Redesign one way to leave mark on media

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Guided questions focus on orderly process

(Editor’s note: A few years ago they were running college newsrooms. As they begin their careers, college media alums now in the profession reflect on their collegiate experiences in this periodic series.)

By Shasta Langenbacher
Special to College Media Review

Every group of students wants to put its own mark on the campus paper. For my tenure as a student managing editor, our team’s mark was updating the paper completely.

Illustration: Creative Commons, Joan M. Has
Illustration: Creative Commons, Joan M. Has

With recent technological advances, students have turned to making a splash on Twitter or getting a story to go viral. But without a graphically appealing paper, it’s even less likely anyone will pick up a paper and stay in tune if it’s nothing but a gray mass splattered on a broadsheet, disconnected from any references to the digital world. Keeping your printed copy visually up to date is vital for securing advertising, as it lets companies know you’re serious about your commitment to all forms of journalism, not just reacting to the next trend in your content and design.

With Internet encroaching on printed pieces of newspaper journalism, it’s more important than ever to incorporate interesting tidbits to accompany a story, whether it’s a teaser to a YouTube page, or to add a tagline to advertise a reporter’s Twitter feed to answer questions on a story. Readers are multi-platform today, and if a student reporter does not learn to design for this now, they will be doomed in the industry.

A newspaper redesign for The Clarion Call at Clarion University in Pa. took place in less technological times. My version of the redesign occurred in 2008, and our staff was focused on keeping a broadsheet while maintaining an updated graphic look. Being basically a gray lady in 10 pages, it was beyond time for an update. We were also just launching the paper’s first website independent of the branding and ownership of the university. We wanted both forms of media to carry the same look, or brand, while we aimed to get readers familiar with our new online presence.

As managing editor, I took the lead to make sure the project wasn’t forgotten about amidst the usual demands of the weekly fall semester’s editions. I worked heavily with our graphics editor to secure proper fonts and elements, with the managing editor to get our folios and section heads to convey the right message, with our online editor who was creating a custom WordPress layout and collaborated with the art department on campus to hold a newspaper mast redesign competition. Our staff members would bring in snippets of interesting newspaper designs they found while reading their favorite publications. Outside of campus, I connected with our printer to make sure everything would transfer over correctly the first time.

Our redesign was ready in a few months, but it wasn’t without a lot of discussion and networking done on campus.  Being a person who organizes with lists and flow charts, I had lists to make sure every visual element was addressed and with whom I communicated with along the way. These documents were in the newspaper office so all section editors knew where we were in the process and who to talk to if they had questions or an idea to share. Updates were shared during weekly editorial staff meetings so I was held accountable and stayed on track.

To promote the redesign, the mast contest got art students talking about the paper, and we shared our new logo with a T-shirt give away with the phrase “I <3 my Call girls” on the back, as ¾ of our staff was female. An obligatory editorial was written to explain the changes to our readers once the new design was unveiled in the spring semester.

A redesign can be a tremendous pain and may seem like it’s not worth the effort, but if done in an organized fashion, it can be done quickly and done well before everyone graduates.

Redesign questions to focus on…

What is the primary goal of this redesign?
  • Which design elements are you striving to edit and how will they all work together?
  • If redesigning your mast, how will this be carried through as a brand for your paper?
  • Who is your lead redesigner, and what parties will be involved through the process?
  • How can you network on your campus to get your new design noticed?
  • Which elements can you use in print to carry over your paper’s online presence, and vice versa?

Shasta Langenbacher
Shasta Langenbacher

Shasta Kurtz Langenbacher was a staff member of The Clarion Call, the campus newspaper of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She graduated in 2009. She is currently copy editor and blogger for the Altoona Mirror.


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