Zig-zagging: Different Paths to Same Crossroads

When most designers talk about their path, it’s often not a straight line from A to B, but a zig zag up-and-down route across the country, at different types of publications and in a variety of roles. Tim Frank and Tracy Collins pose questions about this disruptive time in news design surrounding newsrooms and the design “studio system,” along with noteworthy panelists.

Inevitably in a conversation about career crossroads, you end up with a room full of designers who have worked for each other, with each other, for the same people at different times, and in a wide range of organizations. “Even though there are a lot of us. everyone is kind of related or connected in one way or another. if you advent worked for someone, you know someone who has,” Tim Frank said.

Designing in a studio allows for collaboration with other artists, constant critique and opportunities to mentor and expand, according to JoAnne Walsh. The lack of face-to-face contact with editors makes it more challenging to build relationships and mutual respect, although managing the front pages of 15 papers gives designers invaluable reps with their craft. “If anyone went to art school, it’s kind of the same thing – working with artists all day long,” Walsh said.

David Leonard, who has transitioned from designing in newsrooms and studios to working for Code for America, savors the culture of individual papers. “You can make tiny papers fell special and elevate their storytelling,” Leonard said, of working in a hub studio.

The effective overlap between business and design can be the difference between success and failure. Josh, who went from working at print papers to digital design and then back to journalism, sees designing papers as selling products. “Good design is good business,” he said. “We do help sell products and move papers. want to push with commitment to strong big bold presentation which is just as strong as any good headline or story that’s written.”

Working at Target doing an array of design work outside of her training, JoAnne Walsh learned that “if you’re a designer, you’re a designer”. Your background does not dictate your capabilities. “You don’t need experience in digital to get into digital, you just have to try it out – it translates,” Walsh said.

Reaching for different positions leaves transient connection between designers and their jobs. “If you want a new job, you have to change communities quite often,” Frank said. “The good thing about the moving around though is that I love coming to SND because you see all the friends you made.”

There are pros and cons to studios and newsrooms, but above all, the culture of the organization is most important. “The biggest key is to find a place where what you do is valued, because then what you do will be nurtured.”