February 8, 2007

Without Edmund Arnold, newspapers would be a little grayer — and the lives of those who create them a little less interesting.

Arnold is often called the “Father of Modern Newspaper Design.” He introduced white space between unrelated elements, made modular layout a worldwide standard, redesigned more than 250 papers, helped found the Society for News Design and taught visual journalists at Syracuse University and in newsrooms around the world.

Arnold, 93, died on Feb. 2, 2007 in Roanoke, Va., but his legacy lives on with the work of the journalists he influenced.

Four renowned visual leaders described Arnold’s influence and impact on the industry — and their own lives — for SND. Here are excerpts from remembrances by Mario Garcia, Nannette Bisher, Richard Curtis and Phil Nesbitt. The full tributes are available on the Society for News Design’s Web site.

The First Book in the Bible of Newspaper Design

Long before the term design was ever associated with newspapers, there was Ed Arnold.

Long before there were Macs, or Quark XPress, or SND, there was Ed Arnold.

In the book of newspaper design, Ed Arnold is the Genesis — the prologue to a rich story of how our craft developed. And the trailblazer — a lone, but resounding and articulate, voice. I can’t think of anyone else who could sit with a non-believing publisher and editor and convince them that packaging the news attractively was the key to getting readers to pay attention.

He set the stage for the rest of us in the same grand manner in which he did everything: a little bit of theater (no, make that a lot of theater), in which Ed, forever the star of whatever show he participated in, recited such words as “italics, picas, leading or Bodoni Bold” in a sort of staccato rhythm while he paced the room, one finger up in the air, professorial, authoritative, the audience captivated, all eyes on his friendly face. …

Mario García, CEO & founder, García Media

Ed Arnold’s Great Reach

When an editor says the lead news story HAS to go on the right side of A1, they probably don’t even realize they are reiterating Ed’s thoughtful analysis of how readers journey through a page. They always start, he noted, at the upper right — what he called “the primary optical area.”

Had you had the extreme pleasure of meeting Ed in person you would have been charmed by his manner and enthralled by his many great stories on the beginning of this wacky business of designing newspapers. …

Nanette Bisher, creative director, San Francisco Chronicle

Much to Say…

What can you say about a man born in 1913 in Bay City, Mich., who rose to prominence as the father of modern newspaper design?

What can you say about a man who, almost single-[handedly] in the 1960s and ’70s, revolutionized newspapers through design?

What can you say about a man who redesigned [more than] 250 newspapers in the days before computers and easy worldwide travel, and, it must be said, before SND?

What can you say about a man whose research taught editors how publication design enhances the reading experience?

What can you say about a man who taught at the university level for 23 years and was widely recognized for his excellence?

What can you say about a man who, through engaging story telling — oh, what a story teller he was! — passed along institutional knowledge about his craft to audiences around the world?


I’ll tell what you can say:

You can say that Ed Arnold left his fingerprints on all our lives and all over our careers.

You can say that Ed Arnold overturned conventional thinking in newspapers.

You can say that Ed Arnold paved the way for SND and for your jobs as designers. …

Richard Curtis, SND co-founder & managing editor for graphics & photography, USA Today

I’m Gonna Miss You, Ed

… Ed had a personality that embraced everything in a room. He never sidestepped a good argument, especially one that went against his convictions, and oh, there were a lot of those!

He was never totally convinced that the formal practice of newspaper design was on the right track. He was always pointing out “fads” and “foibles” — his words — that “got in the way of a good read.”

Sadly, many of today’s designers don’t know Ed. Some have never heard the name, and this is all the more sad because he laid the groundwork for the design revolution of the ’70s and ’80s. Even some of the “old folks” of my generation still refuse to acknowledge Ed’s contributions to our industry, but I don’t know anyone who ever worked with Ed on a project or attended his seminars, lectures and classes [who] didn’t have a couple of good laughs and an enjoyable time. And more important, they learned a lot from Ed. …

Phil Nesbitt, SND co-founder & independent design consultant

Editor’s note: These excerpts have been reproduced with permission from the Society for News Design.

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Jeremy Gilbert is an assistant professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, teaching media product design and digital innovation. He has directed award-winning, student-based…
Jeremy Gilbert

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