This time of year is like Christmas for those who love print newspaper design. Newspapers who still take design seriously have submitted the work they consider their best to the Society of News Design. And for those of us who are lucky enough to be a part of the judging process in one way or another, as part of the planning committee, a facilitator or judge, it’s magical. We get to look through the best designs by the world’s best designers.
But to make this year even more special, after moving to a remote a competition because of COVID-19, it was back in person, and in New York. To make it even more exciting, it was in the New York Times building. I admit I got shivers as I saw the sign from a distance.
This year I had a bit of a hybrid role, part planning committee until life got in the way, part facilitator, part floater. For the second year in a row I got to be part of the team that chooses the World’s Best Newspaper (I wasn’t a judge, so not making the decision, just helping out).
This post is about the best in Canadian media. Sadly not as many papers submit. When I won, each of the three was for the Guelph Mercury, which had a circulation in the neighbourhood of 10,000. There is nothing close to that size anymore. This year in Canada, with Postmedia being out of the mix, only three media outlets submitted entries: The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Le Devoir, which just so happens to make up two-thirds of the ownership group of Pagemasters/The Canadian Press, my employer (Globe and Torstar).
So while there were fewer entries overall, and fewer outlets, than in years past, the quality of work these publications submits is still right up there with the best in the world. In this post, I will look at the Canadian entries. I will follow up with posts on the best American papers as well as the best from around the world, and also on the winners of the World’s Best Designed, which will be announced later this week. It will be worth the wait.
In Canada, The Globe and Mail was far and away the top winner, followed by the Toronto Star and Le Devoir. The Globe finished in the top 10 overall, which I attribute largely to incredibly smart art direction.
As a bit of a legend, awards are broken down into a few categories. First, an award of excellence must get the support of three of five judges, and those judges must think this work is beyond good. It must be excellent. Work that rises above what you might expect to see normally. Then there are silver and gold medals. As the level of award goes up, so do the expectations. By the time judges reach a gold medal discussion, the entry must be essentially flawless, down to kerning, every bit of white space and so on. It should be hard to find a flaw. This year, there were no gold medals for Canadian publications.
The Globe and Mail
This year the Globe won all awards of excellence other than in photography, which is somewhat out of scope for the blog, so I will look at the AOEs. The Globe finished in the top 10 overall, with 32 awards, three of which were silver medals for photography.
As soon as I saw this page in production, I knew it would be contender. Interestingly, pages like this were raised by judges. Is this a great page or a great illustration, or both? To be a great page it needs to use the illustration as part of a total package. To be clear, this page is absolutely driven by this stunning illustration. And this is where the art direction comment comes in. The Globe consistently uses incredible illustrations to drive pages. At some point that moves beyond just incredible illustrations and into smart art direction. Not only are the illustrations beautiful, they work with the story, and elevate the page to another level. And that is precisely what happens here and in many of the pages the Globe won for.
As often is the case with Kagan McLeod illustrations, the illustration drives this page. And I always know, regardless of the paper it appears in, at a glance that it is a McLeod special. He has a distinctive style. He has been helping Canadian newspapers elevate their front pages for years, from the Globe to the Star to the National Post. And I’m sure they are grateful.
This page was part of a staff portfolio award package. I often don’t like when newspapers use different fonts for headlines, but this page works. Nice symmetry, cute illustrations, and the typography is playful and works.
Not much to say about this other than it is visually magnificent. It’s a beautiful page, smartly conceptualized and executed. This and the next three pages are from the great Brennan Higginbotham, who won an award of excellence for his portfolio or work. I won three awards, one of which was for a portfolio of work. That is the award I am most proud of as it’s for a body of work. And as Higgenbotham shows here he is far from a one-page wonder. Some beautiful work.
Using the maple leaf in a creative way in an illustration is not novel, but I am always impressed by how many amazing ways newspapers use it. To the world, Canada likely seems like a peaceful place, full of people saying excuse me and sorry. Especially sorry. But things are changing. As populism politics take hold in other countries, very much emboldened by Donald Trump’s presidency, Canada is following suit. The country is more divided than ever. And this illustration politely shows (so Canadian) that things are heating up. A great and smart illustration, nice use of white space and a witty main headline.
Just a lovely illustration, used well on a front page. NBD.
