Nuri Ducassi, Creative Director of the Toronto Star

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

Ducassi is the Creative Director of the Toronto Star, even though she is based in Florida, about 1,500 miles away from the newsroom. During design career that spans more than two decades, she has worked in newsrooms at the Sun-Sentinel, Montreal Gazette San Jose Mercury News, Hartford Courant and Miami Herald.’s Chloe Meister chatted with Ducassi about working remotely as a print designer, how technology plays into her role as a designer and what’s changed about the design industry during her career.

MANY DESIGNERS ARE DOING THEIR WORK REMOTELY NOW. WHAT’S IT LIKE DESIGNING THE TORONTO STAR ALL THE WAY FROM FLORIDA? There’s a bit of surrealism attached to my work arrangement. Take the differences in weather alone. I could be designing a front page with a picture from a snowstorm and outside my window there’s my neighbor drenched in sweat cutting the grass. I could be designing from Mars and it would not be as strange. However, when I connect to the system it works much like the transporter in Star Trek — I’m immediately converted into an energy pattern and beamed to the middle of the Star’s newsroom, metaphorically speaking. I’m fully engaged and ready to join the team.

HOW HAVE YOU ADJUSTED AND ADAPTED TO THIS SITUATION, AND WHAT HAVE THE CHALLENGES BEEN? I confess, it was not easy. After so many years physically in a newsroom, I still have trouble not being able to get up and go see an editor about a story. I miss news meetings! I like to exchange concepts and ideas face to face see how people react. This is a lonely place, but I’m adapting. In the beginning, one of my colleagues suggested we use FaceTime, and I was horrified. The last thing I need is to show my morning ‘I’m working from home’ face to a conference room crowd across the border. I was not ready for my closeup, so we do it the old fashioned way: phone and email.

I think the challenges have been minimal. I worked for three years as AME for Design in the Star newsroom. I built solid relationships with my colleagues, and we trust and like each other. I think without those years of actually being there it would be more difficult. The main challenges tend to be technical. The key to the success in this setup is to have a regular schedule and to respond immediately to emails and phone calls.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE FOR DESIGNING AND COMMUNICATING WITH THE TORONTO STAR? I’m set up for work the same as anyone else in the newsroom. We use Citrix and Cisco Secure to connect. When I start my day, I use a RSA token — my little magic key — and I’m in. I can build pages right in the Star’s system, read the stories and search the photo bank. [Editors and designers] can see the progress of a page I’m designing as if I was sitting there. For the front page of the paper and other special pages, I work in InDesign. Specifically for 1A, there could be several design options, so it is more effective for [editors] to evaluate the ideas and build the real page in the system only when everyone is totally sure which design works best.

HOW HAS THE DESIGN INDUSTRY CHANGED SINCE YOU ENTERED IT? The design industry is always evolving — like a living, breathing and thinking being. Is not just about trends or the font of the month. It is about creativity. I can’t recall one single static, stationary day since I started as a designer. Even when everything seems to be going into a factory-like mode, there’s always a way to be creative and keep the design world spinning.


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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