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.
From really northwest to regular northwest America, this newspaper designer is making the most of her opportunity at newspaper that loves its design
By Brad Needham
One of the things that frustrates me about trying to promote newspaper design is that it is often so hard to find out who is responsible for all the amazing designs I see. I would love to shoutout all the amazing talent behind the stellar newspaper front pages from around the world. But I can’t just turn to the masthead or page 2 and see, Cover Design by … as one might in a magazine. That’s why I was tickled when I posted a Spokesman-Review arts cover on my Instagram account and I got a response from the paper. They told me they would pass my message onto their designer (including the comment about wondering if the reverse text was readable in print). And then Caitlin Miller, the designer in question, contacted me on Twitter to tell me, yes, indeed, the text was perfectly legible!
The page just popped for me. The contrast. The big display. Smokey Robinson‘s eyes and the joy in his face, which is especially notable in a never-ending pandemic.
I have long been a fan of the Spokesman-Review’s design, particularly their front page. I think it’s one of the consistently best designed newspapers around. They give it their all and achieve solid, and sometimes outstanding, results. I hope I have the good fortune of talking to an A1 (1A?) designer one day (nudge, nudge!). Side note: I love that the Spokesman-Review posts, every day, its front page, other section fronts and historical pages on its website (link to Sept. 23 front page). The more we can celebrate print the better, and they have a lot to celebrate.
Being such a fan, naturally I asked Caitlin if she’d be willing to talk to me. And she said yes! While she’s not been in the industry long, she’s making a splash. And unlike most U.S. designers, her career started further north than this high-kilometre Canadian has ever lived or worked (and I lived/worked in Fort McMurray and Fairview, both Alberta, as well as Prince George and Fort St. James, B.C., which are pretty far north).
Caitlin talks about her growth as a designer. And she talks about working within the framework of your newspaper. Some papers, like the Spokesman-Review, really pride themselves on design. Other papers, particularly in the present print media climate or smaller papers, don’t go big on design every day. Caitlin now gets to work with a team that loves design, one that submits a pile of pages to the Society for News Design‘s design competition every year. And I bet that passion for design is contagious!
Here is our chat. I have sprinkled a few more of her eye-catching Spokesman-Review designs throughout the questions, and end with some pages from her pre-Spokane days in Alaska.
How did you get into newspaper design? I fell into it. What got me into print news was a semester working at The Sun Star as the managing editor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Certainly, no design experience! My job in that position was strictly editing and guiding writers (albeit at writers’ own discretion of accepting my edits, but that’s working at a college paper for you).
I kept my eye on the local paper as a possible job prospect in Fairbanks for a while. After I graduated, I was working at a hotel and would read the paper daily, including checking classifieds. Finally, a copyeditor position opened. I knew the former editor-in-chief of The Sun Star was working as an editorial assistant at The Daily News-Miner and hit her up. Funnily enough she had deleted my number from her contacts, but when she figured out it was me, she was supportive of my interest and put a good word in. I applied the next day, and a month later I was hired. I learned newspaper design on the job and taught myself a lot of what I now know, but I knew I couldn’t grow staying in Alaska, which is how I found myself at The Spokesman-Review. It’s a never-ending learning experience, and I love that.
However, I knew that I always wanted to work in newsprint. It’s a bit of a family legacy, with my grandfather and his father working in it, respectively in different aspects.
What do you like about newspaper design? And what makes it different? First, I like that I’m using both sides of my B.A. I hold a degree in English and art and being able to interact with both design and words is satisfying to say the least.
I was meeting with a writing mentor at a coffee shop one day, and as we were catching up, she had asked me where I was working, and I answered that I was at the paper and explained my job. We found ourselves in conversation about the benefits of a physical copy (versus web) reading of a newspaper. She opened my eyes to the beauty of page layout; she gave me a reader’s perspective, a perspective I’ve never interacted with before as a designer despite my own reading of papers. But things always look differently from another’s eyes, don’t they? Through her gaze, we discussed the way readers interact with stories, how a jump from the front page to an inside page, or a refer/tease, could bring a reader to stories they wouldn’t have likely known about otherwise. Not everyone thumbs through all the pages of the paper. How many of us non-sports people don’t give sports a single glance? Or maybe a parent only bought the paper to keep record of a story on the front page related to their child. Suddenly, that parent finds himself or herself on Page A5 reading about a column on a local event involving a nonprofit that seeks to benefit cancer awareness.
