The design students at the University of Missouri had front-row seats to the SND college design contest when it was judged on campus yesterday. In between shuffling pages and posting the winners, we listened to the judges had to say about the best of college design. Judges Gayle Grin of the National Post in Toronto, Greg Branson of the Kansas City Star and Reagan Branham of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch were vocal about what they love and what they hate in news design.
1. Don’t be afraid to be bold in broadsheet.
There was an obvious trend all day: Daring, conceptual tabloid pages won out over multi-story broadsheets in every category. What’s the problem with that? Most newspapers still need to put out a daily front page with more than one story on it. The judges had a great conversation about how to make big broadsheet pages interesting.
“The broadsheets we have here took a traditional approach like they see big city papers- and that gets boring,” Greg said. “They forgot dominance, they forgot impact, they forgot all the basic rules. Just because it’s a broadsheet doesn’t mean you can’t have an interesting, vibrant centerpiece.”
The judges said the best examples of broadsheets are found in international papers that use illustration to tell a story. And illustration isn’t just a drawing or photo: it’s conceptual. The best ones are a tool for story analysis. Gayle said newspapers in the future need designers with conceptual illustration skills. What newspapers offer for readers is analysis, and illustration can reflect that.
1a. Get artsy.
To learn how to create conceptual illustrations and develop creative, critical thinking skills, Reagan and Gayle recommend taking art classes while you’re still in school. Then apply those skills to news design. “Innovation often comes from stretching the creative part of your brain,” Gayle said.
2. Color: Know your presses
“Something you should pass on to everybody is that black doesn’t print well on newsprint,” Greg said. Page after page didn’t win because of reversed-out type on a black background. Proofread to make sure that these pages are legible, and remember the press will change that. And, stay away from 100 percent yellow so the judges don’t need put on sunglasses to look at a page.
3. Clean it up.
Little mistakes hurt some otherwise great pages. The judges constantly used their hands to measure alignment and space, and they noticed when elements didn’t line up in the expected way.
4. Edit, edit, edit your portfolio.
And then edit it down some more. Portfolios should only show a designer’s very best work. Many portfolios in the designer of the year category were eliminated because of a few bad pages.
5. Bad typography killed a lot of features pages.
The judges said type was often illegible, overworked and overwrought. They preferred straightforward, clean, consistent type, and definitely not novelty fonts.
Compiled by the SSND Missouri Blog Team:
Senior, Convergence Journalism
Graduate student, Convergence Journalism