Mario Garcia


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Financial Times: A classic redesign for the digital age

A version of this post originally appeared on Mario Garcia’s site. It has been reposted with his permission.

From time to time a newspaper redesign is announced that gets everyone on alert mode. Such is the case with the redesign unveiled today by the Financial Times. Let's take a look at the centerpieces of this project: the new fonts, the new grid, greater role of graphics and, overall, creating a print edition for the digital age.

The newly designed front page of the Financial Times

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Kevin Wilson, head of design at the Financial Times, teased me with a short mail that simply said: “Mario, it’s still pink and still a broadsheet”.

That’s good to know, but it was even better to sample some pages with the new design that Kevin sent me a couple of days ago.

Three highlights are the main centerpieces of the Financial Times’ redesign, which was led by Kevin Wilson along with design consultant Mark Leeds :

-A new typographic palette: get introduced to Financier, an elegant, old world font that charms at first sight.

-A new grid: gone is the 8 column configuration, is in the more attractive 6 column grid.

-A newspaper that’s designed to give the print edition a specific role as it redefines its purpose in the midst of the digital world.

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A conversation with Kevin Wilson, FT head of design

Mario: What was the biggest challenge to redesign the FT?

Kevin: The biggest challenge for the redesign team was one of balance:

The newspaper wasn’t broken, but we needed to update and modernise it – to show an ongoing commitment to print while refocusing our editorial priorities. The design also needed to deliver a run of pages and graphic formats that were more standardised – to make forward-planning and web-to-print translation easier.

Mario: Your Weekend FT has more sections and a magazine: was a different thinking geared for this particular edition?

Kevin: The weekday FT is a complex two-section paper, that readers approach in different ways. Some start from the back Companies section, and jump to specific points in the run – absorbing news, data and analysis quickly – the paper as a tool in their professional lives. Others take a more conventional route from the front page, through general news and comment. So we have to respect these different routes – any structural changes could not be undertaken for cosmetic reasons.

The typography: Introducing Financier

A highlight of this redesign is definitely the typography. A new custom serif , Financier, has been developed for the paper by Kris Sowersby, of New Zealand.

“We wanted an elegant, authoritative serif with the versatility to handle news and features stories (in the arts, science and sport, as well as finance),” explains Kevin Wilson.“The FT is a global newspaper but based and founded in London – and wanted to call on this British heritage in the type we used.”

Kevin says that during the course of the redesign they experimented with some early directions before Kris suggested exploring ‘something like Gill’s Solus for text & Perpetua for display’.

“It was strong at text sizes on the new 6-column grid, and the headline/display type could handle everything from elegant capitals for the title piece, to strong news headlines. The light and bold weights, beyond the core news weights were very versatile and showed a lot of potential for features use in FT Weekend,” Kevin said.

Kris has also produced webfonts of Financier and Metric (his sans that we are using for graphics). They will be rolled out to the web and app as appropriate within the ongoing development process on digital.

Read more about Kris Sowersby, his fonts and his work with the FT here.

A conversation with type designer Kris Sowersby

Mario: As you created Financier, what were the priorities and guidelines that you gave yourself. After all, the Financial Times is an iconic financial daily.

Kris: The brief from Kevin & Mark was very clear. FT wanted an elegant, authoritative serif with the versatility to handle news and feature stories in the arts, science and sport, as well as finance. Furthermore, the typeface had work across media, from wide printed broadsheets to narrow mobile screens.

My first concept was a total false-start. However, this helped hone the intent of the typeface. Mark clarified that to signal FT’s new direction it needed to move away from Miller, something sharper at small sizes. He suggested exploring an option without ball terminals. This single comment from Mark was key.

The vast chunk of newspaper typefaces have ball terminals. It’s part of their history and heritage, and I found it surprisingly difficult to move away from. So I started scratching about trying to find good models to fit the bill. Something with decent proportions for news text, no ball terminals, can gain & lose weight, and will work well on digital screens. I settled upon Eric Gill’s Solus, Joanna and Perpetua, and quickly roughed out a Text and Display cut over a couple of days. Broadly speaking, Financier Text follows aesthetic cues from Solus/Joanna, and Financier Display follows Perpetua. This is the first time I’ve made a typeface family with complimentary rather than corresponding styles. They feel like they belong together, rather than looking alike.

Mario: It is a multimedia, multiplatform world, so you had to not only think of the print edition and how type would play there, but also other platforms, including digital devices. What role did that thinking play in your decisions?

Kris: The text styles didn’t need to be typically “newspaper”. Tiempos Text, for example, is a newspaper typeface with all the classic traits: narrow width, large x-height, small cap-height, open counters and robust serifs. It’s almost a cliché: any half-decent newspaper text typeface can be described like this. I worked on the premise that the FT grid was opening up, the articles were moving towards a longer form. There was going to be some much-needed typographic breathing room!

The other crucial point was mobile screens. In portrait they have narrow horizontal width, but (theoretical) infinite vertical space due to scrolling. This informed the expected horizontal efficiency of the Financier Text letterforms, but allowed the x-height to be lowered. The ascenders are a touch taller. This effectively takes the typeface away from typical newspaper proportions towards something more elegant.