What was the most fun you have had with a design? My favourite pages are those with the most agency. In a way, this applies here, also. Those pages that I’m given a feature story or column with lots of art, I like being able to take the lead and do what I see fit with it. I like that editors who give me the content trust my judgment. They also know I’m not afraid to ask questions, so communication between us is so very important, including sending page proofs for them to see and affirm or correct where needed. Pages where I am given lots to work with, and pages with breaking news also are fun to work with. I’m really thankful for templates however, because sometime a page just needs that basic layout and nothing more, and that’s cool.
I hope I can, with the pages I provided, express the “most fun” I’ve had with design. It’s hard to explain otherwise, and these include my favourite pages as well.
Do you rely on one design principle more than others (white space, text as design, colour, cutouts, etc.)? I do a lot of cutouts. Always have. But, gosh, do they take time. It can really depend on the page I’m working on. Feature-y pages will likely have cutouts whereas hard news pages will likely not, at least from me thus far. Colour does play a role, oddly. Sometimes I look at a page after I’ve completed it and go, “Wow! How did this work out!”—and it turns out that all the photos visually correlate by complete happenstance. I tend to avoid lots of white space, however. But at The S-R, I’m learning the benefits of it. We use it far more than I’m used to, whereas before, I was very adamant on squaring everything off and making sure everything fits tightly on a page.
Tell me about a design you loved that was rejected. I don’t think I can answer this exactly how you want it answered, simply because it isn’t about something being rejected. I don’t think I’ve had an entire page design rejected before; however, I have had aspects of designs criticized and rejected. It isn’t a good feeling. But talking through it and learning from it is important. Maybe it’s something the design editors were avoiding you didn’t know about. Great. Now you know not to do that ever again. Or maybe it’s a learning experience between you and the more experienced designer who suggests the text be more horizontal in nature and less vertical. Awesome. Now you can take that experience and apply it to future designs that might have similar elements that could benefit from it.
It still feels crummy sometimes having your work criticized. But it’s worth it. The team effort is important, and you can learn a lot from working with others and seeing design through your critics’ eyes.
Are there any designers or publications other than those you have worked at that you are sure to look at? If I’m in a new city or town, or visiting family, I’m sure to pick up the local paper. It’s hard not to look at design now wherever I go. This includes magazine covers — it’s interesting the crossover between the two, like siblings of sorts. But I look at both general design, and what stories they put where, such as what the designer of that paper chose (or perhaps editors — this really depends on the size of the paper!) for the lead, down the rail, centrepiece, down page, etc. It can say a lot for what the town sees as important, and a lot of time localization is prioritized over national wire stories.
It might be like picking favourite family members, but if you had to pick a few favourite pages, what would they be and why? I’ll address my career thus far. I’ve noticed with The Daily News-Miner my favourite covers are the ones where I have the most agency. And perhaps the same can be said with The Spokesman-Review. While at the News-Miner, I have a handful of pages I love.
The News-Miner doesn’t like much for creativity, per se, but the Our Town page, a localized feature page that ran weekly, allowed me to kind of do what I want within means. And I loved it. I had a good knack of what was allowed on A1, but Our Town meant I could explore making cutouts, changing fonts, applying gradients. Many of these pages had strong interaction with local audiences who were regular followers of the editor of that page. And, I have to say, there is such satisfaction in knowing how well I did when that editor comes to and tells me the impact I made. I’ve also seen cutouts of various stories from various pages I’ve constructed framed, and that’s a whole other feeling on its own. At the DNM there are other front pages I love for other reasons, ones I’d include in a portfolio, but they certainly don’t hold an impact like the one’s that have made a personal connection with me emotionally. Maybe the emotionality of it sounds biased, but it really can help a person grow as a designer to know what they’re doing is good in some way or another.
As far as my work at The Spokesman goes, I haven’t quite hit that emotional satisfaction yet, but being at a much larger paper might have much to do with that. However, working with the Seven cover at the Spokesman (weekly entertainment feature section) really allows me to explore my skills as a designer, and there is much satisfaction in that. I really can’t wait to see where this takes me.
