from a designer's eye

Feb 7

USA Today’s full FRONT page ad

Yesterday as I glanced at the racks I noticed something so different that I just had to pick it up. It was a USA Today with what appeared to be a poster 1A. 

That is what I saw.

I was so intrigued because I can’t remember ever seeing a poster front page from USA Today. I had also missed the Super Bowl commercial from the day before so I didn’t get the full effect of what most people probably felt. 

I then flipped it over to finish reading the bottom of the page. 

And it was once I flipped it back over that I saw it: the word ADVERTISEMENT right under the flag. 

 I didn’t know what to think other than wow! It was a four-page advertisement wrapped around the entire paper. The thing that struck me the most was the fact that the flag had been placed on top of it. It truly looked like it could be a USA Today 1A until you notice the advertisement banner.  

Then once you took off the wrap you saw the real 1A. 

I would love to know how much money Gannett brought in for the ad because it is truly massive. 

It was a bold move that I’m sure paid off especially for people looking at the racks. The idea of connecting an ad from the Super Bowl and using it in print the next day is pure genius. Everyone (except for me apparently) knew what it was about and it was a great way to get people to pick up the paper. The main thing here is that it was something different. You never see something like this from USA Today so I think that the bold move probably paid off in pick-up and money. 

Behind the Denver Post’s Sunday front page

The Sunday Denver Post: January 15, 2012

The Denver Broncos incredible season came to an end Saturday and this is how the Denver Post played it on Sunday’s 1A. 

Everything with the centerpiece package is working so well together. I absolutely love the ‘Over & Ouch’ headline. Not only does it play extremely well with the story of the game, but it compliments the art so well. 

Linda Shapley wrote this note about how the headline came about: 

I think you follow me on Twitter, but I was talking a lot during the game and noting that the suggested heds in the newsroom were coming fast and furious (though most were probably too offensive — my favorite of those was, probably, GOD AWFUL.) One of the things we try to do with big news stories is set up a hed file for many editors to offer suggestions — if the broncos win, if the broncos lose. By halftime, it was obvious that we needed to focus on the latter. Can’t remember who — it might have been me — suggested “OUCH.” I really liked something that struck a conversational tone and reflected reader’s views. However, the count would have been very, very, very short. (I also still didn’t have a photo or a story yet — so I didn’t know how to adjust to make it work). Copyeds kept throwing out offers and came up with “OVER & OUCH” — slightly punny, but not cliche and fitting the tone we wanted.

What was great is that the game was over at 9:40, and our deadline was 10. I got the column and two different photo options through the pages in 20 minutes. those are the times that will either energize you or kill you. :^D

This page was also Linda’s 1A farewell performance. She has moved off the design desk and is now the Director of Newsroom Operations taking over for Managing Editor Jeanette Chavez who took the Post’s buyout late last year. Lead Designer Matt Swaney is taking Linda’s spot as Director of Design.

Nov 1

Sitting down with Collegian creative services manager Jenny Fischer to talk about Gannett’s Design Studios

How newspapers covered the death of Moammar Gadhafi

To start, I want to apologize about the watermarks on the pages. I pull all of them from Newseum so you’ll just have to try your best to ignore them from now on.

From what I saw, Gadhafi’s death wasn’t played as big as I thought it would be in the U.S. In my mind, this was as close to a big breaking story as the death of Osama bin Laden and it wasn’t played to that size in the U.S. Now, outside of the country it was played much bigger, especially in Canada.

Here are the best pages from October 21:

The National Post: Toronto

The illustration here is brilliant and catches your eye. The red background was a smart choice especially with the yellow coloring that’s on the Post’s front page. The headline work was nice, as was the deck. 

I love the fact that the piece was played big and while there may not be a lot of content on the front, the teases at the bottom of the page help to break up the text and allow for more stories inside. 


The Virginian Pilot

A classic take from the Virginian Pilot. This page is everything that you’d expect from this paper. Full top of the fold photo with excellent headline work. The kicker being more explanatory and the headline just looking to draw in attention works perfectly. Red seems to be a common color that was used, and I guess that’s to be expected with how bloody his death was. 


Omaha World-Herald


This was one of my favorite pieces of the day simply because of the infographic. The way that the story was actually played was similar to the rest of the country’s papers:
Large close-cropped portrait, typical headline and the story that everyone had. The infographic is what made this page. 

Looking at all of the dictatorships and how long they lasted was a brilliant idea. Once again the red color came into play, but I think the true message here is keeping the reader hooked to the front page for just a little longer. The graphic is super simple and packs so much good, interesting information that I’m sure readers stuck around for a few more minutes. 

The key lesson here is once again that art was played big. Headlines are super important, and the melding of the two is essential. With big news like this, it’s important to remember to keep the headline simple and straightforward and most papers did just that. 

