A year after the biggest flood we’ve seen in ages swept along the Front Range, my newsroom - along with the Loveland Reporter-Herald and Longmont Times-Call’s newsrooms - joined forces to create an anniversary edition. It intended to document the process each of the affected communities had made in the past year, rebuilding and reconnecting despite catastrophic damages in some cases.
Branding is Key
We had reporters and photographers working for a month prior to publication, collecting vignettes of those we had interviewed just after the flood itself. Each story reflected on that week, and told of how they had come together since then to put their lives back together.
(As the designer, I wanted to brand each piece of this section so you could navigate it clearly between vignettes, stories and additional data. The vignettes were given more space along the sides, a standard headline style and a tagline as opposed to a byline, to allow their stories to be the priority, not the author.)
It was also a challenge to incorporate a running timeline throughout the package. I vetoed the idea of a page or two that would hold the whole timeline because it made more sense for it to be broken up, so it could carry the reader through the publication. So I branded this element, too, keeping it identical on each page in size and formatting, clearly jumping it to the following segment.
We also had our in-house map-maker create a map that documented the rain levels across each affected city.
Other pages held unique elements, like refers to our online reader-submitted map - an interactive graphic that readers were able to submit their own stories to.
These refers took the story a reader told and then encouraged the section’s reader to hop online to see submitted art and more readers’ stories.
These were also opportunities to add in our By the Numbers feature, that threw in startling statistics from the past year’s recovery. I chose a style and stuck with it, allowing these numbers to run big but not overpower anything because of the thin font and small explanations.
The Bigger Pictures
Throughout, we had stories that captured bigger issues - economics, transportation projects, etc. - that talked about the most affected towns and the region as a whole. These were a bit more straightforward, and so I left the design that way, too.
When pulling a quote to balance a page, I tried for an elegant, understated layout that punched the key part of the message that quote held. But for the most part, these were left to tell the facts and let their art shine with minimal design to get in the way.
All About the Art
We have some incredible photographers on staff. I’ve always known this, and yet again, they blew me away with their ability to tell a story in art alone. Sure, the section had a lot of portraits and file art, but what else can be expected in an anniversary edition? We captured these families as they were now, and brought back images we’d shot a year ago to show their progress.
But to highlight the work done in 2013 and since, we had 6 pages dedicated to their artwork. And thanks to the planning of our editor, they followed the timeline they were taken in, setting up a year in pictures.
This was our double truck. In a tabloid size, big art was hard to come by, so I went big here with a photo that I felt really captured the essence of this publication: These people were hit hard by something they couldn’t predict, but still found strength to rebuild and continue their lives amid the rubble of the storm’s wreckage. These kids show resilience, and the beauty innocence holds in the face of something like this.
Of course, there were deaths in this flood, and we wanted to pay tribute to those lost to the waters.
As a designer, I went small with headlines, big with art. These people deserved a beautiful presentation along with great storytelling and art. So I kept the theme of white space, thin serifs and very little else in the way of design.
Each had a header that simply said, “In Memory,” and each brought tears to my eyes as I read through them. It was a special part of the section, and one I hoped each person would read through and appreciate.
In two days, I was able to complete this 64-page section, putting in whatever extra hours it required to make it something worth keeping around. While design seems to play second-fiddle to the actual content and photography, I hope my work laying this out is appreciated in whatever way design can be.
It was an honor to be involved in a project of this size and importance, and am thrilled I was selected to complete it. I work with incredible talents, and am thankful for yet another chance to see how dedicated these journalists are.
Of course, you can check out these stories, photo galleries and videos here.