In a devastating blow to women’s rights in the country that proclaims to be the freest in the world, the U.S. Supreme Court has officially overturned Roe v. Wade. The 1973 decision ruled the Constitution protected a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Nearly 50 years later, that ruling has been overturned, handing control to individual states to decide. Some have already enacted restrictive rules, nearly outright bans. It’s a crushing and significant decision that will likely have significant repercussions for years to come.
Its significance was clear by looking at newspaper front pages today. Not often does one topic get primary play in so many newspapers. Almost every paper I saw this morning had this as its main story. It affects everyone. Every woman. Every man. Every person.
A lot of the pages within the same newspaper chain had similar designs, so I have pulled out 10 that stood out, plus The New York Times front page from the original 1973 decision and today’s.
And here is The New York Times front page when the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, followed by today’s front page. On the printed page, a clear demonstration of moving backwards in American society.
The world is a big place. To break it down for this blog, when in came to celebrating all the magical newspaper entries from the Society for News Designs Best of News Design competition I have broken it down into Canada (because I live and work here), the U.S. and the rest of the world. And that is not to diminish the rest of the world. The work coming out from newspapers around the world is astounding, which in itself is astounding given the times we’re in. Which brings me to where I want to start. The World’s Best Designed Newspaper, SND’s highest honour.
This year I had the great honour of being a facilitator for this competition. I got to watch them wittle down the entries to four finalists, and from there to choose one paper. The discussion was riveting. It came down to the New York Times, de Volkstrant, Het Parool and Die Zeit. Anyone who follows me knows I love de Volkstrant. Seeing it make the final was very satisfying.
After days of review and debate/discussion, Die Zeit came out on top. While all these newspapers have huge strengths, Die Zeit is worthy of this lofty title.
What makes a world’s best-designed newspaper? So, so many things. One word that was heard again and again was “considered.” Everything is so considered. All the little details. Nothing was overlooked. Things like drop caps, the spacing of words that wrap around images, kerning, and so on. But also the big things. Photo choices, how and when illustrations are used, how the text worked with art and the design. The funny thing was it was so well designed, it was remarked that the design falls to the background. Except when it doesn’t. The design is so remarkably clean, but sometimes they go big. And their use of photos and graphics? Considered. Everything is so artistic, they said. The judges could tell there was collaboration between editors and designers, which is imperative if you want to go from a nice paper to a top paper. Even more needs to happen to elevate a paper to world’s best designed. Congrats to Die Zeit for doing all of this and more. It shows.
While Die Zeit may not have many of those big “wow” pages, it still has some amazing, striking pages that take their clean and refined design to another level, and that clean design is already at another level. It really is a paper that rises above. I’ll start by showing some pages from Die Zeit, followed by a selection of some of the best pages from the rest of the world, Canada and U.S. excluded. You can see those here (Canada) and here (U.S).
Die Zeit is a weekly paper out of Germany. So that is one main difference from the papers it was up against. First, I will show a selection of some consecutive pages. Just to lull you into thinking it’s just a nice clean design. But this is what readers would see every day as they start flipping through their newspaper. After those pages, I’ve included some with sizzle. Text as design, illustrations and graphics, colour.
This one is one of my faves from Die Zeit. Every year one paper does a funky text design that grabs onto me and won’t let go. This was this year’s. I love the bend, that the text is still so well spaced and readable. The E. And they did more incredible text designs. They made a chicken out of text. A chicken! Wait for it. It’s coming.
This page is just funky. That’s all. I love the text treatment. The border. The pic. It actually reminds me of a design I once did, just better. So good.
A chicken! Out of text! Over a two-page spread!
I’ve included a few more separately. They were too good to be missed.
And so so many more stunning, smartly designed pages. This slide show has a number of them, but it’s still a small sampling of the work that comes out of this paper every week. Just such amazing attention to detail on every page.
The rest …
There were more than 3,500 entries in this year’s competition, up from the previous year, which is encouraging. Of those, there were more than 800 winners. If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind the 3,500 entries consist of what designers from around the world considered their best work, work worthy of award consideration. I look at 500+ front pages every day. That’s just covers. I can’t even begin to fathom how many pages are produced each year. How many great pages weren’t entered.
Alas, you’ve seen Canada. You’ve seen the U.S. Here is a very slimmed down selection of pages from the rest of the world. One of the things I love about newspapers from other countries is that they often look so different than the typical North American newspaper. They take a different approach, have different design philosophies. But one thing is clear with all them: they want to wow their readers. This will mark my last post from SND 43, but it may not be the last you see of some of the pages in this post as I try to gently coerce the incredible designers behind some of these pages to talk to me about their work. First up, Politico Europe and Politiken!
There is such a range of pages from Politico Europe. A lot are illustration-driven. And the illustrations are beautiful or haunting or striking. I will start with the snowman. Every time I saw this little guy, and the person in the window, I felt something. I want to feel happy. But then …
This spread is so well done. The art is striking, the headline is strong, both words and design. It’s clean, but with some surprises. The headline is almost jarring as set up, but I feel it’s supposed to be. It’s not the age of peace, after all.
In this slide show, again, there is a great variety, starting with this dark image, and ending with a section about doers and dreamers that makes me smile. Every page makes me smile.
I’ve long been a fan of Politiken. I feature pages from this publication on my Instagram frequently. This was a page I featured here. I put it in with my Christmas collection even though I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be a Christmas page. But the entry was called wrapping paper! So it is.
