Jan 30, 2008

The "unofficial" redesign is done

SO I guess with my last post that my pseudo-secret was up. Yes, my name is Damian Mulinix and I am (also) a page designer. I've been designing the section fronts in the B section of the paper for over three years and in fact was behind the original redesign of the sports section and the name plate change of the B1 features page from Fun to Life. I would also occasionally get the opportunity to layout a package on the front page from time to time, but not the whole thing. This is really one of the cooler things about working at a smaller paper, having continued control and input on how your work looks in print.

So above you'll find the new front page style that appears for the first time in this week's paper. Next to it you'll find an example of the older style. I've been doing a kind of unofficial redesign of the section fronts for the past couple months. Trying new things here and there, starting with the sports page and moving forward through the paper. The major changes to the front page include, starting at the top:
• Skyboxes, which is something that I'm not sure if we've ever done before. We would usually use cutouts tucked behind the masthead (which by the way looks funny on these pix because I didn't have our font, Friz Quadrata, installed on my laptop). I won't say that we won't use cutouts again, but perhaps in a different fashion. This also gives more opportunity to advertise other stories throughout the paper.We could also advertise online pieces up there too potentially.
• Fewer story starts, giving it a cleaner look, more air for the components to breath.
• Using lines of various thickness and color to break up stories and elements rather than border boxes and color boxes.
• Though small, perhaps one of the most important element changes is to the "whats inside" box at the bottom of the page. Prior to this issue it was a constant one column box on the left hand side, made it difficult to switch up the layout on the bottom of the page. Now, it is spread out over the bottom of the page, leaving all the space above an open canvas for building within.
I think perhaps the one thing that I have not been able to do yet is find a place to put our Web site URL in the masthead. There just isn't a place for it yet, but I gotta find one, as that is an important part of what we do.

The Life page is one that hasn't changed a whole lot, but I think the changes that were made are good.
• Adding a skybox with the nameplate to give some pub to sports or whatever else is featured inside the B section that week. I also increased the size of the nameplate and colored it red, which it will stay for most weeks.
• A clean, open design of one topic stories is a must. That was always when this page has been at its best. There are few papers left in America that will give a wide open page to a single topic. SO far on the weeks where we haven't had a dominant lead package for Life we have moved up sports to that lead page instead of trying to shoehorn something in.
• And then at the bottom there is now a gray bar and a line of contact info, including my email and a reminder to check out our stuff on the Web site.

The sports page is where this all started and I think echoes the other fronts in its elements, which I think is important. I think it looks strange when each section front has a completely different style and look from the others in the paper. I think by having some of these basic elements in place it will also lead to more consistency in the product.
• Once again, up top, the nameplate is slightly different, with a red S. It will also feature a skybox when it is on B1, When on its normal position on B2 it will not.
• Once again, intersecting lines to break up stories rather than boxes.
• Fewer story starts. Just last year I was trying to start every team on the front and jump them all. This led to a mess of at times six stories, and maybe three pix. With its normal position on B2 and B3, page 3 can also work as a nice display spot, though it is B&W instead of color.
• By far my favorite move, getting rid of the calendar and bonus box that ran all the way down the left side. That definitely began to hamper what I could display wise. It now neatly rests at the bottom of the page. Much cleaner looking in my opinion.
• Also at the bottom, just like on Life, is contact and Web site info — which is already paying off in feedback as in the last few weeks I've received a number of sports related emails, which I never got before. Very helpful.

So, that's about it. I can't say I'm any kind of professional page designer, as there are many, many way better and more original than I, but it is something I do enjoy doing. I've often thought that if I ever got to a point in my career where I didn't want to be out shooting as my job, I wouldn't mind photo editing and page design.
Now to give some props. First up is my boss Matt Winters, who has given me the freedom to do these experiments on his baby. I'm pretty sure he knows my intentions are only the best — as are his — which I think he appreciates. Also, in an around about way, Geoff Pinnock, the editor for visuals at the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, one of the best and one of my favorite, papers in the US. He headed up a redesign of the paper a few years ago and I've scoured over what they did to borrow what I like and what I can. I love the way their paper looks and hopefully ours can have a similarly professional and clean look to it.


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