A conversation with Mark Leeds: design consultant for FT project

Mario: In your view, what was your top priority when redesigning the FT?

Mark: On the design we concentrated on highlighting some of the FT’s reporting strengths – ( such as analysis using centred headlines and a warm red colour) and contorting that with news (ranged left headlines) and a slate blue colour palette.

Mario: In a redesign, it is details that count: what were some important details of this redesign?

Mark: We’ve added location or sector tags above headlines, which as well being useful for scanning quickly through, create air around the headlines so that they exist in their own patch of white space

The six column grid gives a comfortable, readable line length and allows us to occasionally split it into half columns adding pace, energy and vertical momentum.

Overall we think the design treats its readers with intelligence guiding, rather than directing through its content. I hope we have created the equivalent of a bespoke Saville row suit for our readers. Updated, yet familiar

Mario: Do you feel that a lot of the good ideas got into thie new FT redesign?

Mark: I’m sure you know better than most – what appears in print is the tip of the iceberg, there are many thoughts parked until there’s an opportunity to use them. Very early on we tried an iPhone screen article which used a system that now exists as a side bar style. The metric typeface looked good. We have had regular meetings with Dan Skinner, (Head of Design and UX at ft.com) in terms of fonts, colours and where next. Thats been a really informative process – and a welcome diversion! Kris Sowersby has created a typeface fit for digital platforms

One great advantage – in a design sense – is the print product can turn off the old version one day and turn on the new the next.

The new 6-column grid

Page architecture is one of the most important elements in the design of a newspaper. The FT has abandoned its traditional 8-column configuration and traded it for 6 columns. This is a move that I welcome.

Printed newspapers provide a lean back, relaxed experience for readers, so that the very active 8-column format, which served newspapers well in the days when hard news populated the pages, is no longer the best idea. Today, print editions expand on what the reader already knows, and thus there is no need for narrow columns.

“The FT was a traditional 8-column broadsheet – with ads in a hundred different sizes, often changing between regional editions with late changes leaving gaps to fill and compromised decisions to make,” Kevin said.

With the redesign, the FT’s advertising department has rethought ad shapes, and concentrate them down to a small number of standard shapes. It ’s not business as usual for how ads are placed on the pages.

The role of the FT print edition redefined via this redesign

One salient element of the Financial Times redesign that is not necessarily visible on the pages: a commitment to print. By investing into the print edition , the FT is sending a message that its print product is here to stay, and that what it’s doing is redefine its role.

Kevin explains that these design changes are part of an evolved editorial structure, with senior editorial committing to forward-planning on deeper journalism (a particular strength of the FT).

“The brief was to produce a sharper, modern newspaper that shows off our strengths in reporting, analysis and visual journalism. We think the design matches this aim and clearly shows our editorial priorities and range to readers,” he said.

I know that many in the industry will be looking at this redesign for clues: how does one do print realistically and effectively when news breaks on digital platforms? What will this redesign address newsroom organization and how a news story travels from tweet to in-depth?

Unlike redesigns of the past, where aesthetics were the main point of concentration, today we look at these rethink efforts for clues and answers on how to handle the role of print.

Mark Leeds, consultant on the project, explains it this way:

The concise edit of the newspaper was appreciated by the reader groups we held. No one was asking for more (stories , pages etc) however they did want clarity and ease of use.

I will be paying close attention to what this redesign evolves, while I am quite impressed by how typography, a new grid, advertisement placement and navigation come together with this Financial Times redesign. Read more

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Excerpt from ‘iPad Design Lab’: How tablets allow us to disconnect

As Poynter releases the findings of its latest Eyetrack tablet research, we are also excerpting an abridged section from Mario Garcia’s new book, “iPad Design Lab.”

Storytelling is the one thing that has not changed, regardless of how many platforms we use to practice our craft. With a good story in hand, the rest becomes easy.

A medium in its infancy, the tablet affords us the opportunity to examine and discover as we create apps. We know users spend considerable time with it and prefer it as an evening companion.

I was struck, when designing my first tablet app, that I was designing for the brain, the eye and the finger — and all at the same time. I pay particular attention to the finger, which I consider both unforgiving and impatient: It wants to touch the screen and immediately get results. It is up to an editor or designer to provide for this finger.

The use of the finger is one of the unique characteristics of the tablet. The tablet is not a newspaper, an online edition or a television. But it can act at times like all of the above. In many ways, the tablet is more exciting than print and more engaging than a website. It creates an interactive relationship with the user, who wants to participate, not just read passively.

In addition, tablets allow people to disconnect, as William Powers wrote in his 2010 book “Hamlet’s BlackBerry.” With a tablet, we disconnect from the hectic, buzzing, constantly updated world the way we do with a good book that we have chosen to read at a special moment when we know we will be relaxing. But the tablet is not purely a device for disconnection. Modern news consumers also want more active experiences along with the passive ones. The tablet is flexible and affords total connectivity as well.

William Powers and I exchange frequent e-mails on everything from the state of storytelling to the eternal qualities of print.

Mario Garcia: Let’s talk about the appealing sense of disconnect that you so often refer to. How do you see paper allowing us to disconnect?

