A few months ago, the editor of the Canon City Daily Record approached me with a thought. Since their paper is often, shall we say, rushed, they weren’t getting consistent design. They also weren’t able to get paper sizes that accommodated as much news as they hoped for. (A 6-6 is a tight squeeze for anything more than just local content. And while local content is certainly more important, it’s good to get a dose of national and statewide news in for perspective … at least in this designer/news nerd’s opinion.)
So he asked about adding a rail to their A1, as we had to their sports front a year or so before. (Wow, I’ve been working on this paper for a long time. So thankful for that!)
Here’s a few of their front pages - designed by yours truly - from before the redesign:
(Note: We were sometimes forced to over-budget this front, but we had room to play with headlines and centerpiece presentation. Since other stories naturally lacked art - as previews or court updates - we needed to get creative with those centerpieces.)
As a designer, the knee-jerk reaction to adding a rail is “… And there goes all creativity”. (Well, to this very design-conscious page designer who likes to push creativity, it is.) But I’d seen their paper’s layouts and had to admit they needed something new. Some of their recent covers hadn’t been anything to write home about, and while a rail can be a little stifling, to those sticking with more standard, conservative layouts, it wouldn’t be. In fact, it would add more entry points to their paper and get a few elements there that their readers would really appreciate.
I was in. And he and I got to work crafting something that would get what he wanted out there in a way I could live with as a designer.
Quite a few versions went back and forth. He added elements and I made my suggestions. We ended up with this (sans the folio I couldn’t get Methode to delete at the time):
Here’s what I changed:
- The teaser area was tightened up by quite a bit. They already waste a bit of space with a bulky flag, so I wanted the teases to become more efficient. I eliminated the arrows - they, too, wasted space - and used their orange as a way to add some color to the teases.
- On the rail, I used that same orange, in a lighter shade, as headers for each element. Those element’s headers are their tag headline coding.
- We agreed getting some wire content would be useful, especially on days we don’t get any inside.
- The “UPCOMING” feature was a clever addition on the editor’s part. It would serve as a place to advertise upcoming meetings with the city or county, etc. Something that’s big for smaller-town readership.
- I threw in the lottery and weather as a way to cut some of the rail’s grey down, and to give readers quick-hit info on that. And of course their index and online information remained the same as before.
My goal was to make the rail efficient, the teasers more space-friendly, and add a bit of a punch to their front. They deserved something that would enhance, not complicate, their A1. And it would also force them to budget wisely what content went out front, since they had less room to work with.
So I passed on my detailed notes outlining what I had changed and how I had trimmed sizes, addressed colors, etc. to the man in charge of creating the placefile.
Here’s how it went, months later, when it came to fruition.
(Note: I haven’t been scheduled on the Daily Record since the rail’s launch, or I would include my own work. Both pages were completed by my good friend and coworker, Lauren Fagan. She’s a wonderful designer with over 10 years of experience (most of which designing A1 pages for a major daily in New Mexico). )
Some pieces of my and my editor’s layout made it to the final product. Others were altered or ignored.
- The teases weren’t made smaller, and were given a red color. It doesn’t print quite as well as the orange, on the black especially, but it serves the purpose of getting color to the top of the page, even if it isn’t one of their paper’s colors.
- The rail is more crunched than intended, running all copy in metro. I had originally intended the briefs to stay in body copy, so the meetings and lottery would stand out as quick-hit info. But I understand the change, to accommodate more news in said briefs.
- My perfectionist self thinks the rail’s placefile has a few hastily assembled pieces, missing breathing room under the lotto/weather headers, and with overly large weather art icons. Commence a deep breath to drop said perfectionist tendencies.
But I think the rail has done well in getting the entry points they want in the paper, and more news to their readers. It’s turned the front into a more colorful, engaging page, I think. And while design-wise it’s a bit harder, I choose to see it as a new challenge. Or will, when I get to design it again.
I love that we were able to give an editor an element he asked for in a paper he devotes 50+ hours to. He added what he knew his community would want.
I’m glad for that, and so thankful I was given the chance to help make this happen. I’ve loved feeling like a part of this paper’s crew, despite the many miles’ distance. They really are a great crew.