In case you missed it, the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday. Surely no one in Louisiana was unaware of this feat, especially anyone who picked up the venerable Times-Picayune on Monday. “AMEN!” blared the front-page, 5-inch-tall headline. It’s the kind of emphasis that doesn’t come across as well on a newspaper’s website.
There’s just something about the black text on newsprint, taking up a majority of the top fold, which screams, “This is important!”
Eyeing that headline on Monday morning made me think of how important graphic design is – the choice of font, color and size. When an event has already occurred, designers and editors on newspapers have to come up with a way to lay out a story that will still draw readers in the following day. That’s why when a massive earthquake struck San Francisco on April 18, 1906, The Daily News published the next day with a front-page headline stating, in large type, “Hundreds Dead!” and left the longer word “earthquake” and an explanation for the subhead. The Sept. 12, 2001, New York Times reflected the fear and paranoia of the country with its “U.S. Attacked” headline following the plane crashes the day before into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. You couldn’t pass a television or radio on 9/11 without escaping the news, so the newspapers the following day published short, terse and huge headlines:
- “Outrage” (.pdf; Chicago Sun-Times)
- “Attacked” (.pdf; The Cincinnati Enquirer)
- “Terror” (The Des Moines Register)
- “Massacre” (.pdf; The Palm Beach Post)
- “Nightmare” (.pdf; San Francisco Chronicle)
- “Bastards!” (The Examiner)
Those one-word headlines state what readers likely already felt, yet the size of the letters packed an emotional wallop. The next time you sit down to design marketing materials for your business, think about what you want to say. Can you be more concise and take out some words? Consider what it takes to get your point across and who your audience is. Whether you’re creating a banner or a sticker, your audience will be viewing these from different vantage points – keep that in mind when trying to pack a lot of information into the space.