William Powers: I believe that paper allows us to be alone in a way we’re seldom alone anymore. It quiets the mind. And people are hungry for that. True, we all love all these devices, including me and my family. But they’re also driving us crazy.

How do you strike a balance between being connected and disconnected? That is what my book is about.

I look back at seven moments in history when a new technology came along posing a similar challenge to the one we face now. At each moment I focus on one philosopher who had some useful practical ideas about how to deal with this in everyday life. They range from Plato to Shakespeare to Thoreau. And, of course, I mention Gutenberg. While we always talk about the printing press itself as Gutenberg’s ultimate contribution to civilization, I argue his real achievement was allowing all of us to have the inward experience of reading, that delightful moment of being alone with a page.

As we learn more about the habits of tablet users, we see that they spend considerable time with their tablets in the evening. The tablet has become the ultimate lean-back platform. It is mobile telephones and computers during the working hours, followed by print and tablets in the evening. So we know that there is a sense that the tablet, too, like print, allows one to disconnect, to lean back and relax. Do you agree that perhaps the tablet comes the closest to a digital platform that provides some of the disconnection of print?

Powers: Yes, based on the emerging user habits you mention, as well as personal experience, these first-generation tablets have been a giant step forward for digital reading. My thesis is that as digital devices mature, the experience they offer will get closer and closer to the immersive type of engagement print on paper has offered for centuries.

As everyone who grew up reading hard-copy books and newspapers knows, there’s nothing better than connecting with information in a way that feels relatively disconnected — focused, peaceful and calm. This is an experience people will always value highly, so the better tablets are at providing it, the better for news outlets and other providers of digital content seeking to build audiences of faithful readers.

Having said that, I would note that we are still in the early stages of this transition, and these technologies have a long way to go. Some day in the not-so-distant future, the tablets we’re using today will seem laughably primitive. In fact, tablets may be replaced by a more advanced kind of a device we can’t even envision because it hasn’t been invented yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tablet, as we know it today, turns out to be the eight-track tape of the digital age.

How do you see the role of long-form reading—as in long narratives—in the future, both for print and tablets? We know from early research that long stories seem to do well on tablets, whereas they rarely did online. Are we going to see a renaissance of long-form journalism, specifically in the tablets?

Powers: I do think we’re going to see a great flowering of long-form journalism in the digital medium. It’s already begun, and I’m certain it will ramp up hugely when the economy revives.

Long-form storytelling wasn’t an accidental development—it’s as old as civilization, because it meets a fundamental human need. We’re not just here to be stimulated and entertained in the short-attention-span ways that have dominated the digital era so far. We’re here to understand our world, the societies we live in and ourselves. Understanding comes from time, attention and thoughtful reflection. It comes from storytelling that goes long and deep.

As we build out the digital world, I’m confident there’s going to be more of that kind of storytelling than ever before. The public’s love affair with tablets is an early glimpse of that future. Read more

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The March of the Tabloids

Everything makes a comeback. There is an eternal renaissance of essential things. In journalism, design, literature and art. Things tend to simplify themselves. As life in the big cities turns more chaotic, technology becomes more accessible with wireless, fast communication available to larger masses of the population. For the printed media, this translates into smaller formats, more reader-friendly for users who seek simpler storytelling, quicker messages, and who seem to prefer, as in everything else, the smaller packages.

In the case of newspapers, we have had to wait a long time and climb a steep mountain to get to this exciting moment in which more newspapers are looking at smaller formats as an option. For many, it is already a reality. Conversion from broadsheet to tabloid has paid off: Readers like it, advertisers get used to it faster than anyone thought, and the “wave” of tabloid conversions extends globally. Even the United States is taking a peek into what some of their newspapers will look like in a format other than the huge broadsheet that has served as the canvas for decades.




Newsday In May 2004 Newsday unveiled its first dramatic visual transformation in 25 years. More than just new fonts and color palette, this project involved a total reorganization of the content, addition of new content, and a look at navigation to allow readers to move more quickly through the paper’s many sections.

Who would have guessed only 20 years ago that this would be the case? In 1999, when the American Press Institute sponsored a seminar about “the newspaper of the future,” many of those invited to present their visions displayed electronic newspapers, tablets, and, of course, broadsheets with touches of electronic navigational techniques. I opted for a micro format (A4 for the Europeans, 8 1.2 x 11 for others), which we designed with the assistance of Rodrigo Fino and Paula Ripoll in our Garcia Media Latinoamerica office in Buenos Aires. I mentioned at the time that by the year 2020, most newspapers would be converted to smaller formats. If that seminar were held today, I would place the date much sooner.

In the United States, it was the San Francisco Examiner that dared to make the transition from a traditional broadsheet to a classic tabloid about the same time that conversions were beginning to take place in Europe. As of this writing, the tide has changed dramatically, with several major U.S. newspapers announcing intentions to consider a smaller format.

Suddenly, tabloids are protagonists in a play about newspaper survival, adaptation to change and a spirit of renovation. Ironically, tabloid formats were always protagonists in the life of the reader. The tabloid wave has swept from New Zealand and Australia to the pampas of Argentina, and, of course, the four corners of Europe. It is, I believe, unstoppable. The tabloidization of newspapers is a global phenomenon.

