3 Questions: Heather Hopp-Bruce

heatherHeather Hopp-Bruce is op-ed design supervisor at the Boston Globe, and is a Features judge for the 35th Best of News Design™ competition. To get to know her better, we posed three questions:

Have you noticed any design trends?
Giant random floating drop caps, but the actual first letter of the piece is still intact; chalkboard backgrounds, especially when fish is involved; type-heavy covers with a combination of gray and maroon/brown/gold words; hodgepodge big type and numbers; hexagons everywhere! Hexagons are the new circles; speaking of circles, there were lots of circles connected by thin lines; blood splatters; 45° angles; A-Z something; zipper analogies; text big and small highlighted by fake yellow highlighter; board games; relationships between music or musical artists illustrated by very thin lines which are frequently cyan and magenta; column-wide gutters

Do you have advice for entrants?
The philosophical answer: Be true to yourself, your vision, and your style within the parameters (time, resources, differing opinions) that we all work within. Don’t worry about what other designers or papers are doing; pour yourself into a style that feels right to you and be relentlessly faithful to your own uniqueness. You’re a designer because you sense that talent within yourself: nurture it and use it to create something absolutely yours. Because we saw a lot of papers beautifully executed but few that took our breath away, few that felt pure.

The practical answer: Exceptional photography or illustration does not automatically translate to great design. People can usually tell that your page is covered with hexagons (or lines, or boxes, or whatever) because you find the content to be boring; really good pages start with really good content. In opinion, the illustration and presentation need to reflect the nuances of the writer’s point of view and enhance the reader’s understanding of that view, without introducing the opinion of the illustrator or designer (you’re not the ballerina — you’re the set and costume designer). If you are submitting a page in a language other than English, it is important that you included a translated description, the more thorough the better. If you submit to the “misc” category, you need to really sell the judges on why it belongs there. If a page is good enough to go in your portfolio, also submit is as a single page entry; if it’s not good enough for a single page, will it really help your portfolio?

What inspires you?
Good writing is always inspiring. I’m also inspired by coming to a point in a design where I hate it, and hate everything I’ve ever done, and I’m definitely going to have a panic attack or maybe I should quit this career altogether because I am a talentless hack and why hasn’t everyone noticed that because it is SO OBVIOUS? After a half hour or so of that I usually come up with something I really like, then go to lunch and think the whole way how the page I just thought up is going to rake in SND medals. Which it doesn’t, but there’s always the next time, right?

I also like to think of pages as a song, music to the lyrics of the writing.