Tell me a little about your process. How do you come up with ideas? There isn’t much to say about this. Either I have a good idea of where I’m going with something or I don’t. A lot of times I can look at the content and know exactly what is going where, but I think experience has a role in this. And other times I might spend three hours just trying to figure out and experiment with where I’m going to take a page. I may even sometimes have multiple ideas in my head. It’s interesting, working at The Spokesman is such a different experience coming from a small paper. Before, a lot of decision making was solely up to me, regarding what stories go where and what art should appear where. At The Spokesman there’s an editor for everything, including photo placement.
The Spokesman Review has some exceptional designs. How much pressure is there to continually produce great work? Do you swing for the fences every day? The Spokesman staff is so supportive. However, while I’m fairly confident in my abilities, I certainly feel a lot of pressure! I took over the design of the Seven cover after a couple of months being with the company. Prior to that our A1 designer was doing the cover and he certainly has far more experience than I have. Chris Soprych is helpful in many ways. There are days where I just don’t have a clue what do with the art I get. Frankly, sometimes it just isn’t good enough to work with to produce an eye-catching cover. But then he shows me how he’d approach it and from that I’m able to learn different approaches. I’m thankful, and this experience is a huge part of why I wanted to join The Spokesman-Review.
Certainly, communication is important and helps relieve some stress. I’m not the only one who looks at the page or cover. And others’ suggestions can certainly make or break a page in its success. Constructive criticism is always important. And I really enjoy that so many people are involved with the process and looking at the final proof. I’m also coming from a paper prior to The S-R where I was the only set of eyes on pretty much everything, so it’s all been both a learning experience and a huge relief.
Do you have words for wisdom for young, aspiring designers? For the young and aspiring designers, remember we do this because we love this. Remember that behind the scenes we still make a difference and affect a reader’s interaction with the paper as whole. We’re not in this for the pay. We’re in it because we love what we do, and we love journalism. But also, for those who may feel stuck at a job that you feel no mobility in, don’t be afraid to extend yourself beyond what’s familiar and apply all over. Call. Talk to editors and tell them you want the job. It may seem old school, but working in newsprint is, believe it or not, still old school. Basically, don’t be afraid to chase your dreams, bug people and be adventurous!
Below is a selection of Caitlin’s favourite designs. She explains what made each of them special. We’ve seen the Spokesman-Review pages. That’s where she is now. This is where she began. “I really feel like the Seven covers for The Spokesman-Review show my potential as a designer in contrast to what I was more so limited to designing at my former job.”
My one issue with this page is the text wrap around the columnist’s mug has a weird break that I didn’t catch until months after when I was going through my portfolio and applying to other papers. Jorgy Jorgensen played a huge part in the Alaska community and touched a lot of people’s hearts. This page brought many people joy and the columnist received many thanks from the community for making it happen. It’s really special to be a part of the community in this way, even being behind the scenes.
This cover page was the moment I realized the power journalism has in a community and how a page designer can contribute to making an impact. It was also the moment when I knew I found the right career for me. There was a lot of excitement that led up to this page: it was the weekend and unplanned; our 12-page paper needed to be expanded into a 16-page paper, ads had to be moved, everything that was supposed to go on the front page got moved inside. At the time the governor of Alaska had vetoed the state budget, an action that would in turn affect all parts of the state and everyone of all ages. Many were upset by this — Alaska had been facing years of budget cuts already. I knew when I sent that cover I did something. And sure enough, I woke up the next day and discovered that at a protest, Fairbanks residents who didn’t have posters or signs to hold, used our Override editorial front page.
I feel like these pages really captured how the COVID-19 pandemic affected people (pages above and below). We weren’t expecting there to be a Midnight Sun Game that summer. The team that usually hosts the annual tradition cancelled the game due to the pandemic, but a couple of teams from the area came together to make sure it still happened. It was really a “beacon of hope” for a lot of people in a time when so many traditions were cancelled. I think Laura Stickell’s story shows the importance of community and how coming together plays a large part in human morale. It was our sports writer’s last day with the News-Miner and she sure went out with a bang. Great story, great photos.
Want to be featured?
I am always looking for newspaper designers to talk to, whether you’re at a college paper or the Washington Post. Reach out to me through the comments or at email@example.com.