We will see how, one by one, the largest and best known newspaper titles around the world will make the transition to smaller formats.




24 SATA, Zagreb, Croatia: This new daily in Croatia was designed to make reading faster, more pleasurable and aimed at the “digital-age reader.”

A little history

It is not surprising that the birth of tabloids, around 1830, was accompanied by two characteristics that are, ironically, the same that motivate publishers and editors to convert to smaller formats today: 1. Catering to “readers in a hurry,” specifically in cities with large numbers of commuters in public transportation environments. 2. Offering a unique journalistic formula generous in human interest stories, police news, entertainment and sports.

But there was always room for stories that led to what some historians call the “birth of investigative journalism,” as tabloid newspapers in the U.S. and the United Kingdom published extensive reports about prostitution and police corruption.

However, it is with the early tabloids in large metropolitan areas that one first sees human interest stories on page one, presented with greater visual impact than ever before, with images playing as important a role as text. It was, indeed, Charles A. Dana, editor of The New York Sun, who announced to readers: “The Sun will specialize in presenting the news in a concise manner, with greater clarity, and will attempt to present a photographic report of significant events taking place in the world, but always doing it in a friendly, entertaining manner.”

Tabloid: Not a dirty word

Nobody doubts this fact: Many editors and publishers still relate tabloid to lower quality journalism. Despite the recent success of quality newspapers, such as The Times of London, converting to tabloid, the “myth” of tabloids as less than quality prevails in the minds of many inside newsrooms. I find the myth difficult to debunk, despite what research shows us about readers preferring the smaller formats (a majority of readers, especially younger ones, do), as well as the circulation success of those newspapers making the transition. (Sixteen newspapers that changed formats have seen an average 4.6 percent increase in circulation, according to “The Bottom Line of Broadsheet-to-Compact Format Change,” an INMA (International Newspaper Marketing Association) Report, February 2005.)




Reflejos, Chicago, Ill.: For this weekly tabloid serving Latino readers in suburban Chicago, Garcia Media helped refine a new strategy for bilingual publishing. The free distribution was increased by 40,000. Training was critical to allow an extremely small staff to execute this dynamic design — highlighted by a modern, bold palette of typography, color and architecture.

It is this myth of the tabloid or, better yet, the irrational fear of some editors and publishers of the word “tabloid” itself that keeps many from contemplating the idea of testing their newspaper in a smaller format. Using stereotypes, and even worse, formats, to determine what constitutes serious versus sensational journalism is not going to lead to better products.

A probable question is: What constitutes serious journalism today? For many editors, it begins with a newspaper in the broadsheet format. For readers, fortunately, it is decided by content and presentation, not on the size of the sheet on which it is printed. In my almost 35 years in this business, I have never participated in a focus group or reader test in which two formats — one large, one smaller  —  were presented when the majority of readers did not go immediately toward the smaller format. This is a trend I have seen in the United States as early as 1984, and, since then, globally.

Simon Kelner, editor-in-chief of London’s The Independent, one of the first quality newspapers to make a 2003 switch to a tabloid format, has said that “newspapers are the only product whose size and form are determined by those who produce it, and not by those who consume it.” The Independent and The Times are both excellent examples of successful conversions, not just because they adopted the smaller formats readers preferred, but because editors of both newspapers also looked at content enhancements, styles of storytelling, and ways to make their products more fun and easy to navigate as they went to a different, more manageable format. This is as it should be with redesign in any format. The numbers plainly testify to the success of these conversions: The Independent’s circulation rose 15.5 percent versus its pre-tabloid numbers; The Times experienced a four percent increase over its pre-tabloid numbers. 






A PDF of the full 24-page text from which this article is excerpted, “The Impact of The Compact,” with case studies and illustrations of a number of tabloid redesigns, can be downloaded from www.garcia-media.com.

Dr. Mario Garcia is a Poynter Institute Affiliate Faculty Member and news design consultant who has worked with more than 500 news organizations around the globe. His firm has assisted more than 16 broadsheet newspapers in converting to tabloid, and has redesigned more than 60 tabloids which retained their format. 
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A Personal Journey — and Hint of Revolution — in Moscow

I arrived in Moscow on a cold and snowy February morning last week, and felt as if I was 43 years late getting here. But the wait was worth it.


You see, I ALMOST came to Russia when I was 13, in 1961. It was the beginning of Fidel Castro’s arrival in Cuba, and, as a child actor, I played a meaty secondary role in a film titled “The Young Rebel,” one of the first films made by the Cuban Cinematographic Institute under Castro. As the film prepared for its premiere, my parents were informed that I would have to fly to Moscow, to a film festival, for the celebrations.


That is all my father had to hear to secure a visa and a ticket for me to get on a Pan American Airways flight to Miami. The rest was, as we say, history.


So I arrived in Moscow not as a child actor, but as a veteran visual journalist, and, ironically, with an American passport and sponsored by the U.S. State Department on a special cultural mission as a specialist in visual journalism.


Of course, the Russian journalists to whom I told this story smiled, aware that the completion of a full circle in someone’s life always makes for good copy.


