By Jennifer Farley

Offline Design Inspiration, Part 2: Newspapers

By Jennifer Farley

Last month, I wrote a post about how we could use magazine covers for colour inspiration. Continuing on this theme, I’m looking again at printed material for ideas and inspiration. This time the source for design ideas is the Newspaper.

The first “newspapers” were handwritten newsletters circulated to merchants. Printed newspapers appeared in Germany around the late 1400’s, while the first American printed newspaper called “Publick Occurrences” appeared in Boston in 1690. These papers were heavily type based, as you can imagine.

Today’s newspapers, however are literally a feast for the eyes, if you choose to look at them that way. Just think about all of the design elements that are involved

• Typography
• Photography
• Illustration
• Info Graphics
• Banners
• Logos
• Branding
• Layout Grids

Don’t forget at the weekend, all of the additional sections, glossy mags and pull-outs that many newspapers supply, loads more eye candy and ideas.

Let’s take a look at a few examples. You’ll see that all of the newspapers use a grid to layout the stories and images. Many web designers are now using grids or frameworks to layout their sites.

1. The Australian Financial Times is pretty sedate in terms of colour and font choice. They have a very specific audience and the design reflects this. Notice the repetition of the colour blue. It’s in the newspaper title, the index, the large ad at the bottom of the page and even the main image.


2. The Irish Independent is a little more colourful, but again there is repetition of the colours blue and orange throughout the page in both the text and the images. (On a slightly unrelated note, the main image on this page shows some Irish rugby fans. I’m not boasting, but Irish rugby teams have been doing very well this year!)


3. The New York Times uses elegant typography in headings, sub-headings and pull-quotes.


4. The Journal, UK has a fairly standard tabloid layout, with a large image and extra large headline. The reversed out type reflects the black and white of the football player’s uniform. This particular football team are known for their black and white uniform.


5. The Daily Al Bayan, published in Dubai, United Arab Emirates has a colourful main image, three sections that are clearly demarcated using colour and a logo on the right. This looks just like a blog. I can’t speak Arabic, but I can clearly see the most important information is on the right hand side because the type is larger than on the left hand side.


So even if the news itself is all doom and gloom, ignore the small print, step back a bit and look at the design.

Do you find yourself looking at more than just the stories in a newspaper? Has newspaper layout influenced your designs or ideas?

Related Reading:

  • Cormac Moylan

    Excellent post, Jennifer. Keep ’em coming!

  • Lacy Lee

    excellent article!
    Very good survey.
    After reading this , remind me of my

  • Newspapers have undergone tremendous revisions in the last few years, trying (and largely failing) to keep up with the changes driven by those darn Internets.

    London’s Financial Times underwent a major revision less than a year ago, going with a largely mauve-salmon (?) driven color scheme. It actually looks good, for the most part.

    The newspaper near where I live, the Star News, is thrashing about in what I think is its final stages of existence, unfortunately. It’s revised its appearance to look more like a blog than a newspaper, Web-based or not, and even more so than the Dubai paper you note.

    Seattle’s Post Intelligencer has gone entirely Web — no more print edition. It’s adapted itself well, I think, to existing on the Web.

    And the last one that comes to mind is a Web-based site, Truthout. It really manages to look both elegant and “newsy” and still give a modern feel. I really like this design, sharp edges and all.

    This is a good article, and I appreciate its thrust, but I have to wonder why you stopped with only five examples. You could have done a good bit more, doing a sort into various types of presentations (traditional, bloggish, tabloid, “Drudge” wire reports, etc) and giving examples of each.

  • Hi Blackmax. Thanks a million for the links. In relation to why I didn’t go any further. Well the reality is, it can take quite a while to write these posts even though they are short. Believe me, I looked at much more than the five I’ve shown here. And as you mentioned you could write an article on each type of newspaper.

    Like many of my posts, this is more of a starting point, hopefully to get people thinking about it. And that is why I genuinely appreciate people like yourself adding to the post with the links that you like and expanding on the post.

  • Jennifer, although I am not a designer, I find the topic fascinating. I think newspaper layouts are definitely a starting point for many news sites. I currently run a news site built on a WP magazine theme. I chose it because it was the most flexible for my purposes at the time, but I would definitely like to change it in the future with something more customized. The examples you mentioned could make a great starting point for what I envision, but there are also very interesting for WP themes creators: one theme like this could easily win over the popular and overused “Revolution”

    Of course, online we need less clutter on article pages, and ideally we need one URL and one page for each article, but a homepage with a newspaper layout would certainly increase time on site, and it will engage the users to browse more.

  • Hi Mihaela, thanks. I’m glad you found the post useful.

    Do you think, from an SEO point of view, that the newspaper or magazine style themes are more successful than a regular blog? Do you think the bounce rates would be less on a site with that style of layout?

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