And now for something completely different. The next two pages are from the same award-winning portfolio by designer Caroline Niegaard. What strikes me about these is that they are chaotically bold. They are full of energy.
And many more. I love that this paper takes risks. And that its work is so varied. The last three I’ve chosen to show are completely different, but still within character.
Below are some others I have pulled out to highlight. Just some of my faves, but there were so many more incredible entries from other papers. First from de Volkstrant, a page that was featured on my Instagram, and then two from Dagens Nyheter, which I think does an incredible job on covers regularly.
This page from La Nacion is just so lovely. There is another from them in the slideshow.
Arab News has many great pages, but this opinion page really jumped out at me. I love the illustration, and the page itself is just clean and crisp. The American flag features prominently in pages, particularly opinion pages, around the world. It’s used in so many different ways to convey so many different ideas.
There are a few more South China Morning Post pages in the slideshow. While this is one really works because of the illustration, it was just such a compelling illustration. For the most part I didn’t include pages that won just for illustration. But they also used the small bit of display text so well. I am positive the space in the top left was left for display copy.
And the final slideshow from SND 43. There is a wide cross section of pages from multiple publications, such as The Age, The Guardian, The Day, Economic Observer out of China and more.
And that’s it. Another year, another awe-inspiring competition. Inspiring is the right word, as it would be impossible for any newspaper designer seeing the incredible work submitted to walk away without some new ideas, some extra enthusiasm or desire to push just a little harder.
More than 3,500 entries. That’s more than 3,500 newspaper pages (way more, as multiple page entries like sections are one entry) that designers and newspapers around the world decided were their best, and submitted to the Society for News Design‘s annual design competition. Nearly 800 winners (798 Awards of Excellence, 68 Silver Medals and 18 Gold Medals). So how does one winnow that down into a blog post? One doesn’t! I tried. Not a chance. So I started by breaking out Canada due to my obvious Canadian bias! But there are still more than 700 left to choose from. So after that, I attempted to cram the rest of the world into one post, but nope. So American papers get their own post, followed by the rest of the world. Even still it’s challenging. Despite newspapers falling on tough times, designers are killing it. So this is an act of curation based on my tastes. And leaving out dozens upon dozens of entries that I dearly loved so that this doesn’t go on forever.
I had the good fortune of being a volunteer facilitator for the second year in a row, for the organization that truly changed the arc of my journalism career. Beside my desk sit five tattered SND books, which they release annually capturing the winners of these competitions. I am beyond humbled to be in three of them, one for a portfolio of work. I had six books, but one got stolen or borrowed and not returned. Do I begrudge that person? No, because my path started by … borrowing two from my first newspaper job when I left. One of those is missing. That’s just the circle of design life.
For SND 43, I was part of the World’s Best-Designed Newspaper competition. Results will come soon. But here, I present the individual entries. If you’ve not been following along, a quick summary of awards. AoE is an outstanding page, one that is deeply considered, uses typography and/or white space and/or art, etc. incredibly well. It’s not design for design’s sake. It is designed with purpose. A silver rises above even further, is exceptional among the outstanding. It could be considered state of the art. And gold. Well, on a gold page, it needs to rise to near perfection, above the outstandingly exceptional. It should be hard for a judge to find a flaw. That is why there are so few. Kerning between two letters, a crop that seems just off, too much or too little white space. All sorts of tiny details prevent a page from being elevated to this level. Because of that, finding the best way to present this (by paper, by theme, by region) is so challenging. I will start with the only gold medal for a portfolio of design (there was another for illustrations).
Brandon Ferrill, Washington Post, Gold Medal for portfolio
The first page in this slideshow was really the talk of the weekend. Universally loved. And fun. There were some hard pages, some big subjects in 2021. COVID-19 was still raging, the Capitol riot, the Taliban in Afghanistan. And so on. And then we have this happy-making page. The entire portfolio is striking. That judges moved an entire portfolio to gold says so much about the quality of this work. And trust me, you will see a lot more from the Washington Post here. When they go big, they win. We win.
Facilitator’s special recognition
At last year’s competition (my first), two pages immediately took my breath away. And it kept piling on. I waited for that experience this year. Nothing will compare to that first experience at SND. Not because the pages aren’t just as exceptional, but you start thinking differently, more critically. You know what can be done. What’s out there. But this year there was a page that really struck me (so many did). But I kept going back to this one. And it wasn’t the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times or the Star Tribune. It was the Des Moines Register. Maybe it is because I am a champion of the underdog. Maybe it’s because it uses newspaper clippings, which doesn’t often work but really does here. It’s so smartly done. Maybe the lack of colour. Seemingly simple, but quite complex. And the judges must have mostly agreed. It won a silver medal.
U.S.: The Big 4 conference
When it came to papers in the U.S., the four I mentioned above really stand out: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Star Tribune (Minneapolis, and employer of my most recent featured designer, Stacie Kammerling). I will give each paper a slideshow and little blurb. I will exclude the portfolio above from the Washington Post below.
I tried to choose a favourite. I really did. But the first three here are so close, for very different reasons. Some pages are driven by illustrations, some by text alone. I’ve said this before: A good illustration is good on its own, enhanced by a good design. But then there is just good design, and designing with text is skill. Also, when it comes to opinion pages, the Washington Post is among the best in the world, if not the best, largely based on smart illustrations. And I had to narrow this down. I cut some amazing pages out.