When I looked at the paper this Saturday morning I knew I’d be seeing this page in the competition. It’s one of my faves from year from the Globe. Is the song in your head yet? It makes for a very bold and colourful front page. As for the Globe entries for this post … that’s all folks.
The Star submits significantly fewer entries than the Globe, and less than it used to. It’s great to see that it is still being recognized when it swings for the fences. It won four awards in total. Here are a few.
This is an example of a page with a great illustration that helps drive the story, but also a great design. The illustration needs smart typography to work, and it works.
Anyone who follows me here or Instagram would have seen this page already. It was one of the sharpest pages around the Queen’s death. Great photo choice, very simple headline in terms of content and design.
As a counter to the very simple Queen page, this is a busy page. There is a lot going on. Yet the focus of the story is clear. It does some things I might not normally like, but manages to pull it all together to make a very compelling design.
Le Devoir submitted very few entries, but did a heck of job curating those entries. It won two awards in total. Here is one of the winners and one I liked that didn’t win.
Something about this illustration speaks to me. It didn’t win an award, so this is a facilitator’s special recognition, I guess. I dig it. It really draws me in, and even without knowing French well enough to read this, I feel like I really want to know what it’s about.
This page looks very much like many of the European newspaper design powerhouses. The rules, the simplicity and the attention to very small details, like the illustration around the drop cap. Love it.
I know there is other great design happening around the country. The Winnipeg Free Press, Postmedia and elsewhere have some strong designs, even in this new and more challenging newspaper world. Sadly for judges and Canadian media loves, they don’t submit.
A huge kudos to those who do, and those behind the designs, from an art direction standpoint. You all put your work out there into the world to be judged by some of the world’s best. You open it up for critiquing. And sometimes you win. All of these papers had more entries and winners than I have shown. This is merely a selection of the incredible work they produced in 2022. As the Globe page above said, what a year.
So bravo to the Canadian designers who won awards and submitted their work.
Not long after soccer fans watched one of the greatest World Cup finals of all time, where a No. 10 cemented his place in soccer history’s greatest of all time, they lost another one of the game’s greatest, the original No. 10. Pele, the king of the beautiful game, the original icon, has died at the age of 82. Evidence of his popularity as well as that of the sport is seen on newspaper front pages around the world.
Pele is the only player to ever win three World Cups. He played in four. He truly was a legend. I remember being in elementary school and watching a movie about Pele. I don’t remember why, but I can see the classroom and screen in my head, many, many years later. I remember the scissor kick and being in awe. Later I joined my school’s soccer team. I was blown away.
Pele died Thursday, and the world mourns. Here are 10 of the best and strongest front pages, in honour of his No. 10, marking the death of a sports legend. There are pages from around the world, but perhaps no surprise Brazil, where Pele is from, has a high concentration of the best.
The first, from Correio Braziliense (Brazil) is so strong from a design standpoint. One of the few that didn’t run with a photo. It’s a beautiful page fitting of the king of the beautiful game.
Next up is O Estado de S. Paulo, also from Brazil, also took a creative approach with the art, highlighting Pele’s iconic No. 10.
Canada’s Globe and Mail is always quick to highlight a big soccer story. So of course Pele’s death would be front and centre.
Jornal de Commercio, another from Brazil, uses a strong portrait.
And below are, in order, the Toronto Star, A Tarde (Brazil), Irish Examiner, Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota, with the classic scissor kick), El Universal (Mexico) and Millenio (Mexico).
Christmas is often the best time of year when it comes to newspaper design. Unlike disasters or major events, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is the other time of the year when newspapers have similar content and often produce some great and less depressing front page content.
Below is a selection of some of the best from Christmas Eve 2022, starting with Het Parool (Amsterdam), which makes me chuckle more than anything. But it’s also a fun front page with a great illustration. I don’t know how the speech bubbles translate but in this case I kind of like it that way.
Update: I have learned what it says! And now I am glad I know. 🙂
Him: It itches
Her: You don’t say.
And of course the Canadian classics. The Globe and Mail with its elegant painting, the National Post with its stained glass and the Toronto Star with a large photo blowing out its front. In most years this is what each of the do.
And another from Canada, though not necessarily as traditional as the others. The Montreal Gazette.
I might add more here tomorrow if there is anything great! And my gut tells me there will be.
Update: Here are a few more pages from today! First up, the Press and Sun-Bulletin from Binghamton, New York. Next is the Gazette from Colorado Springs, the Spokesman-Review from Spokane, Washington, and finally the Kansas City Star.
