Monthly Archives: April 2008

What we learned

The design students at the University of Missouri had front-row seats to the SND college design contest when it was judged on campus yesterday. In between shuffling pages and posting the winners, we listened to the judges had to say about the best of college design. Here are some highlights.

1. Don’t be afraid to be bold in broadsheet.
There was an obvious trend all day: Daring, conceptual tabloid pages won out over multi-story broadsheets in every category. What’s the problem with that? Most newspapers still need to put out a daily front page with more than one story on it. The judges had a great conversation about how to make big broadsheet pages interesting.
“The broadsheets we have here took a traditional approach like they see big city papers- and that gets boring,” Greg said. “They forgot dominance, they forgot impact, they forgot all the basic rules. Just because it’s a broadsheet doesn’t mean you can’t have an interesting, vibrant centerpiece.”
The judges said the best examples of broadsheets are found in international papers that use illustration to tell a story. And illustration isn’t just a drawing or photo: it’s conceptual. The best ones are a tool for story analysis. Gayle said newspapers in the future need designers with conceptual illustration skills. What newspapers offer for readers is analysis, and illustration can reflect that.

1a. Get artsy.
To learn how to create conceptual illustrations and develop creative, critical thinking skills, Reagan and Gayle recommend taking art classes while you’re still in school. Then apply those skills to news design. “Innovation often comes from stretching the creative part of your brain,” Gayle said.

2. Color: Know your presses
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“Something you should pass on to everybody is that black doesn’t print well on newsprint,” Greg said. Page after page didn’t win because of reversed-out type on a black background. Proofread to make sure that these pages are legible, and remember the press will change that. And, stay away from 100 percent yellow so the judges don’t need put on sunglasses to look at a page.

3. Clean up.
Little mistakes hurt some otherwise great pages. The judges constantly used their hands to measure alignment and space, and they noticed when elements didn’t line up in the expected way.

4. Edit, edit, edit your portfolio.
And then edit it down some more. Portfolios should only show a designer’s very best work. Many portfolios in the designer of the year category were eliminated because of a few bad pages.

5. Typography killed a lot of features pages.
The judges said type was often illegible, overworked and overwrought. They preferred straightforward, clean, consistent type, and definitely not novelty fonts.

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And Greg Branson.

Greg Branson, is the art and design director at the Kansas City star.

COLLEGE: Kansas State University

COLLEGE DESIGN: Greg was a runner up for the designer of the year when he worked at the K-State student newspaper.

ADVICE FOR DESIGNERS IN COLLEGE: “Internet Internet Internet Internet Internet Internet Internet Internet Internet. You’ve gotta have your basic design stuff, but truthfully, especially somebody coming out of college, to be employed you’ve gotta have Web design skills. You’ve gotta code.”
Later… “And make sure you’ve got a good minor.” His was history which he said is “completely worthless, I should have went into industrial design or engineering. And unless you’re going to be an educator, don’t get a master’s in journalism.”

WHAT HE LOVES ABOUT HIS JOB: “Getting to do so many different things, whereas when I was a designer or artist I’d be stuck in one place for a day at a time. Now I dabble in sports, biz, illustration, Internet, A1. I really like working with the people I work with, it’s a really fun staff It’s just a joy, and I’ve been in places where it’s not a joy. Trust me.”
“I really do love what I do, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. the idea that I get to art direct for a living just blows me away because when I went to school that wasn’t on the radar as a possibility.”

ON THE STUDENT DESIGN HE SAW TODAY: “The main thing is both the journalism schools and students going to journalism schools need to be looking outside the U.S. for inspiration- I don’t see them doing that. Andjust because you’re broadsheet, you can still have interesting covers. One of the great things that I’m glad we did is we went down to four-story covers at the Star and that’s helped us out quite a bit, we’re not trying to fit all these headlines on it.”

INTERNATIONAL INSPIRATION: In Europe, they’re using color, they’re using energy. they’re taking what they intend to do and doing it all the way… We’re completely middle of the road here in the U.S.

FAVORITE FONT: Chaparral. “It’s a serif but it’s almost a slab or sans serif. One of those fonts where you could almost use it in a monofont.”

ABOUT THE STAR’S ACCENT COLOR, “FOUNTAIN BLUE”: The overall color depends on the section- business is orange which is a conscious decision to use orange instead of the generic green. A brownish red called ‘sauce’ for sports. the blue is actually called fountain, but I call it flood.”

