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Building a better centerpiece

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Hustle, Aug 20, 2007.

  1. Hustle

    Hustle Guest

    I'm not terribly happy with our centerpieces on the sports front; they're either very vanilla or very formulaic. I've recently tried to do some different things - make a cutout with a little more impact, find a different way to do a headline - but it's pretty clear I'm doing stuff just to do it, not necessarily with any specific inspiration going in that I'm able to follow through on.

    So I've tried to figure out how to get better. I look at the major metro and what they're doing, but don't want to copy them. I bought a book called Design Basics Index (Jim Krause), thinking a graphic design perspective might help if I could apply it to CPs. (Bear in mind, I've never had a day of formal layout training, everything I've learned since I started working.) I started reading and was beginning to get what he was saying about spatial relationships, until I got to the part about the Fibonacci series and the golden section, which I don't get at all. Suddenly, it seems this might not be a great option either.

    What's next? Am I doomed to peruse through portfolios and steal what's good? Do I just keep pushing boundaries until my SE pushes back (though he's yet to say a word about anything I've tried)?

    I guess the latter is an OK choice, but the truth is I don't know what works and what doesn't.

    Moreover, I don't know how to figure out what works and what doesn't.

  2. thegrifter

    thegrifter Member

    I remember reading somewhere that there are no original ideas. Check out other people's stuff and you may discover a way to make it better.
  3. captzulu

    captzulu Member

    Definitely keep pushing boundaries. And keep looking at other people's stuff, not to "steal", but to draw inspiration. Don't just copy, but instead try to identify specifically what it is about somebody's centerpiece that you like, and file that approach/technique away for future use, whether it's the white space, the photo crop, the infographics/charts, etc. Think of ways to tie all parts of your package together (story, hed, image, charts/graphics).

    The only caution I'd advise is to not just do something because it "looks cool". Sometimes a clean, well-organized chart does more for a package than three cutouts. Think about how the technique/approach you want to try will enhance the package, not just in appearance but also in terms of actual substance (conveying information to the readers).

    And I'd recommend that you keep reading the graphic design books, especially since you've never had any formal layout training. They'll help you with understanding why something works, and make it easier for you visualize/plan an effective layout instead of resorting to a trial-and-error approach.
  4. John

    John Well-Known Member

  5. awriter

    awriter Active Member

    Also, don't go "cutout crazy." There are times when it's appropriate and times when it isn't; know the difference.
  6. skwid

    skwid New Member

    Your starting point needs to be your message. Good page design is like good story writing and good headline writing. You start each process by defining your message and then choosing the elements that best communicate that message. Once you have assembled your pieces -- photos, graphics, stats -- decide which ones work best in combination to deliver the message. The pieces that are on message can stay. The others need to go. No piece is more important in this process than the main photo, the first element people look at. If you've edited well, readers will engage the photo and continue the package. If you haven't edited well, they'll go digging for the comics.

    When you look at others' work, think hard about how those packages deliver the message, why they work and why they don't. Good design really isn't about pushing boundaries. It's about making sure you've selected the most compelling content and packaged it to be accessible.
  7. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    Actually, skwid, the most important part of the centerpiece should be a well-written, compelling STORY!
    You can gimmick it up with all the bells and whistles you want but if the READER can't get past the lede, you are, to quote a former ASE of mine, "dressing a corpse in a tuxedo."
  8. skwid

    skwid New Member

    Yes, perhaps I've taken for granted the idea that your main story isn't a dog. In those cases, it's best to get in and out quickly and move on to something that actually matters.

    And nowhere did I state you should have gimmicks, bells or whistles. You should not have gimmicks, bells or whistles. Everything on the page needs to deliver information, and if your information is no good, then the page will be no good.
  9. Sam Mills 51

    Sam Mills 51 Active Member

    I agree, S-P, but sometimes the SE tells the desk to try and work with that corpse. It's just as frustrating for deskers as it is for the reader. It feels like stacking deck chairs on the Titanic, but after asking the SE to reconsider or finding another way to tell him/her the idea stinks, what can you do?
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