The New York Times
What can I say about the New York Times. It’s funny that it’s known as the Gray (Grey) Lady. Because once you get past that iconic grey cover (much less grey than it once was), and past the news section, it’s a marvel. Design beyond most designers’ wildest imaginations. The kids section alone is a masterpiece. Truly brilliant.
There were so many jaw-dropping pages from NYT, so this is truly just a snapshot of the work they produce. There were some I couldn’t do justice to as it would require seeing the entire section. I have included four pages from a section about the struggle of mothers because of the subject matter, and because of the judges’ comments. The section, they believe, is designed in a way intended to make you uncomfortable. It’s far from a standard design. It is jarring. I am so envious. If they are ever looking to hire a designer with a Canadian perspective, feel free to reach out. I accept. In a twist, the one A1/front page I included is so strong because it’s grey. I wrote an entire post about it when it came out in early 2021. The first two pages in the slideshow is two of my faves from the competition. I love little pictures. And the god page is boldly and smartly done.
Funny thing about all of these four is that if you look at the front page each day, while they are well designed (particularly the Star Tribune, which is just a nice, clean, newsy front most days), they don’t look flashy. But then you get inside. Or then you have those big days. And wow. What is absolutely paying off for the Star Tribune is the state fair. There are always beautiful pages that come from there. To see more Star Tribune pages, other than what I’ve included here, see my recent post on designer Stacie Kammerling. A much more serious story this newspaper has handled so powerfully and with such grace is the George Floyd story. Just incredible, sensitive, yet provocative, boundary-pushing work. I will start there. Then to some fun and fair stuff (the contrast of last year’s fair and this year’s fair in cartoon figures is magical), and I have even included one of those hard-working front pages. And yes, I cut a lot again.
Los Angeles Times
And finally, the Los Angeles Times. Perhaps my favourite paper from last year’s competition. I still absolutely loved it this year. I have started with pages that just use design. Brilliant and bold typography, strong photos, creative white space. Then I get into breathtaking illustrations, followed by a few pages from a special section, which is a clear strength of the Times. They had some outstanding complete special sections, but again, I had to make some choices.
Having these papers down here is not meant to dismiss any of them. They did some incredible work. I had to pare it down somehow. You can see them all here. Below are a few outstanding pages separately, and then another slideshow with more.
This page from the San Diego Union-Tribune was one of my top pages from the competition. It’s a new take on using tallies. It is so well executed.
I put this Houston Chronicle page in for its simplicity. Proof that you don’t need to do big and wild designs to look good. I love it.
This Courier Journal (Louisville) page is so compelling and is a creative play on the COVID imagery we have seen again and again. This is new. Very clever.
Here is a selection of pages from The Business Journals. They had a number of winners. They are doing such smart things with illustrations and text. The text on the first page is both understated and bold at the same time! Small, but reverse white on red with a touch of transparency.
And last but definitely not least, a selection from some other publications. I am positive I will look through the pages again and curse when I see a dozen that I forgot about. That’s how much there was to look through. It is a tribute to the incredibly hard-working and talented staff at all the newspapers or news hubs. Thank you for all your work. And your readers do too, even if they don’t know it. It’s hard to know what goes into not only the execution, but also the conception. Amazing.
So there you go. Print is alive. I just proved it.
Another year, another Society for News Design Best of Newspaper Design competition! For the second year in a row, I was honoured to be a facilitator, this year in the category of World’s Best-Designed Newspaper. What a thrill. Results of that will come out on March 28.
I feel like the competition could give me fodder for months and months of content. But I will restrain myself to three posts. The first will be on the outstanding work done by Canadian papers. Next will be the rest of the world (so will be much longer!). Then finally World’s Best.
I know I am a broken record, but SND means so much to me. As a print design lover, it first and foremost offers a community of like-minded people. But it also still celebrates print design in a time when that is becoming less frequent. Looking at you Canadian media awards competitions. So many of those involved in print design are behind the scenes. Sure illustrators and photographers get credits. But art directors don’t. Page designers don’t. Headline writers don’t. But without these people, the information you get would be dull.
Canada produced some incredible work this year. However, because I have been following print design much closer over the past year, both here and on my Instagram, not much here will be new to anyone who follows me! It was a different experience this year at SND 43, as there weren’t many surprises, at least from Canada. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t exceptional, and doesn’t mean I won’t highlight it again.
There were only four newspapers to submit for awards this year, which is such a tragedy, as I know there is other amazing stuff going on in Canada, particularly with my soon-to-be former employer Postmedia, particularly the National Post. They are still producing some of the finest pages in the business, particularly in Canada. And much of that is a credit to one of my former featured designers, Raina Toomey, who moved on to the National Post in late 2021. Postmedia stopped submitting, I believe, after Gayle Grin left. She recently wrapped up some consulting at the Toronto Star, and her touch is obvious there. There were more than 300 entries overall from Canada, more than 3,500 in the competition.
