The Mario Blog
Templates versus art direction

Another newspaper has announced that it is outsourcing its design. This time, it is the Virginian-Pilot.


Behold The Virginian-Pilot, perhaps one of the best designed newspapers in the United States, and one of my favorites.  I have showcased pages from the Virginian-Pilot here often.  They manage to surprise visually quite often.  Creativity and good storytelling are the hallmarks of this newspaper.  Its design history is rich with examples, and its designers have collected the well deserved awards and accolades.

That is why I was sad to read this story. 

The Virginian-Pilot will be outsourcing its design, a trend that is becoming too familiar, especially with the big newspaper chains both in the United States and Canada.  While I understand the economics of such decision, and why it makes financial sense to station a group of designers in one location to do the design of dozens of pages daily, I also know that the quality of the design often suffers.


Templates versus art direction

In these design assembly-lines, usually templates rule the day.  Nothing against templates, and, as I explained to my Columbia class this week, as we covered the essentials of design: it is important to create foundations and repetitions that are the basis of templates.  No matter how you look at it, the design of a newspaper or magazine is about 65% formula (those templates come to the rescue!), and about 35% creativity—which comes as the result of art direction.

My experience with design centers that produce pages often in a way that remind me of the famous I Love Lucy episode in which Lucy and Ethel worked at a chocolate factory is that templates become the norm, and art direction takes a back seat.



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Perhaps I am wrong, and The Virginian-Pilot will continue to surprise us from time to time, but once a decision is made to outsource design, often the creative process is outsourced too, with no good results.

Let’s hope for the best.


The front pages that templates CAN”T create


The good news here is that front pages for five editions a week, from Wednesday to Sunday, will be created by Pilot designers. That’s encouraging for those of us who look the Pilot front pages for inspiration.

Of related interest




Mario’s Speaking Engagements



April 18-19, 2018-Newscamp ,Augsburg,  Germany.





May 26, 2018Associacion Riograndense de Imprensa, Univesidad de Santa Cruz (Unisc), Brazil



June 3-6, 2018The Seminar, San Antonio, Texas.



Garcia Media: Over 25 years at your service


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