Friday Session #3: Good Design, Bad Design, Better Design

My last session of the day with The Chicago Tribune’s Martha Smith gave me a lot of really great insight. The session was devoted to making what you have on your page better by looking at specific examples of different design qualities and some “quick fixes” to do so you don’t have to spend the rest of your night redesigning the whole page.

The good design examples consisted of pages that were organized, modular, had a clear hierarchy of what’s the most important story and was driven by content. One of the big ideas I took away from this session is a design should communicate, not decorate, which means designers should make sure the design truly reflects the story and isn’t just an over-exaggerated attempt at making the page look good.

I also learned that pages should never forget to guide the readers, it shouldn’t use visual cliches (like using the “Operation” game as a graphic for a medical story) and it shouldn’t express any sort of opinion or bias, which can happen more often than you think. The page must also be ethical. We looked at one page that had a story about a man who had killed his wife, and the headline was in a bloody red font and the pull-out quote was a gruesome quote from the man as he described killing his wife with a hammer. The design was extremely offensive and vulgar, so it’s important to remember how a design can be perceived when laying out a page.

Finally, Smith told us that when in doubt about a page, you should identify the problem, think of an easy, fast way to fix it and then sketch your idea to show to your editor/reporter and get approval. Design is all about revision, and this is a great way to ensure that your work communicates, instead of decorates, the story.

– Kyra Gemberling


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