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What does a redesign mean for your newspaper?

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GateHouse Media recently partnered with famed newspaper designer Mario Garcia on a company-wide redesign of both digital and print properties.

Joe Greco, GateHouse’s director of creative development, has been a part of the project from its earliest stages and continues to work with both designer’s at the Center for News & Design in Austin, Texas, and newspapers across the country as they continue to adopt the new design.

He explained some of the philosophy behind the features of the new design and shared some advice for how GateHouse papers can get the most out of it.

GateHouse Newsroom: What was the collaborative process between the CND and Mario Garcia?

Joe Greco: Mario met with the redesign committee more than a year ago to help us talk through a number of ideas. The committee was made up of a few folks from the CND, several editors from publications of varying sizes, as well as some marketing and advertising folks from GateHouse. In that first meeting, Mario showed us a number of projects he’s worked on for publications around the globe to give us ideas to consider. We broke down into several groups to focus on such areas as Page One content, content promotions, advertising positions, etc.

The discussions took place over the full-day meeting. Late in the day, the groups reconvened to share the ideas. We discussed as a group and made decisions on how to proceed, getting buy-in from folks in all departments across GateHouse. GateHouse folks were fully engaged in the process.

With vetted ideas in hand, Mario and his team began creating prototypes, which he presented to the redesign committee in a follow-up session in Austin. He showed us many mockups of front pages and other section fronts. After several rounds of feedback, we finally landed on an approach that the committee approved. That process led to redesign style we have today.

GHN: How do newspaper trends develop and how do you feel the GateHouse redesign addresses those trends?

JG: Trends don’t exist without innovation. Trends in newspaper design are set by those publications who are not only willing to take chances knowing that an idea may fail.

That’s not just OK, but encouraged.

Being bold has always been a goal, no matter the design style. The same is true for clean and organized design. A bold approach to a centerpiece also can have a clean and organized design. Opportunities for boldness and failure continue to exist in the new GateHouse redesign.

The addition of colors and the introduction of cards and more white space certainly can be viewed as bold. But the goal of the redesign wasn’t to simply make the pages look pretty. For the papers that have already launched the redesign, these elements have encouraged more communication between newsrooms and designers working remotely at the CND.

When creative minds with different skills interact, aha moments will increase.

GHN: Hints for papers on finding success in working with the Garcia redesign template.

JG: For the majority of pages designed in the new style, the changes are only to the headline typography and some additional white space. But the most visual change and arguably the most debated elements of the redesign have been and continues to be the card promotions on A1.

Because the cards are intended to be mobile, questions from editors about using cards include: How many cards will run? What will the cards say? Where will they be placed? How will they impact the presentation on the front page?

All are legitimate questions. But instead of the cards, focus first on the lead story and the centerpiece.

Think about the answers to these questions:

About the lead story:
• How prominent should the lead story be presented?
• Does it deserve to be stripped across six columns?
• What will the headline say and what size should it be?
• What fact boxes would be helpful for readers?

About the centerpiece:
• What photography will help tell this story visually?
• What’s the tone of the story and how will that impact the headline?
• What will the headline say and what size should it be?
• What should be played above the fold?
• What fact boxes would be helpful for readers?

The answers to these questions will help determine where other stories can fit on the page, as well as the cards. The cards are intended to be flexible.

If you have a great photo and want to run it large across the front page, use fewer cards.
If you have a slow news day with mediocre photography, use more cards.
If you have big breaking news that needs the entire front page, ditch the cards.

The bottom line is that the cards won’t get in the way of strong local content that needs compelling page design.

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