The benefit of one platform

Newspaper design is an advanced art.


The traditional daily is designed for one medium — print.

Which isn’t as simple as one might think.

A well designed paper is easy to read. Certain elements are anchored — readers know where to find them. All elements are clearly delineated.

On every page, the design tells the reader which stories are most important, and the most important stories in the paper have multiple entry points (graphics, photos, nugget boxes).

The design is consistent throughout. Section fronts can be wildly creative, but every page in the paper looks to be part of the whole.

The design responds to the expectations of its readers, exploits the capabilities of the paper’s press and production process, and is enforced through use of an in-house stylebook.

When the Portland (Maine) Press Herald began its redesign process in 1989, it was already in the midst of a three-year news improvement program that would culminate in the activation of its new $43 million printing plant.

The redesign began with the formation of a news committee. It included the paper’s director of market research. Design consultant Alan Jacobson was hired to keep the process on track.

Warren Watson, managing editor/operations, later explained the process in an article in The Journal of the Society of Newspaper Design. “Research had to be the first key step in a redesign,” he wrote. The committee stayed in touch with the paper’s market “every step of the way.”

The  group followed a seven-step plan: organization, research (including community focus groups) and goal-setting, which led to prototype, format-writing, implementation and a design stylebook.

The process began in September 1989. The redesign was launched in August 1990.

(I was working in the promotion department, and it was a pleasure to help introduce the paper’s new look to our readers. As Watson said, the design featured “the 5Cs: clean, complete, clear, colorful and compelling.”)

So. Not easy nor cheap, creating a well designed paper. But much, much easier than trying to redesign news content so that it’s presented properly on mobile phones, tablets, laptops and desktop monitors, using static content, dynamically generated content, podcasts, video and soon, 3-D, each platform and medium with its own design requirements and, one might, argue, audience.

Author: TAM

For more about me, please visit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s