As always, pages were pulled from Newseum

How the Denver Post covered Obama coming to Colorado

The Denver Post: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 

This is a little old now, but I still wanted post about it, because this is one of the more powerful pieces I’ve seen in a while, except of course, all of the 9/11 anniversary coverage

This piece ran the day that President Obama came to speak in Colorado to pitch his jobs plan. 

The package as a whole works so nicely together that it’s hard to break it down, but let’s give it a go… 

The photography work is simply brilliant. Pulitzer prize winning photographer Craig Walker took the portraits and applied some sort of Hipstamatic or Instagram-like filter which packs a huge visual punch because it’s rare that you see that effect on newsprint. The definition and expression on the faces tells the story all on its own. 

Another element that I love from it is the fact that each person in the photographs has a short quote, adding another layer into the story. 

Then there’s the headline. There isn’t really anything else to say other than: It’s perfect. There is such a huge need for the connection between the art and headline and the Post could not have done it better. 

It’s a great package that takes a national issue and localizes it not only in text, but takes a brilliant angle at localizing it visually. 

The Post also did a fantastic multimedia package to accompany the story. You can find that here.

Overthinking Pink

After living in Fort Collins for nearly 2-and-a-half-years, today I bought my first Coloradoan. Why? Because today, along with every other Friday this month, it’s uglier than usual.

Yes, the Coloradoan is printing on a light pink paper to support breast cancer awareness. I really don’t like it because it detracts from the big news on the pages and it’s overall hard to read. When I look at it, I can’t focus on anything but the pink color. The big story out of Fort Collins for the day is that a man was hit and killed by a car and the pink it extremely distracting to the story. 

The editor’s note explains exactly what the paper is doing every Friday in October and also teases to the inside page with features and raising awareness. 

I completely understand the whole going pink idea to support breast cancer awareness, and I think that’s great, but at the same time it’s overkill, especially on the inside page devoted to coverage of the month’s events.  

The website is a little more subtle and keeping it simple makes for a much better look and feel.

A couple other considerations:

  • Ads are also printed in pink so it would be interesting to see what advertisers would think about that.
  • This is a Gannett newspaper so something tells me that corporate wouldn’t approve of this, but I might be wrong.
  • It seems like a bit of a conflict of interest because they are endorsing a cause. 

Then, to transfer the pink to the front page to enhance pickup, put a simple pink box around the editor’s note and change the mast to pink. That would still pack a punch, but be a subtle way to approach this. It would also make more sense in correlating with the website. 

Printing on a different color paper will make for a powerful appearance, but it has to be done right, and here I don’t think it is. 

Gannett’s centralized design

During the annual Society for News Design conference in St. Louis, a panel discussion was held updating news designers from around the world about the progress on the Gannett Design Studios.

Kate Marymont, Vice President of News at Gannett’s community publishing devision, hopes that the move will increase quality at newspapers, especially the smaller community papers that have fewer resources.

“It’s all about quality for us,” she said. “We believe we can build quality design at five centers better than 81 centers.”

While all of the design will be moved, the control of the content will remain in the local newspapers’ newsrooms.

“The first thing I want to make clear is, they are not hubs,” said Gannett Nashville Design Studio Director Jeff Glick. “We don’t do pagination. This is about visual journalism; it’s about design, typography, hierarchy and news judgement. We are a design studio. We are set up to be creative, innovative places for visual journalism.”

The Fort Collins Coloradoan is a Gannett newspaper that will be moving design to the Phoenix Studio by this time next year. Coloradoan officials could not be reached for comment. 

Gannett is not the only news organization taking on this new structure. LaToya Smith of the Chicago Tribune also spoke about how the Tribune company is transforming the way the company looks at design. 

She says that the idea of moving to more consolidated systems allows markets to refocus local resources on better watchdog reporting while allowing for more time to retrain designers on new digital platforms. 

In June of 2010, Gannett announced the move to the studio-based system. According to Marymont there are currently 11 papers that have migrated to the studios and she says by December of 2012 all of the company’s 81 newspapers will be designed at one of the five studio locations.  

You can find a transcript of the panel discussion from SNDSTL here.

Gannett Nashville Design Studio Director Jeff Glick speaks about the future of visual journalism and the transition to Gannett’s new Design Studios where all 81 of the company’s newspapers will be designed by December of 2012. 

All 81 newspapers owned by Gannett will be moved to the Design Studios except for USA Today which will stay in production in McLean, Virginia. 

