Daily Orange redesign: Advice for other college paper redesigns

[Editor’s note: Lizzie Hart — a junior at Syracuse University and presentation director of its student newspaper, The Daily Orange — is leading the paper through a redesign of its print edition. In this periodic series, she’ll chat about the successes and challenges she runs into along the way.]

With winter break coming to a close, the redesign is getting ready to debut. At this point, I am revising drafts and working with our web developer, Chris, to finalize the corresponding web redesign. It is important that the print changes are reflected online through typography and other styling. Additionally, we are promoting the redesign on our website and social media channels to drum up excitement and keep our readers informed. On our site you can see a countdown of days until the redesign debuts.

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With the planning stage coming to a close, looking back I have learned a lot about juggling many opinions and making decisions. Here is my advice to college papers that want to redesign.

Back your decisions up

I have found it is important that everything we are doing is for the readers and has reasoning to back it up. With every change the management team and I have discussed, we make sure we are not being complacent. I suggest either conducting a poll or having some sort of a panel. However, it can also be as simple as talking to students about what they want to see more and less of in the paper. The most important thing is to not lose sight of your audience.

Draw from many sources

When a group of Daily Orange alumni, who now work at their own web design company, Upstatement, came for a visit last year, they asked our staff what sites and publications we read. That was a great jumping off point for finding inspiration. I have been inspired by websites, tablet apps, magazines and more for redesign elements. It is important to recognize that the way people are reading is changing. For instance, online lists are becoming very popular on sites like Buzzfeed. Breaking down topics into more digestible bits became something we strived for in the redesign.

Delegate to your design staff

Through the redesign, I have realized the importance of delegating. Initially I felt overwhelmed with type and color options until I started assigning the designers weekly redesign tasks where they have helped narrow down these decisions. It is a hard job for just one person to redesign the whole paper, so wherever you can distribute tasks, I suggest doing it.

Get advice from alumni

During break, I have sent my drafts to a dozen or so Daily Orange alumni as well as design professors to get feedback and make finishing touches. Getting feedback from alumni has proven to be very beneficial as they have a unique perspective having worked with our current design. The alumni had suggestions about specifics when it came to the new type treatment and content elements, among other things.

Adjust as needed

My last piece of advice for those undergoing a redesign is to keep in mind, as one of the people who commented on my past post reminded me, the redesign can be an ongoing process. Ideally all the kinks are worked out the first day it debuts, however, it may be more of an evolution where changes are made as we implement elements.

What other suggestions do you have for a college paper going through a redesign? Post a note below.