I was invited by two organizations â€” IREX and Eurasia Foundation. IREX is a nonprofit U.S. organization based in Washington, D.C., specializing in education, independent media, Internet development, and civil society programs in the United States, Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia. Its mission is to foster democracy in transitioning societies by strengthening educational, nongovernmental, and media organizations and training the next generation of leaders.

In Russia, IREX projects include the Russian Independent Print Media Program, which is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and works with newspapers across Russia as they improve their content and strengthen their business viability.

The Eurasia Foundation is a privately managed nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting programs that build democratic and free market institutions in the 12 New Independent States of the former Soviet Union. Programs aimed at development of viable and non-partisan independent media are among the core activities of the Foundation.


And, so, here I was, ready to do several things: 1. Participate in the first ever newspaper design contest in the Russian Federation. 2. Conduct master classes for journalists. 3. Lecture to journalism students at Moscow State University.


Newspaper Design Contest 2003:


Some conclusions after judging dozens of Russian newspapers entered in the contest:



  • The state of visual journalism in Russia is still in its infancy. As we judges looked at the dozens of newspapers entered for evaluation, we soon realized that, although many designers attempt to offer visual surprises, the majority of newspapers have not embraced the concepts of WED (writing-editing-design).

  • Many stories beg for a graphic or a pull out box with additional information.

  • Photos and illustrations are used often as decoration, not to enhance the storytelling process, and seldom do they refer to the stories they accompany.

  • Color, too, is used as a decorative tool, and not in a practical manner.

  • The best-designed newspapers have adhered to a very formula-like format, and seldom break away to offer visual surprises.

  • Like their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe in the early 1980s, Russian newspaper editors have not embraced visual journalism as an integral part of their newsroom operations; few newspapers have art directors or the equivalent, and where they exist, the role of the art director is still not clearly defined, or the skills of the art director are not used to their full potential. I spent considerable time discussing this important aspect of visual journalism.

  • The concept of white space as punctuation on a page is not practiced. Elements tend to pile up on top of each other.

Yet, one sees moments of creativity: some designers play with illustrations, make them pop on the page; others attempt graphics. It is obvious that many challenges are still ahead, but all the journalists and designers I met are willing to take the next step, and to make their newspapers look and read better.


“We are making progress, a little at a time, and it is interesting to see that regional newspapers seem to be taking to the new concepts of adapting visual journalism strategies much faster than some of the larger dailies in Moscow. This newspaper design contest is only a beginning,” said Dmitri Surnin, a University of Missouri graduate, who directs media programs at the Eurasia Foundation, Moscow. 

Russian newspapers credit IREX programs with helping them to begin thinking “visually” and introducing elements of  modern design into their editorial processes. “There is still much work to be done, and IREX expects the teaching materials resulting from Newspaper Design 2003 will further these efforts as well as fostering a sense of community and professionalism among Russia’s newspaper designers,” according to Drusilla Menaker, an American journalist who directs the IREX program.


Bringing visual journalism to Russian newspapers is only one of the challenges facing the IREX and Eurasia staffers. Other issues that command equal importance are distribution and printing, which are virtual monopolies; and the advertising market, which is in its infancy.

“Many of these newspapers don’t know the first thing about selling advertising, it is all new to them,” Menaker said. “Journalists in the non-state media face legal and physical threats while working for meager pay in under-resourced news organizations. All kinds of pressures, from tax inspections to law suits, are brought on newspapers trying to provide an independent voice to their communities. Tremendous credit must be given to those Russian journalists, editors and media managers who nonetheless seek fresh ideas and better skills through training programs such as those offered by IREX’s media program.”


The Teaching of Visual Journalism at Moscow State University


A highlight of my visit was to give a Master Class to journalism students with an interest in newspaper design, and about 30 students and their professors showed up for the occasion.


The students were eager to learn more, and, surprisingly, the majority spoke fluent English. After my lecture, the students invited me to sit with them in their classroom, and showed me an edition of the student newspaper, Journalist, a four-page tabloid totally edited and designed by students. MSU’s School of Journalism enrolls almost 3,000 students.


I had a short meeting with Professor Yassen Zassoursky, who has served as Dean of the Faculty of Journalism at Moscow State University for over 40 years. He agreed on the importance of visual journalism in the curriculum, and said “we have made some inroads, but not enough yet.”


Magazine Design: Where Visual Journalism Truly Shines


As part of my visit, I also held a master class for magazine designers, and it was obvious that visual journalism is practiced well in the magazine world in Russia.  Many magazines are local versions of Western magazines, such as Harper’s Bazaar, Condé Nast, Maxim, and Time Out, but, in each case, the level of professionalism among art directors, and their work, excels, and in many cases compares or is superior to what one sees in magazines in the rest of the world.


Perhaps newspaper designers will take a cue from their magazine counterparts and make visuals an integral part of what they do.


“I think it is essential that an editor communicate well with his art director,” said Ilya Tsentsiper, an editorial director at Afisha Publishers, one of Russia’s most forward-thinking magazine publishing houses.


Perhaps he will pass along this message to his newspaper editor counterparts.


And, oh, yes, although I did not arrive in Moscow as the “young rebel” of 1961, to some of the journalists and students in my class I still brought a bit of “revolution” – of the visual journalism kind.