By Brad Needham (but mostly by newspaper designers around Canada)
It looks as though making an election newspaper during a pandemic is just as hard as voting in a busy Toronto riding during a pandemic. That is to say not easy. Very little art, no gatherings, no big hugs or ecstatic faces. Despite the results coming in early (as I — and any experienced journalist — would have guessed!), there wasn’t a ton of fresh art used today. I admit I had delusions of grandeur, of waking up to front pages that blew my mind. I love elections, and I love election newspapers. What does blow my mind about these is that most of this work was likely done in people’s homes. That’s an incredible feat, so congrats to all the editors who made this happen. There are some nice looking pages, for sure. I hope for more tomorrow.
Without too much political commentary, and for those not following Canadian politics — which probably includes most of the world and a good chunk of Canadians — this was an interesting election to cover. A minority government that brought itself down and came back as a nearly identical — almost to the seat — minority government, with a Quebec nationalist party seeing the biggest increase (which was still tiny). Naturally, with $612 million spent, it has caused some opinions to be formed in Canada, including in the media. Some in support, some clearly against. That is captured in some of these pages.
The papers that used fresh art and took a more neutral approach win my election newspaper edition of the this blog! The Globe and Mail wins a majority, with the Winnipeg Free Press filling the role of official opposition. Here is a selection of pages from this election, with little to no commentary on the content or design. Just the pages for your viewing pleasure.
And now for some more political leaning covers
Most newspapers have a slant of some sort. These papers chose to display theirs, subtly or obviously, on their election covers today.
September 11, 2001. 9/11. It was a day that changed the world. The attacks in New York, heard and seen around the world. Today marks 20 years since that infamous day. I remember my first indication something was up was waking up to an email from a friend who worked at the United Nations saying, don’t worry, I am safe. Shortly thereafter the world watched as a second plane flew into the World Trade Center buildings. I was in my final year of journalism school so wasn’t in a newsroom, but I have heard the stories. The chaos. Tearing papers apart. Trying to get special editions out. The Guelph Mercury apparently put out an edition with the attacks on the cover, removing all the stories that were there, but left the turns from the original stories inside.
September 11, 2021. Twenty years later, I look at some amazing newspaper covers as the world remembers and reflects on that day. Some are what you would expect. Some are not. It was a tragedy on an unimaginable scale. But this is about the creativity in newsrooms around the world. How do they tell the story visually? I will let the covers mostly speak for themselves. There were dozens (the vast majority of papers in the U.S. had a big 9/11 splash) so I have chosen a few that cover the themes I saw. Some just wildly creative and powerful, simple and elegant. Some showing current photos, some showing destruction. Some taking an artistic approach. Here they are.
This Newsday cover does so much. It’s different than many others. No towers, no planes, no destruction. Just a little girl. A New York T-shirt. A monument remembering those who died. A single flower.
Definitely the strongest 9/11 front page in Canada. The Toronto Star uses a big, powerful image. So well processed. An image similar to this was used in many newspapers. It was just used better here. Minimal text. Stunning.
The Dennik N page from Sept. 10 and The Economist from Sept. 11 do something similar with the numbers, similar conceptually, but they look so different. These are two of my favourites. Simple. Beautiful. I love so much that one line, on the first 1, makes all the difference. It takes it from numbers to buildings. So smart.
This is a creative page by Politiken. It is so simple.
These two — above, USA Today, and below, Chattanooga Times Free Press — went with the big photo of the Tribute Lights. Many papers took this approach.
Both these pages used an art-based approach. Above, Salzburger Nachrichten is quite bold. Below is the Longview News-Journal.
The Jyllands-Posten uses a different photo than most. No destruction visible. But the people. What a photo.
And the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It uses a similar photo to the Star, without the person. This photo was used widely today.
The Anniston Star went with one of the most terrifying photos from 2001. These photos will never not send me right back.
And below are two pages from 2001. I have looked at pages from this time in a previous post, so I won’t go too far into it. The New York Times and The Sydney Morning Herald, Sept. 12, 2001.
On the heels of a major and deadly earthquake in Haiti, Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, fell to the Taliban two decades after it lost control after a U.S.-led invasion. That is a lot of big news over a couple of days. While there was very little in terms of big pages for Haiti, the same was not true for Kabul. There were several striking pages. It’s a significant story, and one that will be playing out for a long time to come. There will be dire consequences for many in the country, particularly girls and women. Newspapers were right to give it the main play today.
