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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?

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 true what our photo editor says — that running type on photos and cutting photos out damages their integrity?

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?

Good questions. For years, newspapers have been using the same dull grids:
6-column grids for broadsheets, 5-column grids for tabs. That’s usually because the standard 1-column ad is about 2 inches wide, and news columns are sized to accommodate ads. Which is fine for pages with ads.

But what about when ads aren’t a factor — on open pages, or inside pages above the ad stacks? Wouldn’t it be nice to have more flexibility? More options for column widths?

Here’s a typical story on a 6-column grid. But notice how gray the layout is,
and how small that 1-column photo seems. What if you want more
flexibility, more design options?

So — want to explore new grid options? Take a typical page from a recent issue of your paper and rebuild it on an upgraded grid. If you’re a tab, try 7, 8 or 9 columns. If you’re a broadsheet, try 9, 10, 11 or 12. Resize the art, reflow the text, rewrite the cutlines and headlines, and see if you discover an advantage — visually, typographically, journalistically — to fitting your stories onto a different grid.

Two warnings, however:

• An oft-quoted typographic adage suggests that the optimum width for standard text is a column that’s an alphabet and a half wide. You can certainly put narrower legs to use for cutlines, liftout quotes, decks, etc. But legs skinnier than 5 picas wide are tough to pour type into. And remember, the narrower the leg, the more necessary smaller, condensed type becomes.

• If you’re designing a tab, you may want to avoid a 6-column grid; if you’re designing a broadsheet, beware the 7-column grid. Both force columns of text to be uncomfortably narrow, resulting in pages that look messy and stripey.

And yes, you can mix grids within a newspaper. For example, you could design all your open pages on a 9-column grid — but on most inside pages, when that grid won’t accommodate standard ad sizes, you could revert to a simpler grid using wider columns. No one but you will know (or care).

If you run the photo 2 columns wide, it takes up a lot more space and
may not always crop into that shape. What if we could run that photo
one-and-a-half columns wide instead?
On a 12-column grid — instead of 6 — we have twice as many options:
for the photo size, the deck, the cutline. (Notice the position of the
liftout quote. That’s common in British newspapers. Like it?)
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