Not bad, considering I arrived 43 years late. Read more

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Garcia: Redesigns Involve More than Cojones

The re-launch of The Miami Herald has created much enthusiasm and buzz in the industry. Along with that has come a centerpiece story published on Poynter Online in which I was quoted expressing some thoughts on the re-design process of the Herald.


I said sometimes drastic changes do not take place in newspapers or other organizations because management lacks the cojones to do it. In no way was this meant to single out specifically my colleagues at The Miami Herald with whom I had a wonderful collaboration for one full year.


I still maintain that most newspapers should consider a tabloid format and I am very well aware that sometimes more than cohones comes into the decision not to do so.


It would be inaccurate to describe the process undertaken at the Herald for the past year as a mere “redesign.” The term redesign implies purely cosmetic exercises, where typography or colors are changed, but nothing more.


The Miami Herald that readers saw beginning September 15 definitely has a new and distinctive look. However, what is important is how the newspaper has been evaluated in terms of its content, navigation and opportunities to offer more service to the readers.


When publisher Alberto Ibarguen called me in to participate in the New Century project at the Herald, I immediately realized that I was dealing with a visionary publisher who had assembled one of the best internal teams to take a look at every aspect of how the newspaper worked –or didn’t.


A centerpiece of our work has been an awareness of how much readers have changed in the past five years. We live in a culture where lack of time prevails. At the same time, we are forever bombarded by information, and visual images, rendering what we do more difficult to assimilate at times.


In some cases, a sort of attention deficit disorder sets in for consumers of media, which leads us to bypass useful information, as that provided by photos and graphics, because we become oblivious to them. It is a fact that affects not only newspaper and magazine designers, but also those who design store display windows, furniture, clothing and gadgets.


And, of course, during the course of this redesign, the team, under the leadership of Dave Wilson and Sara Rosenberg, but also the participation of art director Nuri Ducassi, as well as designers Kris Strawser, Eddie Alvarez and Juan Lopez, set out to create various prototypes. More than seven of these were created, evaluated and analyzed. Some were taken to focus groups.


One version that was created and discussed was The Miami Herald as a tabloid, something that I think is still in the future for this American daily published in a city that turns more cosmopolitan, and Latin, each day.


The tabloid would not have been feasible for technical reasons, and the idea of the tabloid was then applied to the daily features section, Tropical Life, one of the favorites of the redesigned, totally fresh and with people-oriented coverage. Nuri Ducassi and Juan Lopez designed the concept for Tropical Life.


Better Navigation


Knowing what we know about readers – and we have conducted extensive research, and focus groups with readers – we have created new navigational devices, starting on page one, to guide readers to that one good story that may be inside somewhere; and we have a Five-Minute Herald, for the scanner who wishes to go for the quick read with a quick breakfast, and postpone more leisure reading for during lunch, or before going to bed. Reading the newspaper in more than one seating has become the norm for many readers
worldwide.


However, the degree to which readers are engaged with their newspaper varies, although we know that time spent is less than it was five years ago.


This is why indexes and other navigational devices are so important, and why we have emphasized them as much as we worked on improving The Miami Herald.


The emergence of the Internet, and the fact that so many newspaper readers browse web sites, where navigation is a key element, has made it even more important for the modern newspaper. Readers unconsciously transfer some of their Internet quick browsing behavior when they come to print.


The Three-Track Newspaper


The Miami Herald readers will see a three-track readership:


A) The serious, traditional reader who wants to read the newspaper more leisurely. But even this reader will be able to benefit from the better hierarchy for stories, as well as all the different navigational devices.


B) The scanner who first reads headlines, looks at photos and reads cut lines, along with summaries.


C) The supersonic-speed reader who has barely five minutes in the morning to get a glimpse of the news. The 5-minute Herald will satisfy the needs of this reader.


More Service Items


In addition, we have designed various styles to allow reporters to let the reader in a hurry know the background of a story, or to send the reader to where additional information is available. And, knowing that some readers may skip the newspaper a couple of days in the week, we will alert you to “what’s next” for the story, leading you to subsequent developments.


The Miami Herald emphasizes service seriously, not missing any opportunities to help readers survive in the race against time.


Color-Coding


Another plus of the project has been to create a color palette that allows for color-coding by sections. The navigational index on page one will be presented according to the color of the section it represents, thus making your journey through the inside of the newspaper easier and quicker.


That Sense of Community


Once all the right strategies of functionality described above are in place — such as navigation, typography, color-coding — then we turn our attention to how well the newspaper fits into the city and/or region it serves.


Each newspaper must have its own identity and personality, and not copy that of another paper. Aesthetics is secondary to individuality.


We hope that the new look of The Miami Herald reflects the diversity, high-level energy and excitement of the Miami and South Florida region.


After almost a year of working with The Miami Herald team, and after seeing the results, I am satisfied that the new Herald has the spirit and journalistic excellence that have marked its first century, but with the freshness, vitality and innovation that should inspire other newspapers everywhere.


One reader wrote me an e mail that read; “I hope someone can do to me when I turn 100 what you guys have done to the Herald.” Read more

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Good Indexing Key to Successful Publications

There are different ways in which a well-designed publication can use indexing:

through promotional units for main stories to the inside
through a specific summary of highlights (the news that the reader MUST not miss inside)
through a directory of sections, i.e. sports, classified advertising, opinion, etc.

