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How do you design good pages if you don't have any photos?

When is it OK to run screens behind a story? Or is a white background always best?

Is there software that can make charts and graphs?

What are the
best grids for newspapers to use?

How many stories should run on a typical front page?

Should you use rules to separate stories?

Is it OK to use grip-and-grin photos in the paper?

What’s wrong with using pretty stand-alone photos as lead art on Page One?

What’s the best way to make a map?

Is it wrong to use decorative fonts to create feature headlines?

Should front-page promos run down the left edge of the page, or along the bottom?

Is it possible to design good pages without big, dominant photos?

For years, photo cutouts and superimposed headlines were taboo in newsrooms. But look at magazines now. Look at newsmagazines like Time and Newsweek; they run shadowed photo silhouettes and fancy reversed headlines everywhere. Newspapers are behind the curve when it comes to stylizing images. They still treat photos, especially local photos, like sacred art objects.

You can argue either side and never get anywhere. So try this: Bring a pile of magazines into the newsroom. Analyze the cutouts, the superimposed headlines. Discuss what works, what doesn’t. See if you can reach agreement on where to draw the line. Designate certain places in the paper (Features, Sports, the front-page promos) where it’s OK to bend the rules.

In other words: Expand the boundaries gradually — don’t alienate your photographic colleagues in a sudden race to become Rolling Stone magazine.

And use common sense. Yes, you can attract readers by presenting images more dramatically. But you can quickly destroy the integrity of many photos by badly cropping, loudly overprinting type, or cutting out inappropriately. Taste and skill always play a major part in the success or failure of any design effect.


Like most magazines
-- and unlike many
newspapers -- USA
Today allows designers
to cut out images
(as in the promos, left)
and overprint type
(as in the Bush
centerpiece). Notice
how none of this
tampering involved true
breaking news photos.
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