I truly believe a good design is a cost-effective, easy-to-implement change for the better.
Right now, in this time of uncertainty regarding the future of print media, it’s important to do what we can to appeal to readers, to pull them back in, to encourage them to stay awhile longer. You’re not going to do that with the same tired designs you’ve been putting out since you stopped waxing and pasting (please tell me you’re not still waxing and pasting?).
Just because you’re a community paper doesn’t mean you have to look like one. You know the type: butting headlines, no focal story, poorly printed photos, cluttered pages, clip art, an ever-changing flag, and so on.
Would you rather look at this page …
… or this page?
I’d rather look at the second one, too. (I designed both of these pages, so I feel like I can talk as badly about them as I want to.)
If you’re considering a redesign, the first step is to look over past front pages and figure out where you went wrong and where you went right.
Where did the first page go wrong? There’s too much gray area and not enough graphic elements to create a visual interest, the flag is too cluttered, the headlines are too small, there’s little negative space and there’s nothing that advertises what’s inside the paper. That’s just for starters.
Where did it go right? The date, price and UPC stand out. That’s … about it.
And so, as you consider redesigning your paper, start with the front page, the first page your readers will see, and ask yourself these questions:
- Would I read this paper if I didn’t have to, just based on looks?
- Is the flag legible? Cluttered? Do readers know what paper they’re reading?
- Do photos print well? Are they muddy? Too dark? Too light? Contrasted enough?
- Are column widths varied? The same?
- Is text easy to read?
- Can you read the lead headline standing 10 feet from a rack?
- Can other headlines be read? Are they more than three rows in length?
- Are bylines legible?
- Is there a page element – a reader’s guide/index or sky boxes – that encourages readers to open the paper and read the inside content in addition to the front page?
- Is the overall design outdated? (Modern design is clean and has ample negative space.)
- What are we hoping to accomplish with a redesign?
These can be difficult questions to ask and answer, but before diving into a redesign they must be addressed. Answer honestly. There’s only one way to go from here, and that’s to a better design.