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.
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.
The Star Tribune has long been a great newspaper. One of the best, not only in terms of newspaper design, but as a news source for its audience. I feel like a bit of an authority because I was inspired by the Star Tribune when I was tasked with doing a full redesign of the Guelph Mercury way back in 2008. Two papers disproportionately were reflected in the final product: the Virginian-Pilot (once the best designed newspaper in the world IMHO) and the Star Tribune.
A funny thing about newspaper design though. For the most part, other than once a year at design competitions, which are becoming less and less common (thank you to the Society for News Design for keeping them alive), those who design newspaper pages are anonymous. Faceless and nameless, they are the part of team that executes, and often conceptualizes, the designs we see on newspaper front pages every day. Unlike reporters with bylines, or magazine designers, who often get named on the inside cover, we don’t know who did that design. You know, that design that took your breath away when you pulled the newspaper out of the bag that you picked up from your doorstep. Come on, it can’t be just me. That is why I do these designer spotlights. To get them the attention they deserve. So when, on a whim, I reached out to Stacie Kammerling, a designer from a newspaper I have the utmost respect for, I was hopeful, but you just never know. I hadn’t seen her work before reaching out. I have high design standards, and my own design biases as to what works, what’s cliché and what didn’t work.
Well … Mind. Blown. Stacie is a phenomenal talent. So for this post, I gambled and won. But if you’re reading this, you win, too. Stacie was kind enough to answer a pile of questions I sent her and to send me very thoughtful responses. I am grateful for that. And a funny thing happened on the way to this profile. I do this to get others the attention they deserve, those like Stacie. And what did she do? She thrust others into the spotlight I provided her. She is a true collaborator, and clearly someone who absorbs what others are saying. And now I turn it over to Stacie.
A Q & A with Stacie Kammerling, Star Tribune
Q: How did you get into newspaper design?
A: In a roundabout way, I actually fell into news design. As a teen I loved how art felt accessible to me through editorial illustration, so I applied to art school with dreams of working at a magazine. There were no illustration programs in Indiana that I knew of, so I chose a degree in art with a concentration in visual communication at Ball State University. As a first generation student, I liked the idea of a multidisciplinary program studying both fine art and graphic design. But a year into art school, I felt a bit disillusioned. Artists I knew hadn’t landed jobs post-graduation. I felt like the program wasn’t fully preparing students to build a path for a career. I was terrified of my future student loans and providing for myself to live on my own.
Meanwhile, the independent school newspaper, the Ball State Daily News, was looking for staff. I really wanted more experience with editorial design, so I volunteered to work a few night shifts a week. I met so many creative, kind, and determined people. It opened my world to discovering journalism and expanded my idea of what information design could be. I really liked how collaborative the Unified Media Lab felt. Designers, reporters, graphic artists and photographers all shared techniques and ideas. I surprised myself by continuing, I often hated most pages I did. The quick deadlines were a huge stress. I was very hard on myself, though the process made me much more resilient as a designer and person.
I was very influenced by the 2016 U.S. election during my senior year as I was deciding on a path after college. I wanted to feel like I could contribute to truth-telling, fighting misinformation and even just the documentation of history that newspapers provide. Ryan Sparrow, who led the journalism graphics program and now works for USA today, was a huge influence in showing me future paths I could take via journalism. So I moved to the Villages, Florida for my first job as a production editor at the retirement community’s newspaper. I learned so much about not just newspaper design, but celebrating community, how to edit down information and headlines to get at the core of a topic, and how important it is to be part of and understand your readership. Design as a practice can be a lot of ego, and it’s very important to listen to what readers want beyond what you’ve always provided them.
What do you like about newspaper design? What makes it different from other design?
I really like that newspaper design is first and foremost focused on the reader. It’s a service for disseminating information and giving readers not only access to information, but curating it so they can clearly see what matters and why they should care.
There is still a big push for innovation, surprise and alternative storytelling within newspaper design, despite dwindling print opportunities for designers. Choosing a career in print news design in this decade is scary. But the bar has never been higher for how we can take care of presenting information for the people who prefer it, cherish it and truly look forward to their paper. I like knowing the audience truly deeply cares about every page we make, even if the form is often temporary. When it’s not temporary, as in for historic and special occasions, the paper is even more special to me as a document of history.
