Ten design tips to save you time and money

Design isn’t about “making pretty.” It isn’t about “jazzing up” your paper. Design is about creating a product that is crisp, contemporary and compelling.

It’s also about saving you money by being more efficient. Here are ten design tips to help you save time, effort and money in the creation of every issue of your newspaper:

1.     FIND your best fonts. You don’t have to buy new fonts to make your paper more readable. You probably have some hidden gems in your system—but you don’t know because no one has taken the time to look. If you’re using Times for text, there are many type families that would work much better. Among them: Century Old Style, Cheltenham and Utopia.

2.     TRIM font lists on computers. There’s nothing more frustrating for a designer than to have to scroll up-and-down, up-and down, up-and-down to click on just the right font for a headline. Use font management software to keep these to no more than two dozen lines. This saves you money by saving your designers valuable time that they can spend on other chores.

3.     REDO typography and edit to save space. Review listings such as a weekly calendar, an agenda of public meetings and the like. Often, trimming these items and placing them together can result in a savings of an entire page of newsprint. See if you can’t tighten the typography in classifieds. Over the course of a year, saving a page of newsprint here and there can make a serious difference in your bottom line.

4. CREATE page models. When you get down to it, there are really only a half-dozen-or-so different “looks” for page 1 and your sports front. Of course, there are always variations on the theme—and occasionally major events (a local teams wins the state football championship, an election) that call for an entirely different design. But, for the most part, page 1 will tend to fall into a half-dozen similar looks. Take advantage of this by creating models that your editor can refer to before she begins designing the page

5. MAKE a plan. Don’t wait until every story is finished to begin work on a page. Instead of assembling a page so that every story will fit, design the page first and then tweak the length of the stories if needed. Include your writers in the planning so they will know how long their story must be.

6. CREATE software templates. If there are problems with embedded styles and the like on a “recycled” electronic page  (and there usually are!), those problems will slow down pagination and prepress again and again. Start fresh by building sound templates and using them.

7. CREATE pagination libraries. Set up your software so that your designers can go to libraries and drag out elements such as column sigs, section flags—even whole parts of pages, such as the masthead and index. Don’t let your designers try to convince you that it’s better to just work from the same page from the last issue (see #6, above).

8. USE style sheets. Incorporate linked and nested styles into everything you do on the page. These can save a half-hour or more in pagination time per issue. Have your editor use that time to do a better job of planning.

9. CROSS-TRAIN. That sports writer can be trained to do some news pages, and vice versa. With increased effort on the part of all newsroom staff, you can publish a quality newspaper with fewer people. And take advantage of the skills of people in your advertising design department to help the newsroom with charts and graphs.

10. MAKE DEADLINE. Nothing costs more than being late off the press. The overtime alone can be a killer…and the problem often begins on the desk. If the designer has a reputation of always being late, move that person’s deadline up. If it’s a problem reporter, work with that person. Never, ever accept anyone habitually missing deadline.

These ten tips probably won’t make you more money overnight—but over time they can create substantial savings. And I’m reminded of a quote from the late Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois: “A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking big money.”

FREE DESIGN EVALUATION: Ed Henninger offers design evaluations—at no charge and with no obligation—to readers of this column. For more information, check the FREEBIE page on Ed’s webs site: www.henningerconsulting.com

ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the Director of Henninger Consulting. Offering comprehensive newspaper design services including redesigns, workshops, staff training and evaluations. E-mail: edh@henningerconsulting.com. On the web: www. henningerconsulting.com. Phone: 803-327-3322.

Posted by Maurizia