Make your own newspaper

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 12:00am

Design isn't limited to the world of fashion. The 'look' of a newspaper is just as important as the stories and photos in it. Not only does a paper need to be eye-catching, it has to be easy to read. Everything should have its proper place so that readers know where to look for the stories that interest them. For example, the lead (or main) news story always appears on the front page, features and editorials are in the middle of the paper, sports and classifieds are found at the back, and so on.

Readers are busy people, so the layout of each page should help them scan quickly for information. Each story should have a headline and a byline (the reporter's name); and every photo needs a caption to identify the people, places or events in it. For easy reference, all pages should also include the paper's masthead (name and logo), the date and page numbers.

As the reader turns the pages, the photos should draw his or her attention to the stories, while the placement of stories on the page indicates their relative importance. Since most people read a paper from left to right, top to bottom, the most important stories should have bigger headlines and appear on the top half of the page. The headline of the lead story (called the banner headline) should be splashed across the front page in big, bold letters so the reader can't miss it.

Designing a page is easy once you get the hang of it - the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Here are some guidelines to get you started:

1. First rank your stories so that you can place them in descending order on the page according to their importance. This will help the reader decide what to read first.

2. To design a page, start with the artwork. Position the photographs and graphics, and then build the rest of the page around them.

3. Have one dominant element per page (usually a photo with a story) to make sure readers will stop and look at the page.

4. If you only have one photo for a story, make sure that it's big because photos are the first thing that readers notice.

6. Use different type-sizes to signal the importance of stories to the reader. For example, you might use 72-point for the headline on the front page, 48-point for the main headlines on inside pages and 36-point for all others.

7. Follow the paper's style sheet, which should specify the typefaces to be used with variations such as font, size, bold, regular and italic. Try to minimise the number of typefaces so that your paper doesn't end up looking too 'busy'.

Following the rules will guide you through the process of design and layout, but you still need to have an eye for what looks good. Study the design of as many newspapers as you can and jot down what you like and don't like about each one. Once you start putting the pages of your newspaper together, never lose sight of your goal: to design a page that people want to read!