Field Notes | Furniture
January 27, 2014
- The nameplate of a newspaper, also known as a flag, is its title as it appears on the front page. The Los Angeles Times’ nameplate is prominent and rather distinct, boasting a large Old English typeface at the top of the page—the very top of the page. The Old English typeface is not what’s distinct, as this typeface is commonplace in some American newspapers; it’s the unusually large size and lack of content above or beside the nameplate (which is the case in every issue of the week except for Sunday when there’s a “Sunday” header above it). I’m accustomed to major newspapers having smaller elements either above or beside the title, like story briefs and small photographs cluttering the nameplate section, but this publication has its title extremely large, leaving no room for anything but the title in this space. Immediately my eye is directed to the title of the newspaper. I know right where to start when looking at the front page; I’m not overwhelmed with content challenging the title for attention, which is a positive change. It’s simple, clean, clear, and in my opinion, effective.
- Teasers and promos are eye-catching graphic elements appearing on the front page or section fronts that call special attention to an item inside the publication. On the front page of the January 23, 2014 issue there’s a teaser occupying two of five columns below the fold. Its graphic element is a curious photograph of Dodger Stadium holding a hockey rink inside of it. Below is a brief title and dek with instructions on where to find the rest of the story. At times this seems more like filler content than anything else mainly because it repeats itself on a later page, but I also understand there’s a place for teasers and promos as well. It drives an audience to an elaborate story that that audience may miss otherwise.
- Newspapers’ folios are important, as they’re the type located at the top or bottom of the inside pages giving the publication’s title, date, page number, and in the Los Angeles Times’ case, website. The style of this newspaper’s folio is much like that of the nameplate—simple and efficient. Depending on which side of the spread the page is on (the left page or the right page), the page number (typed in Old English) and date are aligned with the outermost side of the page. The website is always aligned with the side that’s closest to the center of the spread, or toward the “spine” of the newspaper. The title (typed in Old English) is consistently centered. Due to the weight and placement of the old English typeface, the page numbers jump out to the reader no matter what side they’re on. This strikes me as strong design because the page number is likely the most important part of the folio for the reader and it’s crucial to make navigating the paper an intuitive task for the audience.
- Bylines and credit lines give specific attribution to writers and photographers. The byline is the reporter’s name and usually comes before the text accompanying a story. The credit line is the photographer’s name telling who shot the photograph. In the Los Angeles Times these two elements have identical styling. They’re both in a serif typeface. The capital letters in each word are styled to have a taller first letter, differentiating the word’s first letter from the remainder of the letters, though the credit line is in a smaller typeface directly below the bottom right corner of the photographs. The byline, having this same styling, is located below the dek. It’s separated from the dek and the story’s text by two horizontal lines that are light in weight, probably a 0.5 stroke. In my experience with newspapers this byline is unique. Rather than being centered and bolded above the beginning of a text story, it’s left-aligned between the dek and the text. The lines of separation make it clear what element of the story it is so there’s no confusion as to who’s the author, which is important. There is one exception I’ve found and that’s that one byline accompanying a front-page story includes a “reporting from” line below the byline. This two-line byline is still in between the dek and the text but is without the horizontal lines of separation. This inconsistency doesn’t seem to be anywhere else in this issue of the paper, but the same inconsistency occurs in another issue’s front page. The section has a red header reading “Column One,” so it’s apparently a distinct section of the first page, but it still raises some questions for a new reader. Why is this byline different? Is this a different type of story? It doesn’t seem to be an opinion story, so what makes it different here? I’ll be analyzing this in other issues and will come up with an answer once I catch on.
Byline: Credit line:
- A reverse is white type on a darker background and is also known as a dropout. In looking through issues of the Los Angeles Times it appears that reverses are mostly used in internal and external advertisements. Reverse type catches your attention because the contrast is strong and unexpected compared to the rest of the type in the paper. Advertisements for cars and other transportation are found on page C9 in the January 23, 2014 issue; this page is a good example of this element.
