Eleven Steps to a Better-Designed Newsweekly

García Media’s Kelly Frankeny wants art directors to stop babysitting their designers and designers to start soliciting ideas from outside their art departments. She also wants editors to brainstorm design ideas with both in-house and freelance photographers and to have all staff members regularly offer examples, culled from their own paper, of pages they like or dislike.

And that merely accounts for one arm (“Plan & Collaborate”) of her 11-pronged attack against designing the tabloid-style papers of today like the broadsheet papers of 20 years ago. Frankeny encourages an approach that leaves nothing out, not even stupid ideas: “A lot of times it’s the stupid ideas that give someone an appropriate idea.”

In her seminar at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in San Antonio, “Managing Creative Staffs with Limited Resources,” she shared an arsenal of strategies for dealing with the design crises that papers regularly face, such as how to create a dynamic cover with only a mug (prong number 6: “Mugs Are Art, Too”), how to make do at deadline with a mediocre photo (who knew cropping could “emphasize personality”?), and how to keep a reader’s attention on a text-only page.

Frankeny illustrated her points with an array of examples from papers all over the country, as well as a few from international sources. Using a cover from Seattle’s The Stranger, she illustrated two more of her tenets: how to “Keep Visual Concepts Simple” and how to “Have a Sense of Humor.” “Regrets” read the text, paired with a small illustration of a sad, cigar-smoking man. Inside, the issue included an apology for running the wrong page in the previous issue and went on to detail many of life’s other regretful experiences.

Though Frankeny had to field some skeptical questions from the audience — “These are all cool ideas, really swell,” said one man, “but we don’t always have full pages to work with” — her advice resonated with others, including Buzz’s editor-in-chief Marissa Monson who, in true collaborative spirit, said, “I definitely wrote down a lot of stuff that could be brainstormed with our staff.”

Nora Ankrum is a proofreader at The Austin Chronicle in Texas, where she sometimes writes on topics such as fifth-grade slumber parties, “Dirty Dancing” and renegade feminist synchronized swimmers. In her spare time she copyedits the zine Two Note Solo. This article was originally published in the June 26 issue of the San AANtonio Convention Daily.