Greg Mees is the Colorado State Leader for the Society for News Design

Oct 9

How newspapers covered the death of Steve Jobs

Most newspapers across the country and world paid some sort of tribute to the death of the American Icon. Here are some of the best designed papers from the day: 

The Ledger Independent:

The headline is the obvious strong point of the page. This is by far the most powerful headline I saw. A lot of places played off of some sort of Apple lingo, but keeping it simply and tasteful, yet still playing on words, makes this the best. I love the black and white photo here, creating more of a punch especially on what is normally a color page. 

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: 

This is pure genius. Telling the story through one of the most widely used devices of today and one of Jobs greatest achievements from Apple is fantastic. I love the play off of and what the site looked like on the iPhone. The whole front package just blends and works so nicely together. 

The Red Eye: 


Chicago’s tabloid nailed its cover. No, I don’t believe this is an illustration. I saw this photo used a few times, but here it’s taken down to the basic black and white and kept simple. It was voted as the best cover of the day on Newseum. Simple and striking and the perfect headline. 

Diario de Pernambuco:

I know that this isn’t from the U.S., but I had to post this. In my opinion this is the best page covering the death of Steve Jobs. This paper is in Brazil. First, that goes to show how much of an impact Jobs had around the world and second, it’s such a simple design yet so intriguing and draws the readers attention to the page. Below where the fold would be are icons showing all aspects of Jobs’ impact with short snippets as teases to the inside I’m assuming. 

Most of the pages played things very similar which is usually the case with big death stories. Big headlines and big art. But these are the pages that stuck out to me because of the way that each publication thought through the design and entire package to tell the bigger story here which is that the world lost an innovator and creative genius.  

Pages pulled from Newseum. 

Oct 6

Some online farewells to Steve Jobs

I know that I normally post newspaper design, but I thought to start the day I’d take a look at a few online pieces that were pretty powerfully designed…

Starting of course, with Apple’s homepage.

A classy, simple and outright beautiful tribute to the company’s co-founder. As Jobs said: "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." Here it not only works, but it looks and feels right. 

If you were to click anywhere on the page then you would see…  

Once again, so simple and clean design here. More text on this page, but the tribute and words are what really matter here.

Wired also paid tribute to Steve jobs with this being the homepage…

If you scroll down you get…

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of white type on a black background, but here it’s stunning. Using the black to fade out the background of his face and keep the top simple is great work.

I think that the true punch of the page come once you’ve scrolled down and see the first quote: “The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.” -Bill Gates

I’m sure other sites are doing big things and as I see them I will post them. I’ll dive into the newspaper side of things this afternoon. 

How newspapers covered the ten year anniversary of 9/11

The Denver Post: Sunday, September 11, 2011

Here is a prime example of a perfect remembrance page. The photo in the left column acts as a tease to the entire remembrance section, while the content on the right has some substance. The reason this layout worked so well? The Post had a spadea that morning. Covering up the photograph was a smart move here I think, even though it is phenomenal photography. The front story is completely localized which also makes it work. Simple headlines and a short, to-the-point pull quote makes this one solid effort from the folks in Denver. 

The New Yorker: September 12, 2011

I know this isn’t a newspaper, but I just had to post this. Stunning is really all that can be said for this cover of The New Yorker. I first saw this posted on Facebook and just remember my jaw dropping. The simplicity of this illustration makes it so powerful that there is no reason to have a headline or any content on the front. Beautiful. 

The Arizona Republic: September 11, 2011

There were plenty of newspapers play off of the idea of the Twin Towers, but this is the only paper that I saw that used negative space to tell the story.  The headline compliments and solidifies the concept behind the design. The only thing I would worry about here is the legibility of the the text. 

Naples Daily News: September 11, 2011

As most papers around the country, here is some great photography work. Scaling down the mast and playing up the headline and photo work is pretty standard when it comes to this kind of page, but something about this one stuck out to me. I love how the whole page is strictly a tease to inside content. 

Des Moines Register: September 11, 2011

This page is pretty powerful and it’s one of my favorites, but there are a couple things that stick out to me. First off, The Des Moines Register is a Gannett newspaper and therefore I’m surprised not to find Gannett’s “A Gannett Company” directly under the mast. Makes me wonder if they got into some trouble because of it. If you were to just look at this paper and only this paper, you’d think wow, that’s a phenomenal idea and way to use the towers, but this isn’t the only paper that used this. Another paper used the same exact image to dominate their front page. That’s my only downer. Otherwise it all works. I’m not the biggest fan of black background and white text because it’s difficult to read, but I like it here. 

Lessons learned from 9/11: Most papers either played big art or big illustrations and if that’s what you’re going to do, it has to be done right. There needs to be a big focus on connecting the headline and the photo and most papers from across the nation did just that. Typography and choosing typefaces is also important. If it’s going to be special, make it special without going overboard. 

Pages pulled from Newseum and SND Region 2’s Facebook page.