Election 2012: Pages from the Cincinnati Enquirer

Jeff Ruble, Clay Sisk and Mike Nyerges are three members of the visuals staff working for the Cincinnati Enquirer via the Louisville Gannett studio. With Ohio and its 18 electoral votes up for grabs in Tuesday’s election, the designer, illustrator and graphics artist have had their hands full coordinating coverage as President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney campaign heavily in the Buckeye state.

Jeff took time to offer a little show and tell about three notable pages:

The illustration for the Monday, October 22, page was the product of a long discussion the week before with the reporter and various editors.

Here at the studio we use teleconferencing to facilitate real-time discussions between the designers and editors at the local sites. For Cincinnati, we broaden that to not only include the daily news budgeting meeting but also to regular maestro sessions where the designer meets with the editors, reporters and photographers on an upcoming story or project. We go over the story and talk over art options and, additional info we may to include in the story and so on. It was during this back and forth for the Oct. 22 story that one of the editors in Cincinnati latched on to an idea of Romney and Obama safely floating in a boat above an underwater house. It was tied directly to the focus of the story, that the candidates were barely talking about the housing crisis that is still affecting a quarter of homeowners in the 15-county Cincinnati Region.

Everyone in the meeting agreed it was a good approach, visually to the story. However, it was not an illustration I had the confidence I could pull off. So, I sketched out the image I wanted to have and passed it across my cubicle wall to Clay Sisk, who produces illustrations for The Enquirer’s features section. I knew his style, which mixes photos with traditional illustration techniques, would be a perfect fit for the project. He returned the illustration by the next day and I spent a few minutes here and there through the rest of the week laying together all the other pieces of the package and the page. As I progressed, I emailed screenshots of the page to editors at The Enquirer to keep them up to date.


The Romney endorsement on the Forum cover was put together before I had an endorsement to read, so I briefly discussed via phone the type of imagery we would want with the Director of Print Products in Cincinnati, Joe Powell. A shot of the candidate looking Presidential was preferred. I turned to our digital archive and the wires afterward to search for photos, and found three.

The first option was a more traditional approach that placed type on the darker portions of an image of Romney. The smaller type was going to be a quick-hit list of why we were endorsing Romney. The editor, Carolyn Washburn, was concerned with registration and the photo coming off the press too dark (an issue we’ve had before) and requested other options.

The second version utilized a severe crop on an AP image that was too playful in tone for our endorsement. I likened it to Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” … enough reason to cross it off the list.

The final version went for a minimal graphical approach that placed more emphasis on the endorsement text. I sent this page out to the various editors at The Enquirer (this is a common workflow) to get input. The original idea with the dark image was preferred by a large number of the editors there as it was a traditional approach. However, after talking with several designers at the studio during a couple of critiques I settled on shaking up what The Enquirer is used to and approached Washburn with my preference being the black and white approach. She was game and that was that.


Graphics artist Mike Nyerges (in-house, Cincinnati) built  a two-page graphics project. I’ll let him describe his process:

“These pages were a collaborative effort between politics editor Carl Weiser and myself.

Carl presented the idea of a full page of graphics breaking down the impact of Ohio on the election. He gathered several sources of diverse information examining the different aspects of the long and short term history of Ohio votes, Ohio’s role nationally and the unique geography and demographics of the state. In his words, “a Carl knowledge dump.” Data editor Mark Wert contributed statistical and historic information as well.

These sources of information were sent to me, and I developed the design, visualized the data and divided the information into two mirroring pages. The goal was to keep a logical flow from graphic to graphic by the order of the topics, using the uniform design (including the Ohio flag as the anchor) and logical topic progression to keep the reader on track.

Keeping all of that in mind as I sketched, then later assembled the pages in Illustrator,  the shape of the individual graphics helped me “herd the visual cats” into a cohesive package.

Also, the red and the blue colors were used as design anchors, almost as characters in the visual story, attempting to keep the visual see-saw moving in sync.

The first page focused on setting the stage for readers as to why Ohio is so prominent and the short term history of the past two elections, leading off with the national map of swing states.

The second page turned the focus more to longer term historical information, leading off with the “tipping state” chart, then jumping into the longer-term historical information. The last bit of information spun forward, giving readers an engagement opportunity and a “where to go next” bite. Both pages tried to subtly weave in tips of the hat to our Kentucky readers along the way.

(Thanks to Spencer Holladay, Team Leader for the Louisville Gannett Studio for providing these pages.)

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