To me news design differs from most other forms of design in that it is very utilitarian. There is a (mostly) clear ethical pact that separates visual journalists from other designers. Knowing there are distinct standards to publication and storytelling make it a more trustworthy institution as both a designer and reader. And an inspiring one as journalists analyze the way we’ve always done things and how we can change century-old institutions to make our processes more equitable, accessible and useful as the world becomes rightfully more so.
Another thing I’ve found comforting and inspiring is how many nontraditional paths lead to the same place. A majority of my colleagues at the Star Tribune didn’t study newspaper design or reporting specifically, we bring our wide and varied backgrounds to a job where we learn and grow as we go. A great majority of what I have learned has been on the job. I didn’t have a news or editorial internship before graduating college, so being taken under the wing of many has been extremely formative and I am forever grateful to them. The culture of protecting and helping one another in such a cutthroat industry is invaluable.
What was the most fun you have had with a design?
In August 2021 I got to conceptualize and design a special section for the Minnesota State Fair. The 10-day fair is a huge deal in Minnesota and the upper Midwest. I wanted to illustrate live scenes from the fair, so I spent a couple days drawing all around the fairgrounds. It was a bit stressful and overwhelming at first, but the quick nature of life drawing soon felt like the quick and precise process I do designing a new front page every day.
After sketching I scanned drawings onto a big inside spread and arranged them. For the cover, I did a much longer drawing using oil pastels. I wrote a bit about my experience and what it means to truly stop and see the world around us. It was an honour to be able to share something vulnerable like that with readers, especially at an event many deeply care about.
Do you rely on one design principle more than others (white space, text as design, colour, cutouts, etc.)?
I most often work on “hard” news and the front page, so my daily job involves honing in on the cleanest, easiest to digest designs as possible. As well as communication across departments so that we can all get a bit of what we need. I would say the one design principle I rely on most often is “the grid.” Especially building modular grids that can easily adjust as stories and news changes. The style at the Star Tribune is very clean and compact, while also giving room for large photography and informational breakouts. So finding ways to best tell stories that feel manageable for the reader is my biggest challenge day to day.
Tell me about a design idea you loved that was rejected or just wasn’t working so you had to abandon it.
It’s really hard for me to think of one! My editors have always been supportive of my creativity and ideas, often pushing them to make them stronger. I’m super grateful for the trust and guidance I’ve been given, especially as a young designer still learning more every day. For the front page, which I’m most often found designing, tweaks to my drafts are much more common. It can be frustrating at times. I find ways to compromise a lot — not the sense of giving in — but finding ways to align all of our interests in the newsroom.
The Star Tribune was one of the papers that inspired me while redesigning the Guelph Mercury. Do you have newspapers that inspire you from a design standpoint?
The Star Tribune has such a rich history and has been an inspiration for me too! I’ve especially loved exploring old covers and special projects, such as the huge artful poster covers from our Taste cover archive during its 50th anniversary in 2019.
I was very inspired by the unique voice and ethos of the Villages Daily Sun before working there from 2017-2018. In college I was very inspired by the intersection of art and journalism in Matt Haney’s work at the Omaha World Herald and Martin Gee’s work at Time magazine. I loved seeing how designers could be a vital part to telling a story, not just putting words and pictures on a page. The ability to bring their expertise in art and typography to the table really elevated and showcased journalism in a fun and surprising way. Print publications that give the space for visuals to shine create a more dynamic and interesting story, in my opinion.
On that, can you think of any designs that blew you away, at your paper or elsewhere? Anything that stands out?
I think the things that blow me away the most aren’t necessarily page designs, but unexpected interactive work that extends into the local community, both telling their stories and inviting them to participate. I loved Martina Ibáñez-Baldor’s work on the Chicano Moratorium project (especially the zine) for the L.A. Times.
The most inspiring things for me involve physicality, bringing handmade touches to the print product. I’m still learning what draws me to it. I think seeing the influence and texture of hand-crafted art transports me into a story more than digital art can at times. I believe allowing the design to be as clean and simple as possible to let art and photography shine can make a huge impact. And highlight what the reader really needs to make meaning of a story.
