26 November 2009

Learning from failure

Here’s the story of an ad agency that tried to redesign a major newspaper. They didn’t get the job, but there is a lot to learn by studying what they tried to do. Here are the principles they followed (slightly edited; see original for full explanation).

Basic rule: Ignore all rules of newspaper design to start with and keep only the ones that are useful to the reader:

  1. Optimize text for reading: Big leading, big body text. We did several reading tests and found this combination to work best for reading. ...
  2. Two fonts(.)
  3. Scannability: Make the articles scannable by using key words in blue. If you speak German you can actually read the front page in 20 seconds by flying over the blue key words. ...
  4. Order: Every page is structured from top left to bottom right. Important articles are top left, unimportant ones are bottom right.
  5. Four columns for soft news, five columns for hard news, mixed 4/5 columns for sports. Ragged text for opinion.
  6. Big pictures, big info graphics, use the strength of the paper medium.

These are great things to keep in mind when designing and laying out a poster. Some are things I’ve talked about here before, like the importance of not violating reading conventions. At least one idea, how they tried to make text that can be easily scanned, is new to me and something I’ve never seen before, but definitely seems worth trying.

I don’t quite understand #5, namely the varying column sizes and changes in justification. They don’t explain the reasons for distinguishing between the different content.

Originally spotted by mocost.

1 comment:

timm061 said...

#5 - Helps the reader identify "soft" news, like feel-good articles, what's happening-type stuff versus the "hard" news items dealing with politics, national/regional issues, hard fact stuff. Since sports is a mix of both, you use both column options. Ragged text for opinions separates them from the "news" copy, since those are opinions versus "hard" factual news articles. I would think that feature stories by some of the sports writers would fall under this category as well. It gives the reader a subtle visual clue about the type of article they are reading, which over time they will automatically understand as they become accustomed to seeing the paper this way. Makes a lot of sense ...