The Globe and Mail won 25 awards, including 24 Awards of Excellence and one Silver Medal. To explain, an AoE is for outstanding work. Work that stands out, goes above and beyond. A silver medal rises above that, just on another level or through a higher degree of difficulty. There are also gold medals, though no Canadian publication earned one this year. For a gold, judges should have a hard time finding any flaw, down to kerning between two letters (a topic that was discussed this year, with a comment: “You could almost fit an i in there.” It should be state of the art, challenging the industry norms. The Toronto Star won eight AoEs, Le Devoir won 5 and 24 Heures 2. I won’t show all the all work here, but a selection from each.
Globe and Mail
I won’t talk too much about each page for the Globe as I have talked about the paper a lot. Things I love about the Globe are the use of illustrations — and the quality and sophistication of the illustrations — as well as its bold and smart use of white space.
This was Canada’s only medal, for illustration by Connor Willumsen.
This was one of my faves from the Globe this year. There is so much going on. A lovely illustration by Kathleen Fu. Newspapers, she’s incredible. Take note.
Here are a few illustration-driven pages. There is some really lovely stuff here. I love what Canadian papers do with their Remembrance Day covers. This one by the Globe was so well done. Elegant. Illustration by Kayla Whitney.
And a few more. The Globe does so much with their design, particularly on Saturdays and features sections. I loved the bear cover. It works for the Globe, going so dark on dark, because their cover is on glossy paper. That design might be lost on most papers. Congrats to the Globe for a solid year. Being March already, I can tell you they are off to a good start in 2022 as well!
Of course I have a soft spot for the Toronto Star. I worked there, and worked directly or indirectly with the Star or Torstar for more than half of my career. Anyone who follows me will know how much I loved the page that came out after the discovery of unmarked Indigenous graves in Saskatchewan. It was so powerful. Here it is, and a few more.
I just loved the imagery here. It was so powerful at a time that needed something powerful. Something to keep the focus on this issue. It’s striking.
And here are a few more. The Star decided to invest in its print product in 2021, which was such welcome news, adding four entirely new positions, including an art director, Becky Guthrie, formerly of the National Post. You can see her influence. I hope that we continue to see such strong work.
I don’t see Le Devoir as often as the previous two. But I love the design. It is smart and refined. It looks European. Nice clean lines, often simple. Here are a few top-notch pages from them. I will show four of these off individually as none have appeared here or my Instagram, starting with my fave of their submissions.
I love the contrast. The love the lines. The beautiful illustration by Audrey Malo. It is so clear where your eye is supposed to start, and clear that it’s not supposed to stop there. So well done.
The one above and below are both driven by the design, not an illustration. A great illustration is great on its own. I can be enhanced if used well. But these are just nice designs, with a basic image, images that couldn’t be more different. And below, the little condiment spills take this page to a new level. Love it. Smartly filling in some white space, but also using what is left wisely.
And then an illustration-driven page. It’s a nice, simple illustration (for a talented illustrator! Who just happens to be Cécile Gariépy). And it’s used so well. The text doesn’t take away from the fantastic art. Nicely done, Le Devoir.
And finally a couple from 24 Heures. Both illustration driven. Smart art, well played, yet completely different illustration styles. Even the supporting material is played differently, with the head down the side on one, and on the art on the other. But it doesn’t take away from the art. It uses the space well. First by Benoit Tardif, next by Pauline Stive.
Just some incredible stuff. And this is just from Canada’s entries.
So that’s that. I am so happy to see there is still some amazing work going on in Canada, and around the world. Up next will be about some the best newspaper pages from around the world.
As Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine entered its first full day, we got to see how newspapers around the world displayed to their readers what was happening. Big, powerful photos (three stood out as the most commonly used) big, bold, powerful headlines. When events like this happen (though there hasn’t been an equivalent to this in a long time) we see a lot of similar ideas. We also see the power of newspapers.
Below is a selection of powerful newspaper front pages. I have chosen the ones that almost made me gasp. The power of print will never be lost on me, especially in times of crisis.
Newspapers in Canada
The photo used by National Post was seen on papers throughout the world and there are more that use it below. The Toronto Star and Globe and Mail used the same photo and the Globe and National Post used nearly the same headline, about Ukraine standing alone.
The faces of war
When war strikes, we see the casualties on front pages. The injured. The common person. Sometimes the dead. This woman was on papers all over the world, either this pic or a similar one, as seen on the National Post cover, and below. As the woman further down was also common on a lot of pages. This is what war looks like.
Others from the U.S. and around the world
And other newspapers made different choices. Here are a few more compelling pages from around the world.
It was a big news day in Minneapolis as news also came out about the George Floyd case, another story that has caught the world’s attention over the past nearly two years. The editors had to balance a huge local story with the biggest international story.
Sadly I am sure there will be many more pages like this over the coming days and weeks. War is brutal. War is ugly. Hopefully newspapers around the world can help hold Russia to account. To show the world, to capture for history, the brutality of this unnecessary war.
During the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, I was so excited to check the front page designs of newspapers around the world to see what they had done. They didn’t disappoint. There were so many great front pages every day, despite Japan being a world away in terms of time zones for many newspapers. But even newspapers in North America had big splashes frequently. And thanks to COVID, we got to do it again months rather than years later with Beijing.
And this time I was asked to be part of the Olympic team at Postmedia (for a brief period after Ben Johnson won the 100-metre gold I was determined to make the Olympics, and for the record I’m pretty damn fast). I was in charge of co-ordinating the print coverage for Postmedia’s many newspapers, primarily the Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Vancouver Sun, Windsor Star, Regina Leader Post and the Sasktatoon Star Phoenix. Not for front pages, but the sports sections.
