[Cover Story] Behind the bold visuals and political coverage in the Boston Globe’s Capital section

pxOn Friday, the Boston Globe launched a new broadsheet section, Capital, that pairs bold visuals and graphics with in-depth political coverage. I asked Design Director Dan Zedek and designer Kim Maxwell Vu to share with me the design philosophy that’s driving them and some highlights of the new section.

Courtney Kan: Tell me about the Capital section. What types of content will be included? What’s the format, size?

Capital is a weekly look at the political scene in the city, the state, the region, and beyond. Politics is a blood sport here and we’re lucky enough to have readers who are both passionate and well-informed, thanks to the coverage by the Globe’s political team. What we wanted to do with this section is pool all of the Globe’s talent and resources to take an approach that was both analytical and conversational. We wanted to surprise with our depth, amuse and engage with a strong voice, and dazzle with smart, accessible infographics and photography. We commissioned a weekly poll on political races and voter attitudes — the most comprehensive ever done in Massachusetts. We also partnered with a local company, SocialSphere, to track political conversations and influencers on Twitter and other social media. Capital publishes on Fridays as a 12-page broadsheet, and is updated daily on our expanded politics section at bostonglobe.com/capital.

CK: How did you approach this project from the design side. Is there a visual philosophy for the section. 

We wanted the presentation to be big and bold, mixing the verve of magazine design with the grit of newspapers. The photos are strong, the graphics are rich and detailed, and the scale is approachable. At least, that’s what we hope.

CK: What differences are there, if any, in the presentation of Capital as compared with other sections of the Boston Globe? 

Capital is a hybrid of news and feature and magazine design. It has a much stronger voice in both words and images than our news coverage. But though, it’s very visual, Capital is still dense with information.

CK: Who else is involved in planning the covers? Given the hybrid approach to the design, I’m guessing you want to have a lot of input in the discussion?

The covers are the product of brainstorming sessions with editors, reporters, picture editors, and designers. We talk about the story, joke around, and throw out a lot of ideas with, “OK, this is going to sound stupid…”

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CK: Capital is a weekly section, what is the timeline like for producing the section?

Frantic! We plan features a week or so out, but a lot of the content is produced on deadline to get the freshest takes into the section.

CK: How much of the graphic content is planned as a recurring feature versus pitched by your staff?

In terms of infographics, each issue will have a recurring mix of poll charts and social media graphics on the Dashboard page, and new work that’s created to add depth and context to specific stories in that week’s issue.

CK: What obstacles have you faced so far, or do you foresee?

The first issue went as smoothly as you could expect, which is to say, not terribly smoothly. We had the usual toothaches caused by late copy and a balky CMS (stop us if you’ve heard this one before). But it was a blast to work and we’re eager for next week.

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CK: What are you most looking forward to in designing Capital? 

There’s so much great stuff about politics in Boston: great stories from our reporters, great attitude, tons of fascinating data. To sit and talk with our political team is to alternate between laughing out loud at some bit of inside dish and be startled by some angle on the people and issues you read about every day. We want to capture those stories and that spirit and make it accessible to our audience both in print and online.