Field Notes Week 1: El Universal A1/Front Page

El Universal is one of Mexico’s major newspapers. It uses broadsheet format, roughly 12 inches by 24 inches. The front pages appear to use a five-column grid. (The A1s from Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 show this pretty clearly.)

Most of the front pages do appear modular, but Feb. 2 ia an example of non-modular design, which makes me believe that El Universal does not strictly follow modular design. In the Feb. 2 A1, the headline stretches over two stories, which means there is no clear rectangle per story package.

The front page really does not look all that much different from many of the inside pages, which I find a little odd. Perhaps as the semester moves forward I’ll pick up on something that I’m not seeing right now, but right now, the only major difference that I definitely notice between the front page and other pages is the presence of the nameplate. What the front page does very successfully is let the reader know which story is the most important, because the A1 headline font is so drastically different from the headline font for the other stories on the front page. The point size is so much larger and the font is much bolder. The front page also teases to other stories inside the paper.

The page is made up of the nameplate, photographs, captions, headlines, deks, articles, drop caps, pull quotes, and teases to other stories/sections.

Information is organized in a hierarchy, and the most important information is noticed because of the strong A1 headline font. Placement above or below the fold then helps determine the second most important story. Photo hierarchy is also determined by size and placement, as the biggest, uppermost photos are the most important ones when there is more than one photo.

The front page feels very bold, but not exceptionally unique. It presents information in a very clean, professional, structured way, and really doesn’t shatter any expectations. However, it knows what it wants to say and it says it. It has a strong attitude, but not in any disruptive way, for better or for worse. (I don’t necessarily mean to imply that disruptive would be bad — I think it’s good to disrupt readers by breaking standards sometimes — though this definitely can go awfully wrong, too.)

The front page design sends an implicit message that the content in this paper is trustworthy. The highly structured and standard layout suggests that there’s little reason to not believe what’s being said. Also, this suggests that the content will be appropriate and, for the most part, expected.

Photos and visuals play a big role in breaking up blocks of text. They generally don’t run huge like some papers opt to do, but the photos and visuals do generally balance the page, separate articles, and keep the amount of text on the page from becoming daunting. Pull quotes and boxes do this too.

Consistency is very much maintained from issue to issue through a strict style guide. The A1 headline is always in the same font. Also, the opinion teases always appear. The En Interiores, which previews what’s inside, also adds consistency. It doesn’t always appear, but when it does, it always looks the same.

Feb. 3 A1

Feb. 3 A1

Feb. 2 A1

Feb. 2 A1

Jan 31. A1

Jan 31. A1

 

Cheryl Seligman