Design fundamentals

Key elements to good newspaper design

    • Dominance: Every page needs one dominant, visual element — up to twice as large as anything else on the page. Ideally, that’s a “centerpiece” story/photo combination. It also can be a good photo or graphic.
    • Contrasting shapes: If the dominant visual element is horizontal, look for a vertical shape to contrast it (photo, story, graphic, etc.).
    • Consistency: typography, internal and external margins, style. But, don’t be so consistent that you don’t have any fun.
    • White space: Use it as a design element. Don’t cram a page with material. Let it breathe. Think of white space as a spotlight that shines on the page’s content.
    • Simplicity: Use a limited number of elements on a page. Minimize the number of typefaces available. Two or three families are all you really need for good design. Don’t use gratuitous shadows and type effects if they don’t help the reader understand the content.
    • Bells and whistles: Graphics, glance boxes, icons, etc. Are they functional or do they just clutter the page?
    • News placement and presentation: Good design prioritizes the news. Good news judgment plays a crucial role in design.
    • Balance: For instance, the page shouldn’t be photo-heavy on top and text-heavy on the bottom.
    • Story lengths and jumps: Never jump less that 6 inches of a story. Never use less than 6 inches of a story before it jumps. That is reader abuse. Also remember that few readers follow jumps … so keep them to a minimum.
    • Ethical concerns: Pay attention to juxtapositions of unrelated stories or photos, where the effect could be unintentionally funny, insensitive or embarrassing. Design should accurately reflect content, not mislead.
TOO MANY DEKS: 1 col: 4 deks max 2 col: 3 deks max 3 col: 2 deks max 4-6 cols: 1 deks max Of course, there are always exceptions for exceptionally important news, but this is a standard guide.
TOO MANY DEKS: 1 col: 4 deks max
2 col: 3 deks max
3 col: 2 deks max
4-6 cols: 1 deks max
Of course, there are always exceptions for exceptionally important news, but this is a standard guide.

 

FIND THE FLAWS: No headline hierarchy, mug looks off page; main art boring and focal points feature backs of heads or nothing; 2 columns over 4 is too wide and splits the package in half, which should be avoided; very little layering; vague, uninteresting headlines. Start of centerpiece doesn't have a headline or other big type above it.
FIND THE FLAWS: No headline hierarchy, mug looks off page; main art boring and focal points feature backs of heads or nothing; 2 columns over 4 is too wide and splits the package in half, which should be avoided; very little layering; vague, uninteresting headlines. Start of centerpiece doesn’t have a headline or other big type above it.
Do not wrap text around an ad. The Northern Star uses modular design, which sticks to squares and rectangles. As a side note, avoid using words only known to journalists. Do you know what raze means? Most people don't. (It means to destroy.)
Do not wrap text around an ad. The Northern Star uses modular design, which sticks to squares and rectangles. As a side note, avoid using words only known to journalists. Do you know what raze means? Most people don’t. (It means to destroy.)
Avoid putting headlines adjacent to each other.
Avoid putting headlines adjacent to each other.
WATCH FOR HEADLINE ECHOES. How many times is Lodi on this page? Too many.
WATCH FOR HEADLINE ECHOES. How many times is “Lodi” on this page? Too many.

Links

Today’s Front Pages: Design inspiration from the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Society for News Design