What works, what doesn’t

(A feature of the NewsDesignSchool.com blog, cross-posted.)

(from http://newseum.org)
(from http://newseum.org)
In the What Works category, I submit this front page from the Saturday, July 26, Lynchburg (VA) News & Advance. What Works is the restraint when it comes to color use.

Back when color was young, few papers had the ability to use color halftones, at least not without sacrificing too many press positions to the four-printing-plate separations needed to print color. It was also hard to get color right on the old letterpress units that were in use by most papers back then.

So what did they do? They put multi-color tint boxes behind type all over the front page. Counting tints (color with white added) and shades (color with black added), some papers would have seven or eight colors on the front page.

Recently, however, newspapers have gotten wiser, acknowledging that the most important color is in halftones, tint blocks are weak uses of color, and that in today’s newspaper world less is more. Especially with red.

Aside from the color halftones, the only editorial color is the red on the two kicker heads and the circulation figure above the flag. The Index at the bottom of the page is not exactly editorial, and my guess is that the color functions as content dividers.

Excess: Nah! Restraint: Works!

The second example came to me in an email, and it demonstrates one of my pet peeves: Designers who don’t take responsibility for the words that go with their graphic bling.

exampleI have drawn arrows to three content areas that do not completely agree, and they should. Numbers 1 and 2 say different things: the first mentions “Basic” and No. 2 does not. A little thing? Is there a difference between lightning and a lightning bug? Designers need to make sure that all information is in agreement and is complete, among other duties. Here, it is not.

No. 1 also talks about presentation design, which is a bit ambiguous and Nos. 2 and 3 say nothing about that kind of design. Finally No. 3 is talking about the main or primary elements of design. It doesn’t say anything about the accepted laws or truths. It’s a different meaning of the word.

Now, I can’t be certain that the designer had anything to do with the copy. But the real point is that designers should be involved, if at all possible. Don’t eschew your responsibility to be a professional communicator.

Design: Works! Content: Oops!

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