As I started watching front pages this year, I was disappointed. A friend asked if it seemed like coverage was lacking for this Olympics. I thought it was a matter of time. But it never came to be. Likely for several reasons — the time zone, the busier news season, particularly in Canada with the occupation of Ottawa, and the news around the always looming invasion of Ukraine, and likely politics. With the Games in China I wouldn’t be at all surprised if media organizations around the world made the decision to give less play to these Games. They lived online and in sports sections around the world. Front page real estate was as hot as the Brampton housing market.
There were a few front page splashes, but not many. So I will indulge myself. I will show a few of the nice front pages from the Games from around the world, but also show some of the pages I did that I was proud of. I am going to let the pages mostly speak for themselves.
There is nothing overly fancy about any of these pages. I just wanted to be simple and clean, but fun. I am happy with how they turned out. With each, I had to design in such a way that if there is a banner ad, the page can be easily adjusted and still work. The exception being the first below, celebrating the Canadian women’s hockey gold medal win, for which I did two totally separate designs.
While I was looking through the photos, I started to see a lot of people hugging, some happy, some sad. I thought, who doesn’t love hugs? And with all the reasons to not like the Olympics this time around, primarily due to their location, in a country known for human rights abuses, there were these athletes. They were overjoyed, and they were crushed. But there were hugs. Lots of hugs. This is a very small selection of the amazing photos, captured by professional photographers from around the world.
Hopefully the next Olympics will offer more, like the previous one did. So unlike the Summer Games, I won’t award medals for the top papers. Though I will say Dagens Nyheter was one of the most consistent. Until next time.
Another week, another batch of nice newspaper front page designs. Showing my Canadian bias I will start with Canada! As always the best pages tend to fall in Saturdays and last week was no exception. The nicest page of the week goes to the Toronto Star this time.
I am a sucker for white space it’s well done. This almost beefed on too much but not quite. On top of that it point to an important piece of journalism.
The News Journal Wilmington, Delaware
I love this page. Well-played stock art and creatively conceptualized. Again well used white space. Nice headline that works with the photo.
Metro often has beautiful pages like this one. It’s just a pretty and smart illustration. They use the small space well.
Argus Leader Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Burgers! A nice break from war, anti-vaccine protests, Donald Trump (had to know he’d be back). This centrepiece is just fun. Not just. It’s also well executed. Nice colours (just enough to be contrasty enough), the clashing, the stars. I
The Spokesman Review, Spokane, Wash.
There were a couple from the Spokesman Review I liked last week. No surprise. You’ll probably find at least one every week. Their pages just speak to me. It’s my kind of design. But I will highlight the flag on this one, as that is what makes this page stand out.
I like the black, the contrast. It’s a simple page with limited content. Nicely played where the words on the picture don’t take away from it, but complement it.
That’s all! Watch for more great pages next week. Want to submit a page? Reach out.
Some newspapers have clearly given up on print design. It’s about content and digital. Obviously both of those are key to the future of media organizations everywhere. But I still believe print design is important. And that’s why I celebrate it here and on my Instagram account, both of which have been around for about a year now. While my Instagram shows great pages from day to day, this blog tends to focus on designers or bigger topics.
While I want to celebrate all newspapers making an effort (and I do on Instagram), the next two posts are going to show a few papers that consistently deliver striking and thoughtful designs. This post will focus on Canada’s big three: The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and National Post. Perhaps next year I will add more, though I don’t see many papers upping their effort. Next post, the rest of the world.
Each of these top papers tends to have a solidly defined style. I will look at my top three pages from each publication (at least that I highlighted this year on my Instagram), then a slideshow of some other pages. To be clear, I know there is some amazing work happening inside these papers and on other section fronts, but this is about A1, and only includes papers making an effort — and a splash — frequently. I won’t look at one-offs, or rare successes in this post. I will feature them in order of my connections with each, so Toronto Star, Globe and Mail (only as managing editor of Pagemasters North America, which handles most of the page production for the Globe and Mail, though the pages featured here were likely done in house) and the National Post (I recently started working at Postmedia).
This was probably the page of the year in Canadian media for me (the top Globe page rivals it), though not necessarily from a design perspective. There were some stronger pages visually, more complex. But this is a powerful page, which gave a lot of real estate to a key issue at a key time. The reverse text, the big headline asking a big question, the little moccasins with a big message. It came out a day late (only because the day-after coverage in many Canadian papers was lacking), two days after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of Indigenous children, but it struck a chord.
The Star will less frequently blow out its front page for an international issue than the national papers, but it did here. It was the strongest Canadian 9/11 anniversary page, with a strong image and beautifully handled typography.
In the summer of 2021, the Star decided to focus more on print design (I’m not making this up), hiring an art director as well as three others to focus on design, graphics, illustrations, etc. This is an example of this, with a striking, contrasty photo illustration from Ramon Ferreira.
Here is a small sampling of some other great Toronto Star pages. All great in their own way, all very Star. The beautiful illustration by Hawlii Pichette, the strong art and colours on the Afghanistan page and the excitement of an epic gold medal win on the Olympics page.
Globe and Mail
The Globe and Mail is always swinging for the fences and often knocks pages out of the park, well beyond A1. The Globe tends to have elegant or pleasantly elaborate illustrations, big art and sometimes subtle headlines. Its weekend A1s can run with the best in the world.
