Chapter 17
Publication design










Chapter 17 - Publication Design

Design is an extemely important, and often highly controversial, part of journalism. Any news organization (including broadcasting) projects much of its personality and attitudes, as well as its content, through its design. People who design publictions and lay them out on a day-to-day basis must be highly skilled professionals.

The basic concepts of visual logic must be understood completely by a good designer. A good designer must also have some knowledge of the traditions and practices of the medium (newspapers, magazines, newsletters, web sites, etc.) in which he or she is working. For instance, a newspaper looks a certain way because the design is fulfilling a purpose for the publication. In the newspaper's case, this purpose is the efficient use of space in presenting news and information. A good designer has a sense of these purposes.

Understanding the concepts of publication design is also a requirement for an effective designer. Balance, contrast, focus and unity are the things a publication designer must keep in mind. The designer should also be able to work creatively within the confines and guidelines that a publication has established for itself.

A designer should have a good sense of news and should know what his or her publication believes is a good news judgment. A design editor makes many important decisions about the presentation of news for a publication each day.

Finally, a designer should know how to use the hardware and software available for producing the publication. Confidence in that knowledge allows a good designer to work creatively.

Study questions
  • Describe the different levels on which a designer must think as he or she is doing the job of producing a publication.

  • What are some of the basic principles of visual logic? Why is it important to understand them?

  • What is meant by balance, contrast and focus?

  • What are the three basic tools of design?

  • Describe the different parts of type. What do typesize, leading and kerning mean?

  • Why is the consideration of white space important to the designer and layout editor?

  • What are the major considerations for good web site design?


Chapter notes

SND. The Society for News Design is the leading professional organization for people interested in visual journalism. The society holds a variety of meetings and workshops throughout the year and offers many services. It is especially interested in having students join and in having student chapters form on college campuses. Visit the society's web site and find out what it's all about.

Multi-tasking in your mind. Publication design requires the ability to think at many levels at the same time. To put together a good page, a layout editor has to consider the following simultaneously:
• elements present on a daily basis (news stories, pictures, graphics, etc.)
• where these elements can best be used and how they might fit together
• the general rules of good design
• the specific layout requirements of the publication.
Not an easy thing to do.

Dummy sheets. A dummy sheet is a sheet with a grid on it and is used to draw publication layouts, such as the one you can see on page 315 (Figure 17.4) of the text. This web site contains blank dummy sheets for tabloid and full size publications. (They are in Adobe PDF files.) You may download and reproduce them if you need them for your school publication.

Design terms. The figure on page 319 of the book shows the terms used for some of the elements on a newspaper front page. This web site takes that illustration further by offering definitions for those terms. Click here or on the image to the right. The figure will appear, and you will be able to click on various parts of the image to see definitions and explanations of those design elements.


Finding a newspaper's graphic personality. Select a newspaper in your area. What makes that newspaper look different from other newspapers? (Have some other newspapers on hand for comparison.) Consider what typeface are used, how pictures and graphics are handled and what uses the paper makes of white space. All of these will give you clues about the newspaper's graphic personality.


Key concepts and terms

• Design is an important part of the journalistic process; without it, reporting and writing would have little effect.

• Publication design is artificial; that is everything about design results from a decision that someone has made; nothing occurs naturally.

• Four modern principles of visual design are left to right, top to bottom, big to little and dark to light.

Contrast – the relationship of the element of design.

• Type is an important, and often ignored, element of design.

• The three major elements of design are type, illustration and white space.

Graphic personality – the continuing elements of a publication’s or web site’s design that help distinguish it from other publications and web sites and that contribute to its content messages.

• Good news judgment is necessary to execute good design in journalism.

Jump line – the line of type at the end of a column that tells the reader a story is continued on another page.

Load time – the time it takes to have a web site page appear on a computer screen; one of the goals of a designer is to have a page appear as quickly as possible.



Related web
sites for
Chapter 17



Design with Reason

News Page Designer

Poynter Online's "Color, Contrast & Dimension in News Design"

Society for News Design

Society of Publication Designers





Section I | 1: News and Society  |  2: Culture of Journalism  |  3: Becoming a Journalist
Section II  |  4: Newspapers  |  5: Magazines  |  6: Television and Radio  |  7: News Web Sites
Section III  |  8: Reporters  |  9: Reporting  |  10: Writing news and features  |  11: Style  | 
12: Editors13: Editing and headline writing  |  14: Visual Journalists  |
  15: Graphics Journalism  |  16: Photojournalism  |  17: Publication Design  |
  18: Broadcasters  |  19: Writing for Broadcast
Section IV  |  20: Beginnings of Journalism  |  21: Journalism Comes of Age  | 
22: New Realities, New Journalism  |   23: 20th Century and Beyond
Section V  |  24: Law and the Journalist  |  25: Ethical Practices  |   26: Present and Future
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