Greg Manifold, Design Director at The Washington Post

The Society for News Design is excited to announce that Greg Manifold is joining our lineup of speakers for the SND Charlotte workshop on April 19-21 in Charlotte, N.C.

Manifold is the Design Director at The Washington Post, where he leads a team responsible for the presentation of the newsroom’s most ambitious stories across the print newspaper, digital and social platforms. The team prides itself on seeking out bold visual presentation while collaborating with reporters, editors, photographers and graphic artists. The Post was an SND World’s Best-Designed Newspaper finalist for 2014 and 2015. editor Aviva Loeb, caught up with Manifold to ask him about his teams work in designing election coverage, and to share advice for others in the industry.

DO YOU THINK BEING IN DC — THE POLITICAL CENTER OF THE ELECTION — AFFECTED WHAT YOU WERE ABLE TO DO? It was something that touched every part of the newsroom. For us it was about making sure the visuals matched the quality of the reporting, editing, photography and graphics. Anytime a story is your biggest story it means that your resources change around it, and you’re going to devote more and more people to it. We felt like [the election] was a story we had to own. But we weren’t alone in that. Other organizations that aren’t based here had the same mentality.

HOW DID ILLUSTRATION PLAY A ROLE IN THE POST’S ELECTION DESIGN?  I’m really proud of our choice of illustration. We used Ben Kirchner as our illustrator. We had a full range of illustrations, from full body images that could be used in graphics or in print, as well as portraits. We ended up doing 30+ illustrations around the candidates. We added some people that we thought were going to run, like Michael Bloomberg, that we didn’t even use. It was one of those times where I felt across the board we were really on the same page. It was something that we used on social, in graphics, in print and in videos. The communication between those teams helped brand and shape our coverage in a way I don’t think we were able to do before. We had done illustrations for candidates leading up to the 2012 election, but it was very print-centric and this time we really wanted to carry across these different platforms. It gave us a consistency I don’t think we’ve ever had before.

Pages from The Washington Post's election coverage.
Pages from The Washington Post’s election coverage.


CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOUR TEAM HAS ADAPTED TO WORK ACROSS PLATFORMS? We’ve tried to get designers involved in the earliest part of project origination. The idea is for a designer to think about all the potential at the beginning of the process. We don’t use the term ‘digital first’ a lot. It’s thinking about stories from the very beginning, how we can contribute across platforms, and making sure that designers have the tools to execute across platforms. It’s been an evolution for the past 3+ years, it’s much different than we when started, and next year will be different than this year.

THE WASHINGTON POST IS A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION FOR SO MANY. WHERE DO YOU LOOK FOR INSPIRATION? I grew up looking through communication arts and advertising annuals. I really admire the work of The New York Times and The Guardian. Things don’t always translate to what we are doing but can still be inspirational. Seeing creativity in storytelling is also important. At our core we are trying to tell stories to our readers, so finding ways to interact with that is inspiring to me.

HOW DO YOU THINK SMALLER PAPERS WITH FEWER RESOURCES CAN STILL EMULATE THE LEVEL OF CREATIVITY THAT BIGGER PUBLICATIONS ARE ABLE TO DELIVER? If you look at the core of some of our strengths and some other organizations, it’s about not doing too much. It’s about making smart choices and clearing away the other noise. That’s achievable at any level.

• I don’t think you need to rely on a ton of Photoshop skills.
• Some of the things you decide not to do are just as important as the things you focus on doing.
• If you have five stories you don’t need a photo for each story. It’s about the simplicity of the choices that you make there. The ability to show restraint is sometimes just as effective as being super creative.
• Also trying to think ahead of things. I would encourage people, even if you just have a five minute gap in your day while waiting to unlock pages for the next edition, where you can say, “In this five minutes I’m going to look ahead at the stories that I know are coming.

ANY CAREER ADVICE FOR OTHERS? Have patience, look for opportunities within the job that you have, and don’t try to get too far ahead. I was never one that felt like I needed to be looking too far ahead of the opportunity that I had. I was trying to focus on my next project and what I could do better, rather than [thinking about] my next job or my next title.

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About SND Charlotte

• Don’t miss your chance to UNITE & REBEL, register today: Register
• Book your hotel room (before they run out!): Use the SND discount link
• Check out the lineup of speakers we’ve announced for the workshop. What a team!
• Don’t miss the Think Before You Make pre-conference day at the U.S. National Whitewater Center