would have kept readers from reading from one head right into the other.
4. Use clearly different sizes. 48 point for the Award, 30 point for the brawl, for example.
5. Use clearly different fonts. A lighter head for the Award story would have helped.