Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Getting in on the top floor?

I've put a lot of effort into improving my page design skills. I used to do nothing but your standard front page - a normal-looking centerpiece with elements surrounding it - but over the past six months or so, I've tried to improve the look of my centerpieces. A big photo, a headline and a story just weren't cutting it for me.

As you can see, I've tried to play with photos and text a little more. The Super Bowl page was the most ambitious project yet; it took me the better part of a full week to get it all done.

But lately, I've begun to wonder: Does any of it matter?

Maybe it's merely a case of feelings of inadequacy. Take a look at some of the work exhibited over at Sports Designers. You'll see my Big Cactus layout was there, along with stuff from lots of other folks.

I can easily admit that the other work on the page is better (in some cases, considerably better) than mine. Particularly of note is the work done by the folks at the Arizona Republic. Take note of the quote from Luke Knox:

These daily Super Bowl sections are being designed by me, Joey Kirk and Ayrel Clark, with direction from Bill Pliske.

That's three people with help from a fourth. Not only is it 3.5 people, but 3.5 people that are, presumably, talented and trained in the art of graphic design. Otherwise they probably wouldn't be in the position they are.

Me? I've got no formal training, only 10 years of seeing things I liked and seeing things I didn't. And I pushed away a week's worth of work, diminishing any writing assignments or postponing long-term projects, all to do two pages.

Maybe it's more than feelings of inadequacy. Maybe it's a feeling like none of it really does matter.

If you've paid any attention to the media industry, you've seen that newspapers as a whole are in the toilet: predictions of doom (like here), layoffs and cutbacks galore (like here, here and here, just in the past week) and a falling reputation among the beancounters (stock charts for publishing's big boys like Belo, Gannett, McClatchy, N.Y. Times Co., Scripps, Tribune and Washington Post Co.).

And none of these skills that I'm trying to develop is very portable. The design of a static newspaper page doesn't really equate to the design of a dynamic webpage - not to mention learning entirely new programs like Flash and DreamWeaver.

Is it all worth it? I don't know. In my happiest of dreams, I like to think I'm bettering myself as a newspaperman - the ultimate compliment for someone who could do it all.

Maybe in a few years it won't much matter.


P.J. said...

I look at it this way: If you are good at it as well as writing etc., you are harder to be one of those cuts. :)

I've gotten a lot better with layout. I like doing crazy stuff, off-the-wall, lots of cutouts etc. -- which for my paper is only usually for the big local things. But when we have time I'll do one and mess around more. I'm not good at the design part or creating things FOR the spread, but I see it well. I'm still not a huge fan of laying out, but I'm better at it and don't mind as much.

I digress.

If you get on Sports Designer, as far as I'm concerned, you've reached a good spot. Great work (I always liked looking at your weekly football pages, too.)

Brian said...

I love the flexibility of cutouts as well; I just wish they weren't so time-consuming. I know there are quicker ways than how I do it, but I've yet to find one that works consistently as well.

And I must admit, I'm impressed that you've warmed (however lukewarm it may be) to the idea of design.

Mark said...

For what it's worth, I think your layout looked fantastic! Very original and easy to read.

Joey Kirk said...

I think your work stands out and is very well done. And to agree with P.J., just making it up on, is an honor in itself.

I am one of the designers at The Republic you speak of, and we, as a team, started working on prototypes for all of those sections at the end of 2007. So we had some time to plan, gather images, try several (and I mean several) different designs and techniques. And it helped to have our attention completely concentrated on Super Bowl stuff while several interns and our third sports designer took control of the daily sports section.

Don't be so hard on yourself.And keep up the good work.