How design marks history

I like going through the Newseum’s Front Page section of their site. I always have. Even as a reporter, I liked to see what other stories made the front page in different places but also how designers make packages on the page pop. That’s because I was the type of reporter that wanted to be read. So, if I could make a story go from page 3 to page 1 by helping my photographer friends get good art or getting the info I needed for a great graphic, I was going to do that.

But aside from my own ambition, I’ve always appreciated how design can also put a stamp on history. The top 10 designs of the day as decided by the Newseum, marked the passing of two big entertainers, one of which was local but you my not have heard of him. The other everyone has heard of and has seen in many movies. Let’s take a look at how design marked history today.

Our own Star-Telegram is on the top 10 list as was the Dallas Morning News for this cover.  Ornette Coleman was a jazz musician from Fort Worth who was very well known for a style of jazz. Look at how that package was put together:

  • 1) Main photo (dominate)
  • 2.) Secondary photo
  • 3.) Awesome headline
  • 4.) Text or story (not the same thing) 

The main photo is of Mr. Coleman playing his sax.  Awesome profile shot! It’s the subject in his element. Notice how he’s centered in the frame and how the photo is centered on the page, giving it a subtle vertical line.  Then you have the secondary photo, which is usually a detail shot. It’s also, in proportion to the main photo, smaller since it’s not dominate. That adds to the visual hierarchy of the page.

Check out the headline. It’s simple but it’s more than that. I know that I’ve written about how stories should have context but so should headlines. In one line we know who Coleman was even if we didn’t know who he was yesterday. He was the master of ‘free jazz’. I don’t know what that is but it sounds mega interesting. The deck tells me his connection to the area – he began his musical greatness in Fort Worth. It’s simple but it’s working hard. Yes, it’s subtle. That’s how design and headlines work together. They do a lot of hard work but it’s very subtle. It’s art.

Thinking about Beth’s test from Thursday’s training, the middle of the page is right under the deck, so as people walk by all they see is headline, big photo, smaller headline from the storms and  some dude with a motorcycle in the skybox area. Would you pick up this paper? Want to do a live test? There’s a Star-T rack upstairs next to Starbucks. Go check it out.

Here’s another 10 ten from Prague. I picked this one to share because it was in a foreign language so it will allow us to concentrate on the design more closely.

What I find interesting about this design is that the big dominate photo is not with the lead of the story, it’s with what looks like a brief about Christopher Lee.  I’m not up to date with my eastern European languages BUT it looks like the story about Lee doesn’t jump on the inside. (No page number).

So looking at this page, that first story with the great pull out quote (love me some of those) it your top story but your main story, based on visual hierarchy is the brief about Lee.

What do you think about this page?

Here’s another page that made the top 10 but has nothing to do with either Coleman or Lee.

I like this page because of how the centerpiece is designed. A centerpiece anchors the page. Let’s take inventory.

  • 1.)  Main dominate art
  • 2.) Awesome headline
  • 3.) Text or story
  • 4.) A pull out quote.
  • Now, I’ve never lived in Naples but something tells me this was an important story for the community. Just look at what all they did! 

I want to talk about the headline first because it drew my eye. It’s a quote headline and I like it. This is why. It sums up what the entire package is about, a second chance, a redemption. So why not let it come out of the person’s mouth? The deck tells us more.

Then there’s the picture – subject head down (usually a sign of shame) and in a jump suit. PERFECT choice.

Then the pull quote which is pretty powerful.

Lots here to chew on before diving into the story, which is pretty gripping if you’re looking for a good read. For this community, the design marked a big day for them. The possible redemption of this person who was part of a notorious crime.

So, how will you (everyone, not just designers) make a mark on history? Take these as examples on how.

This entry was posted in Training by Icess Fernandez Rojas. Bookmark the permalink.

About Icess Fernandez Rojas

Icess is a writer, professor, and blogger. She is a graduate of Goddard College's MFA program. Her work has been published in Rabble Lit, Minerva Rising Literary Journal, and the Feminine Collective's anthology Notes from Humanity. Her nonfiction has appeared in Dear Hope,, HuffPost and the Guardian. She is a recipient of the Owl of Minerva Award, a VONA/Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation alum, and is also a Kimbilio Fellow. She's currently working on her first novel.

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