I find it fascinating to see the design choices, both in terms of layout and photo choices. So often there is one photo that stands out. In this case most of the pages used one of two photos. And in some cases the designs and headlines were almost identical. That is not a knock. That’s newspapering. This isn’t the time to for wild design choices or plays on words. These are serious news pages. And these newspapers, all of whom have a strong focus on the world, presented the dire situation to their readers in a way will have an impact. Hopefully the world acts.
Here is a selection of some of the amazing pages from around the world, with the pages mostly speaking for themselves.
The Globe, above, and Hartford Courant, below, are so very similar, but also so well done. They are both powerful pages, achieved with a good, big and clear headline, strong art, and nice but simple treatment of other elements.
And again this photo. Wow. Used in many papers today. Both the above and deVolksrant below were just three of many who went with this powerful image.
And a helicopter photo, also used by a handful of papers, including the next three (different pictures or crops, but same idea). The comparison of Vietnam and Kabul is an interesting play in Arab news. A beautiful and powerful headline. It says so much in so few words.
George Floyd’s death was more than a tragedy. It was a murder. It was a catalyst for an uprising, in the U.S. and around the world. It was a wakeup call, one of many, but one that seemed to resonate with people outside of the Black community. George Floyd, who was killed after allegedly buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20. Killed by police. For nine minutes and 29 seconds, police had him on the ground, knee on his neck. Somewhere around the eight-minute mark he lost consciousness. But the knee remained. This was May 25, 2020.
His death came to be a symbol of what’s wrong, not only in America, but around the world. The systematic racism that exists and thrives.
Newspapers covered his death in the immediate aftermath and long after. There were many necessary stories, many appearring on front pages around the world. And while newspapers won’t run out of key angles to write about (assuming the editors and decision makers are keeping this story in the collective consciousness), how do designers keep the story fresh, to help keep it dynamic? Sure, a newspaper can put a story over the fold on its front page. It will get attention. But the design can play a key role in elevating the story. You can’t have readers get complacent and gloss over the story. A designer needs to pull them in, and sometimes there aren’t a lot of choices visually.
More than a year has passed since his death. In a world of 24-hour news and social media, most stories don’t get the spotlight for long. This story, the issue it thrust in front of the comfortable and privileged, needs to be there.
One year after Floyd’s murder, there were two pages that stood out for me, each taking very different approaches to their designs. But both highlight the power newspapers have, and the responsibility they have. And the power of newspaper design. It’s not just the words.
The first page that caught my eye was the New York Daily News. It was striking. A big photo of Floyd. His face instantly recognizable, brightly lit in parts and not in others. Starkly placed on a black background. The white newspaper flag adding contrast. And a great newspaper page almost always has strong words. Or strong words elevate a great page to unforgettable. This one simply says: One year. 9 minutes. 29 seconds. Black text on white on black. Those words are so significant. Anyone familiar with the story will know what it means. Anyone not will be appalled. How the words are played is significant. It was a masterful page. It captured the feeling one year later, and helped keep this story in front of readers.
The next page took a very different approach. The similarity was that it was also on a black background. Reverse white text on a black background. But it isn’t a picture of Floyd that makes this page. It’s words. All words. It was a powerful message. When a newspaper makes a decision to run a page without art, the words have to do it all, so they have to be done well. When an issue is so consequential, sometimes words are all there is. The Star Tribune is an exceptional paper. It’s in Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed. While this became a worldwide story, this paper owes it to its community to keep this story front and centre. This page was breathtaking, yet simple. So many words, but that’s why it works. In this instance. In others, it wouldn’t. But it was the right time and the right play and the right words.
Newspapers owe it to readers and to society to run stories like this, to keep these issues, issues like this, like the unmarked graves of Indigenous children in Canada, in the collective conscience. It was in the news again when Derek Chauvin, the police officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck, was found guilty of murder. And again when he was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison.
But these pages above, and the ones below (which I’ve shown in previous posts) highlight the power of print design. Three of them show, or somewhat show Floyd’s face, which has become a symbol of the movement and a way to illustrate the story. And newspapers try to present his face in novel ways. As long as newspapers are trying to raise awareness of serious issues through design, I will keep showing them.
