You’ll never hear me say…

Ed Henninger
By Ed Henninger, Newspaper Design Consultant

Thirty years is a long time for a career as a consultant. It’s time for me to shift my attention to Julia, family, grandkids and guitar. I’m not the “retiring type,” but I will become so at the end of this year.

For the past few months, I’ve reprised some of my best columns from the past years. 

This one focuses on things a good designer should never say.

Throughout my career as a  consultant, I’ve heard managers, editors—yes, even designers—say things that disappoint me.

I made up my mind many years ago to avoid saying those things and I hope that you’ll put them on your list of things you’ll never say.

Here they are:

“Let’s play with the design.” Nope. Design isn’t play. It’s hard work. If you’re not ready to do that hard work, then you’re not ready to be a designer.

“We have color on every page now. Let’s use as much color as we can.” No, let’s not. Many things are still said better in black and white.

“We’re in the business of writing.” No we’re not. We are in the business of bringing meaning to readers’ lives.

“There are no rules.” Oh, yes there are. Lots of them. And you’d better know what they are before you can even begin to think you’re ready to break them.

“Times is a good typeface for text.” No. It’s not.

“It’s OK to write long stories. Readers will take the time to read them.” No. They. Won’t. More now than ever, readers want their information in smaller pieces. They will take the time for a longer story—if you take the time to break it into shorter chunks.

“It’s OK to make the text just a bit smaller on this story. It’s a good piece and we have to fit it in.” Never. Edit…edit…edit. The story has not been written that can’t be cut.

“Let’s jazz it up.” Design is not about “jazz.” It’s about organizing content and giving that content quality display.

“Readers want more stories, not more photos.” Oh, yeah? Then why is it that research shows time and again that the first thing readers look at on a page is the photo (or other visual)? 

“Body text should be set justified.” Sez who? More and more newspapers (and other publications) use flush left text. Most readers don’t notice—and those who do, don’t care.

“It’s OK to miss deadline.” No. It’s not. Ever.

ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the Director of Henninger Consulting. E-mail: Phone: 803-325-5252.

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