This page might have been the best purely from a design standpoint. It’s simple, but smart. Likely planned for ages. It is powerful as well, about the “Two Michaels,” who were wrongly imprisoned in China for more than 1,000 days. This was Day 1,000, a grim milestone. Some will argue this, but the Globe owned this story, especially in Canada. Every day the Globe kept track of days the Michaels were detained on the front page. I don’t know how early it started, but it was there for hundreds of days. This was the culmination of that. The tallies, how they work around the flag. No art. The contrast. It’s a stunning and powerful page.
The Globe had one of the best Election Day and and best election results page. But I love this visual. And fantastic use of white space.
I love this illustration by Klawe Rzeczy. It’s busy, it’s chaotic, but it is absolutely eye catching. And despite the Globe getting illustrations from various illustrators, it always seems to feel like the Globe. Refined.
Here are a few more. I love the keys from the keyboard. And, again, in Globe style, the white space. They do not fear white space because they know how to use it. They also did a stained glass look (see National Post below). It’s too bad it cost the Canadian women’s soccer team some play, but it’s a nice page. The dart board. White space. Red. Contrast. And the pencil. I did a page like this, so of course I like it! Again, bold white space. And Calgary. I love it for design, but also I’m from Calgary! Finally, the bear. So dark, and boldly dark, but the Globe can get away with it as it prints on glossy paper. I should have said that earlier as that is key to some of its success in print.
The National Post has been known for its design since its inception in 1998. For a long time it stood above the rest. It’s still exceptional, especially once you get past the very often great front page. The inside design doesn’t try too hard. It is elegant and clean. So much so that others have tried to imitate it, without success. The vertical flag is something I often talk about. It adds so much. Funny that these three papers all have very different flag styles, with only the Star having the classic text across the top. Sorry, tangent. The National Post is still giving it its all, particularly on Saturdays.
I debated my fave, but in the end this vibrant illustration won out. It’s played well with the other content on the page, but it, in itself, is just so striking. To tie things together, it’s done by Becky Guthrie, now the art director at the Toronto Star. The Canadian media scene is a small world.
But then there is the Christmas page. This has been a tradition for the National Post since it started, conceptualized as a way to compete with the Globe’s art-driven Christmas page. They took the boldly overtly religious approach to set themselves apart from the Globe. The reverse flag. The colours.
This page is a basic, clean design. There are other extraordinarily designed Post pages, but I wanted to give props to a big news page. Like headlines, designs are often more celebrated for feature-type stories as they are easier to illustrate. This was a big news day in Canada. The Two Michaels home at least. It was the best page for this event.
The National Post’s Election Day page was great. Still maybe my favourite. It’s very different from the Globe’s white space. A big monster headline. Contrast-y text on a dark background. I just love the symmetry on the next page. I almost chose the Prince Philip page as one of my top 3. It was close. What a piece of art by my good friend* Kagan McLeod. The next is an Olympics page. As I wrote then, the Post won the Canadian newspaper Olympics with outstanding design day in and day out. And a classic Post cartoon cover. *I don’t actually know Kagan other than over Twitter and through seeing his illustrations in each of the top three papers here, but I’ve been a Kagan stan for a while.
So while 2021 proved to be just as maddening and depressing as 2020, just with vaccines, it still provided plenty of brilliant newspaper front pages. I am thankful to the editors and designers at all the papers here, who keep pushing boundaries and working with passion. And to those at the papers who still do the once-in-a-while great pages. Every little bit counts.
Next up, a look at papers from around the world, featuring publications such as Dennik N of Slovakia, Denmark’s Politiken, The Villages Daily Sun from Florida (you must have known that was coming) and more!
If you want to keep seeing posts like this, subscribe!
Newspapers often go all out on Christmas Eve, often with stunning illustrations or photos on their front pages. This year is no different, except that it’s very different. With Omicron raging, lockdowns, limits on gatherings. It’s been a hard year or two for most, regardless of the season. No commentary on religion here. Just design and the feeling of hopefulness the season often brings. And the incredible front pages don’t hurt! After about two years with COVID-19, it’s nice to have hope so I appreciate these covers even more this year.
For whatever reason, Canadian newspapers seem to blow out their covers disproportionately compared to other places in the world. I looked through about 20 Canadian covers and at least half had very Christmas-y covers. The proportion of America papers was much, much lower, which was surprising. Many didn’t publish today.
Canadian Christmas Eve
Alas, the covers. First I will start with Christmas Eve in Canada. Each of Canada‘s big three has a very different feel, in line with its target audience. First up, the National Post. The stained glass look and the black really pop. It’s such a striking visual. The National Post has been doing this since its first year, 1998, and every year I love it. It’s become a Christmas tradition. It definitely has a stronger religious feel than many others, but that is by design. Of course their vertical flag, as it often does, helps creating a more powerful visual.
Next up, the Toronto Star. The Star has recently hired a handful of staff to focus on print visuals, including an art director, formerly from the National Post. It shows. This illustration is lovey. Happy-making.
Then the Globe and Mail. Like the National Post, the Globe has been doing a similar cover for years. A beautiful oil painting, from the Art Gallery of Ontario, with a little text. In fact I have learned they have been doing it since before 1998 at least, featuring art from its parent company’s art collection. Most years it’s more of a winter theme rather than Christmas.