Above: de Volkstrant’s stunning and masterful illustration of Floyd’s face, and of the movement it catapulted into the world’s consciousness, and the Houston Chronicle, with a powerful sketch of Floyd.
A newspaper front page can do and say so much. It can capture a key moment in history (man on the moon, the Sept. 11 terror attacks, tragic death tolls). It can celebrate big moments (sporting victories, like Italy’s big Euro 2021 win, or Argentina’s historic Copa America title — a victory for the country and short people everywhere — Google: Lionel Messi height, as it’s the thing most googlers care about after age and money). And it can hold people to account. One of the primary functions of newspapers is to hold people to account. Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable. These are terms heard in the journalism sphere all the time. And sometimes power doesn’t mean the 1 per cent. Sometimes a city, a country, the world, needs to be reminded. They need to be held to account. Sometimes I need to be held to account. Not just the powerful, but the privileged.
I want to look at two issues from the past few months over two posts. I am looking back because part of the problem can be after a cover comes out, calling out the privileged to act, or at least think, the issue gets a ton of attention and then fades away. Other issues arise. News is happening everywhere, all day, every day. But I want to key in on the design, and how it helped raise awareness.
I am looking at the coverage around unmarked graves of Indigenous children being found at residential schools. Another discovery was made in Saskatchewan (after a previous discovery in B.C.) on June 23. On June 24, most Canadian newspapers dropped the ball (I will celebrate, and not critique design here, but I will critique editorial decisions). Postmedia, which has a local paper in Regina, had the story first. An example of why local news matters. Postmedia’s coverage on the first day was strong. The rest were lacking. But the next day, the Star attempted to make amends. The previous day highlights the challenges to newspapers. The story was somewhat late breaking. There wasn’t a ton of information. But, and it’s a big but, the story required more attention than it got. It was the tear-the-front-page-apart kind of story: 751 UNMARKED graves of Indigenous children were found at a former residential school in Saskatchewan. I won’t say hundreds, as every one is important. I highlight unmarked to emphasize the contempt, the lack of humanity, toward the children, the families. Here is what the Star produced the following day, Friday, June 25.
This page is powerful for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, the picture of the small shoes. Clearly for a child’s feet. The wording written on them is powerful as well. WE WILL STOP THIS. WE GRIEVE WITH YOU. WE MUST ADDRESS THIS ONGOING GENOCIDE. And the reverse white text on black. The big, all caps headline, with a powerful question: HOW MANY MORE? The start of a story by David Robertson, an Indigenous graphic novelist and writer, and Michelle Good, the author of “Five Little Indians.”
We know there are more. Many, many more. Unmarked graves of Indigenous children who were taken off to residential schools. As a parent I can’t imagine. When my daughter goes to school, she’s safe. That’s just a basic requirement. Safety. I assume she’s learning important lessons. (In Grade 1 and 2 she did learn about residential schools, and I’m grateful for that, as I never did as a child. We’ve been able to talk about it.) But she’s safe. I can’t imagine the trauma, the fear, Indigenous parents must have felt. But I should. I should know. This isn’t ancient history, and even if it was, I need to know. The privileged, who have never worried about these things, need to know. I know this front page is only a piece of paper. But it helped. It brought it to the forefront. And it needs to stay there. Which is why I was glad the Star followed up a little later with this cover, questioning whether Canada’s history is something to celebrate.
This page was 100 per cent driven by the beautiful and powerful illustration by Chloe Cushman. An amazing, talented illustrator with a knack for evoking emotion with her work.
And credit where credit is due. This was one of the Postmedia pages (the Calgary Sun) the day after the graves were discovered. They had more time, as they knew earlier. But it doesn’t matter. Newspapers need to react. Most didn’t. The ad aside, which unfortunately didn’t reflect the seriousness of the issue, but pays the bills to allow front pages to keep happening, this page was one of the best in Canada the day after. It has a strong image, a big and powerful headline (one-word headlines aren’t uncommon but the right word has an impact).
