Field Notes: Conclusion

Checking out the Los Angeles Times for its content and design elements has been a positive experience this semester. When I signed up for a newspaper to follow, I didn’t recognize many titles and certainly couldn’t envision many nameplates, but I’m really glad I spent time getting to know the LA Times. As someone going into editorial design for magazines, I really appreciated studying the simple design strategies of this paper. With more and more technology and design inspiration online and in print every day (much of it being tech-oriented, bold and innovative), it was very good for me to be reminded of how effective simplicity still is and always will be. To me, the Los Angeles Times design strategy is classic “like a navy blue blazer” (as the saying goes): it never goes out of style.

It’s not overly simple. It’s not boring. It’s attractive for its intuitive qualities. The nameplate can’t be missed and neither can important headlines. It works well on its modular template and keeps things interesting by using the template differently from day to day and sometimes page to page. Every story has a clear space of its own, whether that space is a clear square or rectangle; it doesn’t ever feel suffocating or too tight. This paper embodies a great amount of advertisements and for the most part, the design team does a great job of placing the ads in a non-distracting way. On many pages (particularly in The World section) ads take up more than 50 percent of the page but the team manages to do it very well. The ads create some geometric shape, like a rectangle, so your eye sees it as a shape and not as many random boxes scattered throughout content.

I feel the paper’s greatest strength is its photography. The photographs throughout this publication are consistently compelling. More than that, they’re beautiful, even when depicting tragedy. The photographers catch angles and moments that consistently move the reader. Whether the photos are portraits or feature shots, there’s always a well-captured human-interest quality in all of them. There’s a great variety of motion blur and depth of field shots, which make anything appear more interesting, as well as environmental portraits. The sports front is another consistent strength I’ve noticed every field note assignment. The page is broken down in a different way from every other front. The headlines have a lot of personality, the dominant photo is three times the size of other photos on the page (and is often just as interesting as the headline), and there fewer stories appearing, allowing the reader to see all headlines rather quickly.

I also like the predominantly black and white color scheme going on for headlines and text. Though I appreciate innovation and creativity just as much as the next person, I’ve definitely categorized newspaper design to be exactly what the Los Angeles Times does—simple, consistent and traditional. I like it this way. I’m interested in my newspaper being extremely reliable and predictable, both visually and content-wise. I love looking at newspapers that have innovative design but if I were looking to read through a newspaper to catch up on the news and choosing between the Los Angeles Times and a beautifully designed out-of-the box newspaper front, I’d pick up the Los Angeles Times. It’s what I grew up seeing on my kitchen table, that mostly-black-and-white newspaper that didn’t try anything crazy to attract its readers. It’s my “normal,” and I like that it’s predictable. I like predictable design when it comes to hard news but with magazine design, it’s a whole different story.

I really don’t have much of a critique for the publication’s design; I really like this approach. One thing I’ll say is that because of their amazing photography, I’d like to see more full-bleeding photos on A1. One dominant photo could accompany the main front story more often, as long as the photo deserved. Overall, the Los Angeles Times brought me back to my roots, I could say. It’s beautifully laid out. Its design talks to its readers. It doesn’t yell at them; it talks to them, and I like that.
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