- A drop cap is a large capital letter taking up at least two lines of text at the beginning of a paragraph. Drop caps differentiate a paragraph from the content around it and usually act as a point of entry for the reader. In the Los Angeles Times the drop cap is used in the first paragraph of the “Column One” section of the front page in multiple issues (e.g.: January 6, 2014 and January 14, 2014). The drop cap, which is in the same serif typeface as the body text, is sometimes red in color and takes up four to five lines of text, depending on the issue. In some issues three other elements to the “Column One” section are in red, one being the title Column One itself, and so it ties the section together and ultimately leads the reader’s eye to the start of the paragraph. This publication maintains the same serif typeface for its drop caps, which I feel is a good decision in newspaper design. It’s conservative and stays in keeping with the feel of the newspaper but it adds an extra element of interest that makes newspaper design more fun and less straightforward, which is often what can make newspaper design “boring.”
- Section flags are the section titles that are given special graphic treatment in order to bring attention to a new section. In going through issues of the Los Angeles Times I’ve noticed there are multiple styles of section flags. The section flags aren’t necessarily straightforward, which is confusing for those who organize and categorize visually. The initial three section flags have a centered, all capital title in reverse type on top of a gray box lining the top of the page, immediately below the folio. This is true for the World and Opinion sections as well. The Business and Sports section are treated differently. These are in all capitals but the type is much larger, they’re centered at the top of the page, and there’s no special background behind them. The Business section flag is gray in color while the Sports flag is light blue, as the sports front is printed in color—a decision that makes sense due to the photography that comes with the territory of sports.
The initial section flag styles:
The second type of styles:
- Jump lines and continuation lines are critical components to publications, as they’re type telling readers that a story continues or has continued from another page. Jump lines are the lines that tell a reader a page has continued from an earlier page while continuation lines tell a reader that a page is going to continue onto a later page. The Los Angeles Times’ continuation lines blend in discreetly. They’re in the same typeface and font as the text and are right-aligned below the last paragraph of the page. The continuation line gives the keyword to look for on the corresponding page and the page number in which to turn. On the same note, this publication’s jump lines are quite similar. At the top of the corresponding story, the keyword and previous page number are left-aligned at the top of the text’s first paragraph. The bolded keyword is smart; the reader knows to search for that word on the new page and the bold helps grab his/her attention. These treatments are standard and effective in news design.
- A cutline is another term for a caption. Cutlines, or captions, are the line or lines of text that tell readers some combination of the following information about a photograph, depending on the photo’s content: who’s in the photo, what’s happening, and where it took place. The Los Angeles Times treats its cutlines much like most of the newspaper industry. The cutlines appear below the photo in the same but slightly larger typeface as the body text. Each cutline has a mini header/title that appears in bolded capital letters in the first line of the overall caption, which is the one element that sets this publication apart from some others. Bolding an all-capital title is what this publication does to inform its readers they’re reading a cutline. The photo credit, or credit line, is the only type that separates the photograph from the cutline but they’re so close together, the reader hardly notices. Though it’s a simple element, the Los Angeles Times’ has well done cutline template. The cutline blends into the page so you don’t notice it until it’s time to read it, which is what should happen with this kind of content.
- In newspapers a rule is a straight line that separates different elements on a page. For example, Los Angeles Times’ distinct use of rules is to separate a story’s title from its dek, its dek from its byline, and its story text from its byline. In the larger industry picture, rules regularly separate story packages on a page. A thin rule typically divides a newspaper page into its story sections. For example, when a column lines the right or left side of a page, a rule often divides that column from the other story(ies) on a page. Rules are so subtle yet the role they play is imperative to organizing content—readers would often be lost on a page without the role they play to our eyes. I find that the more subtle an element, the more successful it is. As the old saying goes, “less is more,” and in design, I find it incredibly true.