Wk 3 Field Notes: A1 & Covers

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 2.43.08 PMFormat and Size: 

Metro is a custom format – 10″ wide by 12.5″ tall – which, in my opinion works for the magazine’s purposes. Metro is designed around the thought that readers will be able to get through an issue during their morning commute. A smaller format makes sense because it is less paper to handle for readers who flip through an edition on the go. Why not go even smaller then? Well Metro keeps its articles on one page as opposed to splitting them with jump lines. It also uses lots of big photos and infographics. A smaller format, say a digest, wouldn’t give enough space for these elements.

Grids:

Metro uses a 6 column grid. Each column is 1.32″. The six columns combined are 8.75″, leaving 1.25″ of margin space split inside and outside of a page.

Modular or Non-Modular:

Metro appears to follow a modular design for its cover. A block at the top is reserved for the nameplate and/or a teaser. Sometimes there is also a block at the top for advertisements. A cover graphic (similar to a magazine cover, complete with cover lines) occupies the largest block in the center of the paper. And at the bottom is a page-wide block reserved for advertisements.

Function/Purpose of the Cover:

Metro’s cover is designed to be eye-catching rather than informative. It resembles a magazine’s cover more-so than a newspaper’s A1. It contains teasers and cover lines, as well as a large, central graphic element with large type. Metro uses its cover to project its personality and voice, and I think the cover accomplishes this well. The most recent cover, for example, uses caricatures of this year’s Superbowl’s quarterbacks popping out of Met Life Stadium with New York’s skyline in the background. I shows readers that Metro is well-produced (since it didn’t just cram a picture into the space), but also light hearted. The one issue I might have is that the cover does little to tell readers about how to navigate the paper. It tells people where to find a couple good stories, but doesn’t indicate how the magazine is sectioned off. Where should a person who’s interested in city politics open to? How about someone more interested in culture? I know space is a premium and you wouldn’t want the cover to become cluttered, but I’m not sure Metro has found the absolute best middle ground here.

Design Elements:

Metro does really well to create a visual hierarchy on its cover. They eye is drawn immediately to the central graphic element – be it a picture, infographic, design, etc. From there, because Metro uses a massive, bold, serif, it has no choice but to flit to the cover line describing the graphic element. Next the eye is drawn upward to the top of the page for the edition’s main teaser. Again this is because of the typographic decisions. For this portion Metro uses a massive, but this time thin, serif. The nameplate sits between these two elements, but doesn’t draw a ton of attention. Metro plays around some with how these three main elements (the graphic, the tease, and the nameplate) interact. Sometimes the nameplate is absorbed by the graphic. Sometimes the graphic overlaps part of the nameplate or tease. But all-in-all it’s a very standard, very neat presentation. I see what they want me to see in the order they want me to see it, and I look at it the same way day in and day out.

Information Organization:

I spoke to this in the last section, but I’ll go over it again. Metro does a good job ordering the reading of the cover. Attention is drawn from the graphic element and its cover line, to the main tease at the top, and finally comes to rest on the nameplate. However, as I also mentioned before, I think there isn’t enough information about the overall layout of the paper. The cover aught to do more to tell specific readers where to go and what to skip. I’ve forgotten where I saw this, but I read that good design directs people on what not to read.

Hierarchy of the Elements:

Well, again, I think I’ve basically said this all in the “Elements” section. The one cover element I haven’t mentioned is the avertisement(s). There is a dedicated section at the bottom of the page. It resembles the sort of banner ad you’re used to seeing on the internet, and because they look so much like that, my eye skips over it without paying it any attention. This is good for the reader, but potentially bad for the paper, which wants readers to pay attention to the ads so they can sell more of them for more money.

Feel/Tone:

Metro’s cover feels well produced for a lot of the reasons I’ve stated above. The hierarchy is great, yet the elements also seem to interact with one another. At a glance, I think readers can appreciate that thought was put into the cover. But there is also an air of playfulness about the cover, signified by the blown out font sizes and the choice of graphic elements.

Message to the Reader:

The feel/tone of Metro’s cover lets the reader know he’s not getting himself into anything too academic, too serious, too draining. Rather he’s getting something well organized, well thought through, and easy to consume. That’s perfect for Metro’s purposes.

Photo Role:

The photo or graphic element on the Metro cover, combined with the accompanying text, serves as an eye-catcher. This meshes with Metro’s distribution strategy of selling papers by hand at busy morning locations. If you come out of the subway station and see a guy holding up a copy of the Metro, there’d better be something about it to catch your eye, to tell you there’s a reason to pick up a copy. That’s what the graphic element, centered on the front cover, does for Metro. That said, some of the covers I looked over didn’t do a great job of catching my attention. They had nice photos, but they didn’t always convince me the issue was worth reading. They didn’t pop.

Consistency:

As I mentioned before, Metro’s cover is very consistent. There are a few elements present on every cover in specific locations (from top to bottom: teaser, nameplate, graphic element, advertisement). If the cover is not always exciting, it at least creates a specific, consistent experience. For a readership that’s on its way to work, consistency is key. These people don’t have time to figure out how to decipher a cover every issue.

Cameron Young