There are going to be more. Probably a lot more. And despite knowing this, each discovery should feel just as shocking and unsettling as the last. One unmarked grave should elicit intense anger, and spark a call to action. I ask all the white and/or privileged parents in Toronto or Calgary or New York or London: when your kid goes to school, do you expect to see them again? Just think about it. Imagine. #everychildmatters
An observation perhaps not worth noting is that every one of these front pages has a tiny throw to a sports story that might have otherwise been given much bigger play.
My next post will be about pages on the the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was a towering figure, both in physical and societal stature. The husband of the longest serving monarch in British history. Married for more than 70 years to one of the most powerful woman in the world. Himself the longest serving royal consort in British history. While he retired from his royal duties in 2017, his stature didn’t fade. Prince Philip died two months shy of his 100th birthday.
Newspapers are often ready for the death of a significant figure. While nobody likes to think about or predict someone’s death, readers have come to expect information immediately. There has been a long practice, perhaps nearly as old as journalism itself, to prepare obituaries for key figures ahead of their deaths, particularly for anyone who could be at greater risk. So media organizations will have obituaries prepared, starting with “z-copy”, a.k.a., their history, so all that needs to be added are the new details, such as when and where the person died, any recent events or interesting information, and then refining as required. That allows the story to be posted very quickly, and then it can be refined later. But that’s the story. What about the design? Readers demand the story immediately. The design comes next.
In most cases, newspapers won’t have predesigned pages, unless something is imminent. In the case of Prince Philip, he had developed heart problems in his 80s, and was recently hospitalized. It’s possible media organizations had started to compile key photos. But it’s unlikely it went much further, though that very well might not be true of papers in Britain. While the Duke of Edinburgh was a significant figure around the world, particularly in Commonwealth countries, no where would his stature be larger than at home.
While media often struggles with just want to say about key figures when they die — do they mention Prince Philip’s racist comments and other offensive remarks over the course of his life? — the same is often not true in design. The design captures the gravity of the situation — or the gravitas of the person. While the display copy — either the headline or the deck — might capture some of the negative aspects of the person, it is generally left to the story to capture the nuances. The good and the bad.
Today newspapers around the world had some amazing front pages that did just that. It captured what he meant to so many. The good and the bad, of him and the monarchy. There will be more powerful front pages after his funeral. For today, I want to put a spotlight on front pages mostly from Britain, but some from other Commonwealth countries as well. I will let the pages do most of the talking, as that is the power of a great front page. It shouldn’t need much help.
I will start at home for me, with the National Post. It was the best cover in Canada, one of the best in the world today. And on days with big events, it often is. It is known for its bold design. It used the entire front page real estate and showcases a beautiful illustration by artist Kagan McLeod. A great use of white space and an emotional quote, played small, but powerfully. It’s entirely possible the National Post had this illustration ready to go already. If not, it’s even more amazing. In Canada, the announcement came with hours to go before deadline, so papers had a chance to give design more consideration.
British papers on the other hand would have had less time. But they all did well, which speaks to how committed print journalists still are to their craft. No surprise that the Guardian would have a powerful cover. A stately portrait, his name, and the dates he lived. Simple and effective.
The Daily Telegraph has similar play to the Guardian. Elegant photo, name, dates. And that’s all you need.
The Advertiser in Australia uses a classic photo of the prince and the Queen. The big headline, all caps, GOODNIGHT, MY PRINCE, captures the emotion. These are still human beings. They had a long marriage, many trials and tribulations. This page evokes nostalgia.
The Independent has a similar but slightly different approach. A black and white portrait, capturing a younger Prince Philip. A lovely page.
The Evening Standard went with a more recent photo. Capturing the now. It’s a beautiful portrait of man who lived a long, full life. A headline about his service. He was actively serving royal duties until 2017.
I chose this one for a different reason. The design is nice. But the Daily News also split the attention between Prince Philip and DMX, and many thought it should have been DMX getting these covers instead. The page has some issues, as it highlights the troubles of DMX, but doesn’t touch on any of the controversy around Prince Philip. But I respect that the paper, in New York, knows its audience. Readers expect DMX to get attention. And he should have. He was very influential. On any other day, he would have been the cover. And in many papers, maybe he should have been anyway.
There were plenty more worth celebrating for their creativity and power.
Expect more powerful covers after Prince Philip’s funeral. It will be a major event and the world will be watching. While many will watch it live, newspapers will do their best to capture the moment with a strong front page. Have thoughts? Share them below!