April 8, 2008

Dramatis Design-ae

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OK. In the words of my father, no more ‘hanky-panky’. Enough talking the talk and waxing poetic about design philosophy; it’s time to walk the design walk (more like a sidestep, really) for all you design aficionados out there. An introductory paragraph this dramatic can only introduce one subject: white space*.
As Assistant Design Editor Deborah Tan pointed out in her previous post,what you don’t see is just as important as what you do see in a newspaper. What you do see: budding journalists. What you don’t see: frazzled layout designers. What you do see: text. What you don’t see:space. When you pick up The Sun in the morning, your eye travels to the headlines, the captions and maybe that cute consultant on the front cover. But do your eyes see the carefully determined and calculated spacesthat delineate between stories and photos, and prevent the page from becoming one cramped unreadable mess? I think not. Yet the use of space is an integral characteristic of print media layout. Who can’t recognize a
newspaper at a glance, merely by catching a glimpse of how closely together their stories and headlines lie? Okay, so maybe only I can, but it’s something worth thinking about the next time you see USA Today and The New York Times side by side on the newsstands. Maybe you’ll even pick up the paper that appeals to you aesthetically.
One defining difference between newspaper and magazine layouts is,in[img_assist|nid=29552|title=The front page design prior to the 122nd editorial board.|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0] [img_assist|nid=29555|title=The front page as it currently stands.|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]fact, the use of white space. While newspapers maintain a tradition of keeping news to a maximum and space to a minimum, magazines play more freely with their printed arrangement. I’ve always secretly loved Martha Stewart Living for the way its clean, white margins suggest visions of clutter-less bourgeois bliss. Weekly news magazines such as Time strategically use white space in the design of their features to underscore their importance, and Rolling Stone uses white, black and red space to create a visually appealing page for the entertainment crowd. White space isn’t confined to one practical use: it can be domestic, political or even plain rocking. In basic language, white space blows your mind.
The Sun’s relationship with white space has grown over the years. Back in my day, a redesign occurred during the 122nd editorial board that introduced a cleaner, more breathable look into our daily paper. Take a look at the difference between the two papers, and tell me you don’t appreciate the look of The Sun as it stands currently. Nowadays we still stick to the rules determined during that fateful redesign, but occasionally we break them for Arts pages or features that deserve a special design focus. On a technical note for all you design-junkies, our standard amount of space is one and a half picas, or a quarter of an inch between texts and the lines that separate them. The measurement has become so ingrained that I doubt any of us has to measure out the exact distance anymore. Go ahead. Whip out a ruler and marvel at our design prowess.

*Mandatory Facebook reference: In homage to our geekiness, Assistant Design Editor Munier Salem and I have installed this trippy little application on our profiles called Dramatic Whitespace, which allows you to place a blank white space in the middle of your profile. It’s practically like a Zen garden for cyberspace. I highly encourage you to add it.