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Preparation key to speed in news design

July 1, 2011

Carlos Auyulo, design editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

By Kevin Kaplan
University of Illinois – Champaign-Urbana

Instruction on speeding up the newspaper design process and effectively using visual elements highlighted the first session of Monday’s “Covering Sports Today & Tomorrow” seminar, organized by the Mid-America Press Institute. Here are five tips St. Louis Post-Dispatch designer Carlos Ayulo said give copy editors more time to look over stories.

1)     Use templates: Establishing templates is key to speeding up the design process, Ayullo said. A consistent look also helps establish a newspaper’s identity. Most importantly, however, speeding up the design process allows that much more time to be spent copy editing. “The editing is the most important thing, so you want to move this stuff quickly,” Ayulo said.

2)     Create type styles: Bookmarked type styles speed up the design process in the same way as templates, as a designer with such tools doesn’t need to consistently start from scratch. Consistent color palettes also help maintain a newspaper’s identity. “We love our red in St. Louis, Kansas City loves the blue, and everybody has something that makes them unique,” Ayulo said, adding that every type style should be “a click away.”

3)     Read cover stories: Designers must read the stories to identify potential breakout elements. Quickly recognizing the lede and analyzing the specific details can quickly lead to breakout ideas. Certain key words like “budget, record, cuts, debate, proposal and candidates” tend to hint that a graphic is possible, Ayulo said. “The hardest thing is just figuring out what you want to emphasize,” he added.

4)     Research breakout boxes:  A story may contain the necessary information for a breakout box, but the designer must still format the information into something more visually appealing. Understanding the information allows the designer to add to it and format it more effectively and in more creative ways without waiting on ideas from others. “You can generate a lot of content when you’re designing the pages without the help of your editor or your reporter,” Ayulo said. The identification of reliable sources for various types of information – such as for Major League Baseball statistics – speeds up the design process and can used consistently.

5)     Manage time: The designer must allow as much time for the copy editors as possible. Requiring submitted headlines before a page is designed can ease the burden on those who work later in production. Ayulo mentioned several other time-saving strategies as well, such as having the graphics department size photos earlier, keeping mugs – which Ayulo recommends be used frequently – in easy-to-find places, planning on specific arrival times for content and setting deadlines for coverage of major events that will be played up visually.

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