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Finally, the other judge bios!

Twelve design-filled hours later, here are the bios of our other two judges! The judging is over, and Joy Mayer’s about to email the winners, so check our Flickr page in the next few days as the winners add their pages!

Gayle Grin is the president of SND and art director, etc. at the National Post in Toronto.

COLLEGE: She studied art, education, English and psychology as an undergrad at Trinity College in Chicago, and then embarked on her first careers as an art and drama teacher and nursing home activity director. Her masters was in graphic design, and she started working at Canadian magazines before moving into news design at the Montreal Gazette — her first experience with big broadsheet pages. “I found broadsheet very adventurous. It encourages risk taking because it’s going to wrap fish the next day. When you’re a magazine designer you are very careful and you don’t want to make mistakes because it’s going to be on someone’s coffee table for a very long time,” she said.

ADVICE FOR COLLEGE DESIGNERS: Besides being aware of trends in Web design, Gayle said she suggests taking an art class or two. “Innovation often comes from stretching the creative part of your brain. What you’re really doing is expanding the sensory side of your brain, your creative side. And that will help you divide into a bigger risk taker.”

ON COLLEGE DESIGN: Gayle said she saw a newspapers today that packaged cover and inside content very well and created conceptual focus.

FAVORITE FONT: Her latest favorite is Farnum.

ABOUT COLOR: “You have to reflect your audience with color,” Gayle said. She made rich jewel tones The National Post’s colors: its accent gold and “post blue.”

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A second winner!

Congratulations to the daily designer of the year, is Kate LaRue, a graduate student from Missouri. Her use of color, concepts and strong execution are the kinds of skills designers need to keep newspapers relevant, Gayle said. “That’s the kind of thinking we need for the future is someone with concept.” Gayle said. Kate and non-daily designer of the year Rob Byrd will get travel grants to the SND conference in Las Vegas.

We will post more about the final categories later! And, the other two judge bios are on their way. Thanks to all the entrants and our great judges for a fabulous day!

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Almost there…

The judges are powering through the last few daily entries. Still up is the second big winner category: Daily designer of the year. The judges frequently disagree: One will say “… and that’s what I love about this page,” to hear “Well that’s what I hated about it.” But disagreement spawns discussion. We’ll post audio of some of their semi-arguments later today.

Here’s a wrap up of some other daily comments:
• The “one hand rule” is a good rule of thumb (ha, ha) with white space. Don’t go overboard and do more than that.
• Bright yellow means “you need sunglasses to read the paper,” Reagan said. Back off and tone it down a bit.
• Again, proof read (especially for legibility) and clean up designs. Technical flaws hurt several pages — despite good concepts.
• Even nice features pages can be hurt by the other stories and elements on them. Gayle covers up extra stories on a page, “it’s not their fault.” Greg disagreed: “It’s always their fault, they’re designers.”
• The judges had a big discussion about how to succeed at broadsheet design — much more on that later. Basically, illustration skills will get you far with these judges — and that doesn’t mean you have to know how to draw. For commentary pages, Greg said “these are good examples that if you can’t illustrate, don’t.”

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Magazine judging

The MU Journalism School’s advanced magazine design class stopped by to watch some magazine judging… designers in the (silent) hot seats as the judges discussed their work!

Here’s some shots of this part of the judging of a full magazine or special section. They said it was the hardest section yet to judge, even a rarely-seen lacrosse special section. Pacing and overall consistency were what they looked for in winners. Magazines with great spreads but weak regular pages were eliminated quickly.

mag1
The judges work while an MU magazine design class watches.

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We have one winner!

We have our first designer of the year winner! Congrats to Rob Byrd from Coastal Carolina University’s Tempo Magazine. Rob Byrd wins one of the $750 travel grants to the annual SND workshop Sept. 7-9, 2008, in Las Vegas. The judges said his worked showed sparse, beautiful visual editing.

All of the finalists except one in this category came from smaller, tabloid-shaped papers. The judges said it’s easier to do more visual, snappy design with small-format covers, and they said most of the broadsheets they saw today didn’t quite have it together for the larger format. Tight editing was another consideration- other finalists had less than five items in their portfolios, but they still showed diverse skills.

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