Readers appreciate a newspaper, magazine or newsletter that is easy to navigate; pure design takes this into account as a top priority.

It is with indexes and promotional units that color can be used most effectively, to color key sections, or to guide the reader from one section to the next.

However, editorial hierarchy plays a role here; do not create indexes to decorate a cover or page one, to show off good photos or visuals.

Good indexes give the front of the publication a sense of hierarchy. What do editors think the reader should read first, second and third? If the reader only has 10minutes, what is MUST reading in this edition? If five more minutes become available, what should be next? Good indexing prioritizes content for the busy reader. Pure design packages such priority attractively.


All or a portion of this column was originally published in the IFRA newsletter. Read more

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Black on White, White on Black

From time to time one sees white type reversed over a black background. Some purists of design hate the technique and it is even banned in some newsrooms.

True, there is no substitute for the legibility of black type over a white background.

That said, it is also true that white type over a black background can look sharp, raise the presence of a quote or other elements on a page, and add a “visual” to a page where there might not be one.

Like all other tools available to the designer, reverses work best when used in moderation. A very large top- to bottom-of-the-page box, all black, with a long article set in white over it, will not be legible. In fact, it will look hard to penetrate — and few will enter it.

When used sparingly, and not repeatedly, white-on-black can be another efficient way to offer contrast and hierarchy for an item on a page.


All or a portion of this column was originally published in the IFRA newsletter. Read more

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Italics Effeminate? Hardly!

Even editors who confess to being ‘visually illiterate’ (which is rarely the case!) have at least five minutes of conversation and opinion on the subject of italics. That suggests that a bit of slant to the right is more controversial than any other weight or style for a typeface.

At one point, perhaps in the 1950s, italics were mostly found in the women’s section of the newspaper. Fifty years later, thanks to the newsroom legacy syndrome, the rumor persists: italics are not macho enough — never use them for sports stories, never on hard news stories. And so, one still sees beautiful italics as decoration for articles about flower arrangement, new recipes for quiche, and the latest fashions from Paris.

It is time to give italics a bit of credit. Readers do not associate italics with a specific gender. They do not perceive italics as being less forceful — it is the words that make a headline strong or weak! Readers do not slow down when the headline is in italics, either.

Having said that, I would like to express some personal thoughts on italics:


  • Do not use them for every headline in the newspaper. This is a matter of avoiding monotony more than anything that has to do with perception.
  • Give italics a job to do through your creation of story structures. In other words, do not use italics for a feature today and for an opinion piece tomorrow, and then for a lead international story the next. Whatever its particular use happens to be, italics must be used consistently and continuously in that role.
  • Avoid excessive use of italics for text. Italics are suitable for headlines, quotes and highlights, but are not as attractive in text size.

And if anyone wants to run a sports column in italics, even one written by a male reporter, go for it. But, it’s true — italics can also make that new recipe for caviar quiche very appetizing!

All or a portion of this column was originally published in the IFRA newsletter. Read more

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Headlines in Color

Every designer and/or editor I have met has his own opinion on the subject of color headlines.

And so do I, of course. My preference is for headlines in black, 99% of the time. In the days before newspapers could reproduce beautiful color through photographs and illustrations, the occasional headline in color added a bit of visual excitement to the page.

However, today we can achieve colorful pages without colorizing headlines.

True, feature pages can benefit from a touch of color in a headline, and it can spice things up. More often, however, a page can run the extra mile with just good color images, and a nice, big headline in black.

The same applies to dropped capital letters, by the way.


All or a portion of this column was originally published in the IFRA newsletter. Read more

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10 Universal Newspaper Design Myths, Debunked

