Thursday, August 16, 2007

Redesign tip #1

First things, first. I am Matt Anderson. I've been on the staff of the Puyallup High school newspaper, The Viking Vanguard, for two years (this will be my third). This year, I was chosen as Editor-in-chief. For the last year, I've been reading this blog to stay up to date with what's happening in the world of scholastic journalism. So when Nusser asked for contributing writers I decided to jump on the opportunity.

So I thought, having just finished what I consider a good redesign for Vanguard, it pertinent to inform other newspaper staffs of the challenges, perks and and some general info on redesigns for my first few posts. So, here you are:

Redesign tip #1:

Know what you're getting into.

Be aware, redesigns cannot be done in a day, not good ones at least. They take time. They take more than two or or three hours. The fact is that revisions can take months.

You will, also, have to convince some staff members that your publication needs a redesign. Don't just assume that they will all see the need the same way you do. There will always be that one staffer who says, "I like our old style. I really don't think we need to change; Arial is relatable."

You must develop a thick skin, as well. If you hope to complete a really well done redesign, you will need to ask for help. Different people will see things differently, and with that comes new and, perhaps, better ideas. It does, also however, bring the critiquing of your old ideas.

And, most importantly, you must know why you want to do a redesign. If, when you ask yourself that, you answer is "So we win awards," then you aren't doing this for the right reason. A redesign must be geared toward helping readers. They are, of course, the end-all-be-all judge of whether or not we did our job correctly. You must make it so it's easier for them.

As Tim Harrower says in The Newspaper Designer's Handbook:

Today, people have changed... They collect data in a dizzying array of ways.

They don't need long, gray columns of type anymore. They won't read long, gray columns of type anymore...

Today's readers want something different. Something snappy. Something easy to grasp, instantly inviting, instantly informative.

And that's where you come in.

If you can design a newspaper that's inviting, informative and easy to read, you can-- for a few minutes each day-- successfully compete with all those TVs, radios, computers and magazines. You can keep a noble old American institution -- the newspaper -- alive for another day.

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