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.