Wayne Kamidoi went home late Wednesday night feeling apprehensive about the section cover he had designed during his shift as Sports Art Director at The New York Times. By Thursday morning, the page featuring a headline and a large chunk of white space — in reaction to the news that no players were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year — was generating social media buzz and made an appearance on ESPN’s Sports Center.
Kamidoi shared some of his thoughts about the page in a phone interview early Thursday afternoon. Here are a few of the highlights.
On the idea of a mostly-blank page:
This was not meant to be the execution of a groundbreaking or original idea. The Beatles’ White Album comes to mind. The news, or lack of, dictated the presentation.
You aren’t necessarily looking for stuff sometimes, but you see something like three months ago and you remember it. You don’t necessarily remember where you saw it, but it’s an idea. I always agreed with the idea that if you’re going to borrow something, you have to improve on it.
On the headline:
The headline for the paper’s first national edition read “Welcome to Cooperstown.” [This was the version shown on ESPN’s Sports Center broadcast.] We were kind of worried about whether that was clear enough, so we changed it to “And the Inductees Are …” for the first city edition at 10 p.m. I’m glad we ran out of time, or we’d still be working on the headline.
On the reaction the page has gotten:
I guess it’s the new world of social media meeting the old world of news print. … If this happened five or six years ago, people might have talked about it a year later after the SND contest instead of two hours later. In this case, the debate began as soon as Ben Hoffman posted the page on his Facebook account and it started to get shared around.
On whether The New York Times sports section is taking more visual risks:
Definitely. Joe Sexton became Sports Editor maybe a year and half ago. This page fits his MO. … He’s old school in that he cares about print, but he’s also trying to be ahead of the curve and visuals play a big part in him pushing the envelope.
On how the page evolved:
The very first versions we looked at had a series of half mug shots or a gallery of small faces the bottom with a headline of “The New Faces of Cooperstown.” It was Joe who said if we were going that direction, we should just take the photos off.
On his favorite thing about the page:
I liked the names at the bottom in small type. I thought of it like the AP Top 25, when there’s a list of other teams in agate type at the bottom. Given the marquee names that were in that agate type, I felt it made a statement.
On his least favorite thing about the page:
It didn’t have a big photo of Mike Piazza. Awesome player to watch. Only suspicions kept him out. Unlike the others, he carried himself with class.
On whether the page had more impact in The New York Times compared to a smaller paper:
I always feel people think too much into that, whether it’s The New York Times or a smaller paper. In this particular case, you’re sort of making a statement. I compare this to something you’d see on our Op/Ed page that’s sort of an opinion based on a stand-alone visual. That’s pretty much what this presentation did.
On what many people may not realize:
One of the criticisms is that the page didn’t convey any information, which is something I always think about. But because the news story began on A1 and jumped to an inside page, we didn’t want to ignore it on our sports cover. So we felt like we got the news on the front page and then this visual opinion piece on the sports cover.
On how this page compares to other favorites that he has designed:
There have been other pages I was excited about because I knew they were going to work. On this one, to be honest, I wasn’t overly confident about the result. … I’ve done pages where it was a total pain to put together, and you get nothing. It’s like, “Do you know how hard that was to do?” But this one was so simple you almost don’t expect any real reaction.
It really wasn’t done with the idea that we’re going to shock everyone. And it’s not like it’s something that hasn’t been done before. In this case, I think it just gets seen more because it’s The New York Times and gets more widely distributed. I think it’s like you do it once. It’s your one time you do that and you move on to something else.