Was there no innovation in Obama election pages?

Alan Jacobson over at Brass Tacks Design has an interesting essay today that posits this point: News design needs to evolve.

In an essay (headlined “Designers should heed these lessons from Obama”) that runs next to the recently relaunched Best Front Design, Jacobson speaks smartly about what he saw as an ordinary approach in too much of the design of too many newspapers on Nov. 5, the day after the election.

“Unlike Obama, these page designs didn’t break any ground,” Jacobson writes.

Jacobson makes a convincing argument, using Media News chief Dean Singleton as an example but clearly extrapolating across the industry, that news design has reached a level of competency that, while good, is not breaking any new ground. And that if it continues on its current path, design jobs will be lost to offshoring, consolidation, or both.

The peril as he he describes it is real, especially as every news organization in the country examines resources.

“The issue is whether American newspaper designers will keep their jobs in the face of the next round of staff cuts. To do so, they’ll need to demonstrate more creativity than they did on Nov. 5 – the kind of creativity that sells the paper, improves the website and makes both of them effective environments for advertising, even on days when no history is made,” Jacobson writes.

You can argue about whether one paper or another might have done something extraordinary in print on Nov. 5, but the question for today is whether and where there can be innovation in news design? Discuss.


For a gallery of pages, check out Mark Friesen’s collection at NewsDesigner.com



Visual Editors guru Robb Montgomery chose his best front pages. There’s also a healthy discussion in the comments.


And a fun look from Mr. Montgomery at the Oprah love for the Sun-Times front page, as well as an international gallery of pages.

About Matt Mansfield

is VP at CQ Roll Call, a Board Member and leads SND's Outreach efforts. He was SNDDC workshop chair in 2015.

5 comments

Content sells newspapers – not design. All these pages present the news elements in a clear, reader-friendly manner and that’s what counts. SND should focus on improving news content, finding a new business model for newspapers or coming up with ideas to help newspaper Web sites actually make money. That’s the kind of creativity that saves jobs.

I have to agree with Jan 100%.  While having unique and creative designs for your front page helps sell papers the long term is content.  All over the country papers are laying off thousands of people a losing money because they’ve allowed their own personal opinions leak into the articles.  We need to get back to basics.

“they’ve allowed their own personal opinions leak into the articles”

From a business standpoint, is this really such a big problem? Bloggers thrive by adding their two cents to the news. FoxNews has a frighteningly loyal fan base. Perhaps the answer is to lead the debate rather than provide the ammunition for the arguments of others.

Most people just want the basic facts. They don’t need a witty headline despite the fact that it would look nice. But obviously there is no originality with these papers, that’s for sure.

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