Then there is the Guardian from Charlottetown, P.E.I. Just a pretty, hopeful and happy painting, submitted by the very non-winter-named Summer Kelly, 11. Amazing work from a young artist.
Around the world
And now for covers from around the world! This Het Parool cover is one of my faves. I just find the illustration to be so magical and eye-catching/pleasing.
Reporte Indigo is known for their illustrations. And they don’t disappoint here. So classy. Stunning.
Kleine Zeitung has a beautiful illustration but they don’t gloss over COVID. It’s part of our lives.
This cover from de Volkstrant is just simple and elegant. Really pretty art.
And this McDowell News front page. It’s different! Christmas stats. Very American. Nice contrast. It’s fun and informative.
There were more, but these were the tops that I saw. Thanks to all the newspaper designers out there, still doing their thing. I appreciate how much effort still goes into these pages. Happy holidays, everyone.
The Villages Daily Sun goes above and beyond in visual journalism, print specifically. Colin Smith and Adam Rogers tell us more.
By Brad Needham
Print might be on the way to becoming an afterthought for some newspapers, but not the Villages Daily Sun in Florida. It is proudly and heavily visually designed for print. They don’t even have an Instagram account. I know because I posted a front page on my Instagram account once and couldn’t, for the life of me, find their Instagram handle. Yet shortly after I posted it, they found me! An editor sent me a note saying they don’t have Instagram and they are a print-first publication (but they do have a Tumblr account!). As a longtime mostly print journalist and print designer, I love that. So naturally I asked them if I could talk to a designer. Not only did they oblige, they sent me two! And they each sent pages. And a visual philosophy.
I am so thankful to have heard back from both Colin Smith, the senior project designer, and Adam Rogers, managing editor of innovation. I had a lot of fun reading through their thoughtful answers, looking at their stunning pages, and feeling like I’m not alone as a print lover in a digital world.
The first thing they sent me was their design and visual philosophy document. It is fun to read. Here is how it begins.
I knew right away these were my kind of people. They have designed a newspaper to reflect their community. Not just in content, but design. Amazing. How can you not love a philosophy like this?
The answer? You can’t. You must love this, or you’re on the wrong blog. This blog is for all the print that’s fit to print.
I will turn it over to Adam and Colin. Eds. note: these responses are from early September.
How did you get into newspaper design? Adam: It was something I sort of stumbled into as a student at Youngstown State in Ohio. My degree is in TV and video production, but I was minoring in multimedia design. That led me to a page design opportunity at the student newspaper The Jambar where I ended up working for four years and decided to focus my career efforts on print design.
Colin: My academic background is urban planning and architecture. I started news design at my college paper, then it became my first job out of college. I’ve been in the industry ever since.
What do you like about newspaper design? And what makes it different from other design? Adam: I really like that you have the opportunity to start with a fresh canvas every single day. With 365 editions each year, you can experiment. See what works, what doesn’t and learn from it. And I feel like whether its design or general knowledge of the world, I learn something new every single day.
Colin: Philosophically, I like being able to tell stories to wide audiences on a daily basis. I especially love working on redesigns — the chance to weave visual worlds for our readers to explore. On a personal level, I like the frequent, immovable deadlines of daily news production — it’s perfect for a procrastinator like me.
What was the most fun you have had with a design? Adam: I would have to go back to a doubletruck presentation I worked on during the 2016 election showing all of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s connections to each other and to the state of Florida. It involved some colourful photo illustrations of the candidates riding flamingos. Honestly, Colin Smith and I had a lot of fun throughout that entire election cycle creating illustrations for a variety of topics along the way.
Colin: The Daily Sun has definitely been the most fun at I’ve had at a paper. I love redesigns, as I’ve mentioned, and this was at the first paper where (aside from the nameplate) nothing was off limits. It’s a paper that wants to have fun in a community built for having fun. That’s opened up so many paths visually. The editor has been a huge part of that evolution. She really has helped push me in directions I would have never thought exploring at other publications, and I think it’s really made a unique product in the process.
Do you rely on one design principle more than others (white space, text as design, colour, cutouts, etc.)? Adam: At the Daily Sun we focus a lot on just being consistent. We have built a beautiful core structure for our newspaper that highlights our colour palette and carefully selected typography. From there we make strategic decisions on when to break from the templates. And when we do, we usually go pretty big.
Colin: Great question. When in doubt, I go to the grid. Barring that, then I tend to focus on clean typography and common alignments. I don’t like to modify my type too much, so generally it’s one colour and one alignment. And you can’t go wrong with a beautiful dominant image. I tend to shy away from cutouts mostly because, after 20 years, I’m just tired of doing them (although I will if I must, but it’s not my go-to move). And I’m always a sucker for a symmetrical layout.
Tell me about a design idea you loved that was rejected or just wasn’t working so you had to abandon it. Adam: I joke a lot about having a pile of abandoned pages that I burn for warmth during that one week of winter we get in Florida. And that’s true to some extent. After a decade it’s tough to narrow it down to one that stands out. Our projects and pages grow and evolve so much during our design process that I’ve learned to not to get emotionally attached to an idea. We try to put the our readers and the storytelling above our own egos.