After the death of Sid Hartman, the Star Tribune’s sports writer and columnist of 75 years, design director Greg Mees designed a beautiful special section to honor him and share his story, office and memories from friends and family. It was so touching and the oil painting commissioned for the cover really blew me away. (EDS note: I saw this page at last year’s Society for News Design awards, and it absolutely blew me away as well. Greg Mees, on top of being a super kind dude, is also a world-class designer. And btw, the next instalment of the awards are coming soon and I couldn’t be more excited!)
Q: Why do you think newspaper design still matters?
I think newspaper design still matters because of the distinct need for informational direction and credible service-based and solutions journalism. There’s so much news happening and a daily snapshot of the state of the world is important for breaking information down into something digestible. What do we need to know about what’s happening in our communities right now? How can we help support a cause, business or person? Beyond following the processes newspapers have always held, I believe conversations about what the future looks like is vital. How are we reaching people where they are, asking what matters to readers and including them in not only the product but the process?
While this is often a nameless, faceless job, it’s a huge part of the newsmaking process, as anyone reading this blog knows. It’s not just throwing things on a page, but allowing space for stories that need it, being flexible, even encouraging edit after edit to ensure a journalist’s work is displayed in the best light possible. The way we design something can shape the way readers see and understand important stories.
Q: How often do you get to conceptualize big ideas? I know bigger papers often have a team. What’s the process like for you there?
While much of my work is started and finished in a matter of hours for the next day’s paper, I also work on larger projects every other month or so. Collaboration is still an important part of the process, which I really enjoy.
After reading a brief about the story, or sometimes the story itself, I talk to the photo team to see what they have in mind, or more frequently for larger projects, work on creating art myself. Talking to the graphics team and editor of the section are also important steps in the process of gathering all the pieces. Booking out the stories and art is another early step that can take quite some time to visualize the best way to present a longer narrative. Here is one of the larger projects I worked on about how businesses were still waiting for aid and struggling to stay open one year after the 2020 unrest in Minneapolis.
Q: It might be like picking favourite family members, but if you had to pick a few favourite pages, what would they be and why?
My bread and butter has really been designing front pages for breaking news. I am most often drafting ideas in minutes. It can feel hard to feel ownership over these things, it’s entirely collaborative and often happens so quickly it’s hard to take a step back. And since coming into the newspaper world in 2017, many many nights have looked like that. While I am proud of and live in those high-speed moments, I am most proud of pages where I can put a little more time into, including ones that I can show a bit of myself and the art I love to make.
In December I created a seven-layer linocut print for the annual Holiday Books gift guide. This was a huge undertaking as the biggest print I have created as a printmaker, as well as pretty complex with many colors. In my art practice, I carve each linoleum or rubber block by hand, layer by layer. So every colour is a different layer. I often work on one-coloor prints, but wanted to really play with colour to capture the mood I had in mind.
Our holiday books guide always features a winter scene. I was inspired by snowy downtown Minneapolis, a place I walk often. I liked the idea of a person reading at a bus stop, finding beauty in the liminal space between where they came from and where they’re going.
Last January I drafted our front page for the Capitol Insurrection around 4 p.m. and followed that through the night as more photography and reactions came through. It was astonishing to witness and I’m proud of where we landed with striking imagery and language on a tight deadline. The challenge of this night was developing our voice on the situation as it was happening. How do we make sure we’re being accurate in describing what happened? Fair and objective on a fraught political topic? Being in a large newsroom we have a 1A planning editor and several other editors that really dig into this, which is immensely helpful for me as I work with them and make the rest of the paper.
For our Thanksgiving paper I was asked to create the turkey for our annual kids colouring contest. This was the first block print I’ve made for work, which felt like a special moment to me personally. It can feel intimidating to fully throw myself into an art that isn’t often featured in print anymore, especially with the pressure to work digitally. It’s slow, arduous and easy to mess up. But I think the nature of the material creates unexpected marks and surprises that bring something special I couldn’t create otherwise.
Thank you, Stacie!
Putting this post together was a joy. It’s great to see so much passion and thought put into print designs. And it’s inspiring to see how much credit she shares around. The Star Tribune sounds like an amazing place to work. An incredible cast, a real team.
Another thing that struck me is that Stacie handles both hard news pages and also produces art for feature sections. That is multitalented. Her art is stunning, and solid news pages often don’t get the love they deserve. But Stacie’s are very well done. Solid and clean and strong.
Thank you, Stacie, for participating. If any other print designers want their work featured, reach out to me here or at email@example.com.
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.
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.