My diary entries contain travelogues, agendas, and occasionally, the graffiti of design myths. I always write these myths in red, to make sure I do not forget them. I must have more than 150 that I have listed during 20 years of traveling, but there are 10 that have become the “Super Myths,” those that transcend nationalities, ethnicity, or language. I offer them as a checklist to see how many of them are part of your own myth repertoire: 1. Don’t run headlines next to each other. “Bumping headlines” should be ranked as the No. 1 design myth, especially in the United States. I am certain that more time is spent in newsrooms everywhere designing pages that avoid headlines coming together than actually writing better headlines. As a veteran of hundreds of focus groups that were shown pages with headlines that sometimes bumped, I have yet to hear a reader anywhere echo the complaint about “bumping headlines.” Of course, I am not an advocate of bumped headlines. However, I am suggesting that we should not spend unnecessary time and effort avoiding what seems to affect no one but the editor and his old journalism school professor. 2. Readers don’t like reversed out type. Well, many editors don’t. And I am sure that readers would probably find it unusual and hard to read if an entire article were set in white type against a black or color background. However, a few lines of a quote or a highlight set against a dark background will not affect legibility as long as the type size is larger than normal and the interline spacing is adequate. 3. Color must be introduced slowly. Life is in color. Attempts at a slow introduction of color in a newspaper that may have been entirely black and white for years are quite exaggerated. In this regard, one must respect the editors’ knowledge of their own communities and their readers’ ability to assimilate change. However, my own experience has been that color is almost always extremely well received, and that readers in most communities no longer attach the label of “less serious” to newspapers that print in color. Specifically with 25- to 35-year-old readers, color is an expectation more than an abomination. What is important, and this must be emphasized, is that color use be appropriate for the newspaper and its community. 4. Italics are difficult to read. I have heard this more than 500 times, from South America to South Africa, and in Malaysia, too! Every editor seems to have a built-in catalog of anecdotes to illustrate why italics should never be used. They are supposed to be “feminine”; therefore, why use them in the macho sports section? They are “strange” to the reader and imply soft news, as opposed to hard news, so relegate them to the gardening page. And, last, italics slow down the reading, so avoid them in text. The truth? Italics are unisex. A feature in sports can wear italics well, but so can that souffle story in the food section. The soft-versus-hard implication is an American phenomenon, I must admit. A banner headline in a strong italic font played large will be able to do the job as well as a Roman headline. Size and boldness and the distinction of the type used are more significant than whether the type is italic. Contrast italics with Roman type, or bolder or lighter type nearby, and they make that souffle rise on the page. Add them as a secondary line under a classic Roman face, and there is music on the page. Give the name on the byline an italic touch, and somehow the visual rhythm of the text may be altered for the better. 5. Don’t mix color and black-and-white photos or graphics on the same page. Never once have I heard a reader complain about this special cocktail of mixed black-and-white and color images. The designer’s task is to select the best possible images, regardless of color, and display them properly on the page following a hierarchy that indicates where the eye should go first, second, and third. The color versus black-and-white issue becomes quite secondary to the content of the images, their placement on the page, and the role of the images in the overall design. 6. Don’t interrupt the flow of text. Magazines have been using quotes, highlights, and other text breakers for years. However, place one of these devices in the text of many newspapers and you will find a chorus of editors repeating the same verse: Any interruption of text causes the reader to stop reading. I have found no evidence of this in the many focus groups I have observed or in The Poynter Institute’s own EYE-TRAC Research. (EYE-TRAC scientifically documented how color, text, graphics, and photos direct a reader’s eyes around a newspaper page.) Of course, interruptions can become obstacle courses if: – One places a 24-line quote across 12 picas, forcing the reader to jump over text; or – One places the breaker in such a strategic position that the reader will not jump over it, but assumes instead that he should move across to the adjacent column. So length of the interruption and its placement determine legibility factors. Any interruption that requires more than a 2-1/2 inch jump should be reconsidered. 7. Readers prefer justified type over ragged-right type. The myth is that ragged-right type implies “soft” or feature material, while justified type represents serious hard news. This, too, is only in the minds of editors and some designers. There is no evidence of the truth to this perception. If newspapers had always set all their text ragged right, readers would have accepted that style. Ragged-right type can change the rhythm on the page, even when used for short texts or for columnists. Its use incorporates white space, which is always needed, and allows for more appropriate letter spacing within and between words. Some research has confirmed that the presence of ragged right speeds up reading. 8. Story count counts. One must have, says this myth, a minimum of five stories on the front page. Well, it is seven in some newspapers, and 11 in others. Story count is a state of mind; it should not be a formula. No two days in the news are alike for the editor putting together Page One. On certain days, one big story may equal four, or even seven, small ones. Sometimes a photo may carry the weight of 10 stories, and so on. Individual elements are what count, not a systematic formula that forces elements to satisfy a quota on the page. What do we know about story count and Page One? Well, the front page is still the face of the newspaper and must display not only the day’s news but promote the best content inside. More is definitely better than less, and index items, promo boxes, and even standalone photos are all part of what makes the eye move. Readers in focus groups do not count stories. Eye movement – activity on the canvas of the page – is what counts. How one makes the readers’ eyes move can be determined by factors that are not necessarily associated with the mythical story counts that editors are subjected to. 9. Leave things in the same place every day. For many editors, a Page One or a section front with static elements (promos at the top, left-hand column of briefs, etc.) provides a sort of teddy bear to embrace when they come to work every day. So, in typical fashion, editors always ask for the teddy bears. There is no truth to the myth that readers want these elements exactly in the same places every day. I prefer to experiment with “teddy bears on roller skates” – let the promo boxes appear differently from day to day. Some days use one promo only, some days use three promos. Surprise the reader with promos that run vertically on Tuesday, but horizontally on Wednesday. 10. The lead story must always appear on the right-hand side of the page. Editors seem sure of this, but nobody bothered to tell the readers. To them, the lead story is the one with the biggest and boldest headline, whether it is to the right or the left. Of course, hierarchy is important. No myth here. One definitive lead must appear on the page to guide the reader, but its appearance, as long as it is above the fold, becomes inconsequential. Why the myths? Well, what would newspapers be without them? Meetings would be shorter, and less argumentative, especially if there was no “italics” myth. Who creates the myths? Like the games children play, nobody knows where these myths start. Children teach each other games in the schoolyard; professors pass on myths to their innocent charges in journalism school. Then those myths gain momentum when the rookie journalist hears the same myth glorified by his veteran editor, and so on. What can one do about myths? Select the ones you really want to do battle over, then wrestle the myth promoter to the ground. Sometimes you win. Read more

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