Colin: Too many to count, honestly. I used to revise and revise and revise before showing a page/project/redesign, but that philosophy doesn’t work at a paper where we have a very deliberate style we’re going for. So now I do a quick mock-up, get input from the editor to see if I’m going in the right direction or not, then I either refine what I’ve done or archive it and try something else. Honestly, I’ve never flat-out thrown a design away. If something doesn’t make the cut, I’ll usually file it away possibly for use later. Generally if I’m really excited about a design, I’ll find a way to get it used. Although I’ve had print/web designs implemented then discarded after I’ve left a paper, so I guess that’s stung a little more. But such is life.
I like the idea of your design direction matching your community, i.e. a heavily designed community begets a heavily designed newspaper. Tell me more! Adam: If you were to visit The Villages (which everyone really should some day) you would see that the developers put a lot of time and thought into the small details. We like to say that the community is designed to take you back in time, but you can’t always hit on exactly when. We’ve taken their fun but meticulous sense of design for the community and have made the newspaper reflect that. From the colour palette down to our use of woodcut and victorian flourishes, we have pulled inspiration from all corners of the community.
Colin: I believe the true power of newspaper design is the ability to create a visual microcosm of the community that is filled with all the surprises, delights, familiar places and new experiences that one expects from a journey in their city or town. I believe the areas of the paper should capture the personalities of a place (quiet cafés and loud clubs, bustling streets and quiet leafy suburbs). Visually, The Villages is a master planned community with several strong visual identities. On top of that, residents here have very active lives and fascinating stories to tell. There is always so much going on, and so much life to capture, that it really puts the onus on the Daily Sun to be as energetic and vibrant as our readers.
Visually the editor challenged me to come up with an overall design that was both nostalgic and thoroughly modern. That’s why you’ll see Victorian text flourishes paired with vibrant citrus colors to create something that blends a fondness for the past with an optimistic vision of the present. The goal was to create a kinetic vibration throughout the entire publication that is both familiar and yet also completely unique to our community.
I’ve been told the idea your covers are based on (lots of small bits of information) carries on on the inside. This concept and a few others seems to make this paper stand apart from others. Can you show some examples and tell me why you decided to do that? Adam: That is very true. While The Villages may be a mecca for retirees, they break every stereotype for seniors imaginable. We are blessed to have a very active and engaging community to cover. Our readers are very busy and we want to respect their time. So we implement of a lot quick hit information and alternative story formats that make the news quickly and easily digestible. We use this approach in every section in concert with traditional longform presentations.
Colin: Adam probably already went into this, but just in case he didn’t, here you go. Even though the vast majority of our readers are retired, they are still quite busy. Between social gatherings, planned events and daily excursions we owe it to our readers to get as much information into every page as possible. Since Villagers come from around the U.S. and the world, we try to get as much into each edition as possible. Our high ad stacks make it difficult to get a lot of traditional articles on a page, so instead we run a collection of briefs, photos and alternative story formats along the tops of inside pages (we call them attics) with a longer read below it.
It might be like picking favourite family members, but if you had to pick a few favourite pages, what would they be and why? Adam: First I would go back to a 2013 page on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. I worked on this page with the help of executive editor Bonita Burton and it evolved from a traditional centrepiece that we just kept pushing bigger and bigger. Our design and typography has changed a lot since then, but this did land me my first SND Award of Excellence and I was truly humbled. Then I would say a 2016 front page information graphic that was part of our multi-year “Redefining Justice” investigation into Florida’s death row. It really pushed my organizational skills and I spent a lot of time making sure the information we were presenting on a complex topic was digestible. And then more recently an inside page on the atomic bomb that was part of a yearlong series we did on the 75th anniversary of the Second World War. I really like working with historic photography and finding ways to present it in striking ways.
Colin: Ooh, that’s a good question. I mean, I’ve been redesigning our paper for so many years it’s hard to pick just a few. But if I had to: + Redesign/Template-wise, I love our A2-A3 world map — I really had a fun time drawing the map, and the page has so much personality. We used to have a sea monster on the page, and I do miss it.
+ We have some templated local front pages that really have a lot of visual oomph that I’ve enjoyed putting together, too.
+ When I’m not redesigning the paper, some pages I’ve worked on that I really like have been a Christmas cover with a Santa sleigh based on an 1800s patent application (we’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that one, re-running it pretty much every year).
+ An oldie but a goodie, but I also really had a ton of fun designing our 2016 election coverage and doing those illustrations.
Tell me a little about your process. How do you come up with ideas? Adam: For our bigger projects, we huddle up a lot to brainstorm. Sometimes it’s really simple to just run with your first idea, but we talk a lot here about not stopping too short. One thing Bonita says to us a lot when approaching a page is “what can we do that we’ve never done before.” And then the brainstorming kicks off. Even if it’s not a huge project, just turning to one or two other people in your pod or in the newsroom can help elevate an idea or a page. We’re sort of all in this together.
Colin: Ideas for stories is pretty simple. Generally main stories are planned weeks in advance and special projects are planned months in the future. The bigger the project, the more the lead-time for visual discussions — from data visualization to the need for photo reporting and illustration. Actual designing for special projects doesn’t begin until about two weeks in advance, with final design beginning in earnest a few days before publication.
As far as the ideas, it’s a back-and-forth process where the narrative is weighed with how we’ll tell the story visually and one, the other or both are adjusted until we’re happy with the final result.
And that’s a wrap from Colin and Adam. But what fun. It seems like the Villages Daily Sun would be any print designer’s dream job. Thanks to both for all their insight.