The Virginian Pilot is a broadsheet daily that runs 10.3889″ (six columns) by 21.5″ in size. It runs on a non-modular six-column grid setup, though the paper takes many design leaps that break out of the standard box packaging.
The front page of the Pilot utilizes graphics, large, clean sans serif type, and hints of color to draw the reader into the paper. The front page tends to be more creative, more thought out in terms of design and unique to the rest of the paper. The hierarchy tends to start at the middle, where large, catchy, colorful headlines usually reside in their main packaged story of the day. The top of the page usually hosts teasers or jumped articles, sometimes with an accompanying graphic or illustration. There are more teasers and briefs below the fold.
One unique feature about the Pilot is the nameplate isn’t stationary. Though it’s always above the fold, it tends to move around the center of the page, get placed in pictures, switch colors and is overall another accessory in the design of the front page.
The resulting tone of the paper is more liberal, design-centric and more feature-oriented than its competitors. By taking design risks and incorporating more news-magazine design style, the Pilot is seen as one of the more progressively designed papers, but loses some of its seriousness in tone.
The encompassing message is that the Pilot allocates a good amount of resources to design; a notion that doesn’t exist in many daily newsrooms today. Just by glancing at the front page of the paper, a reader can interpret that it puts a huge emphasis on visual packaging of important stories and that A1 serves as the paper’s emblem.
Photos and visuals are a huge part of what make the design possible. The Pilot regularly runs large front-cover, above the fold images. Sometimes the nameplate is also incorporated in with the images. They also regularly utilize colorful front page graphics, illustrations and graphs to accompany big headlines and mainbar stories. This gives the paper a clean design and multimedia interpretation of the story.
As far as consistency is concerned, the paper is consistently inconsistent. It continually pushes design rules and boundaries on the cover, running half-page images, full-page story packages and stretching the limits of the grid system. This gives each story its own weight and importance, but readers must always expect the unexpected when it comes to the paper’s design.