A Designer’s view on that dominant element

Check out his website and blog at newsdesigns.com

Graphic Designer Matt French

Matt French, a graphic designer at Sun Media, a daily commuter paper based out of Toronto with a circulation of about 870,000, shared his perspective in a recent e-mail on the dominant photo/art on a page.

Sometimes, in order to be fair to all of the stories and their pictures, a page designer will make all of the pictures the same size. Unfortunately, you can’t be fair. There are several very good reasons why a dominant story and photo/graphic is a must on every page. I asked Matt to explain why and I agree with his response completely! Matt has an awesome website on newspaper design, which you can check out here.

Dominate element a must

“It’s the job of a page designer to not only shape what a reader looks at, but how they look at it. Creating a dominant element on a page gives the reader a clear place to start. In the split second that it takes someone to glance at a newspaper page and decide where their attention will go, they will almost always focus on the largest visual image first.”

Grab your reader’s attention..or they will leave

“When there are too many images on the page of a similar size, they compete against one another for attention. Sometimes that can be all it takes to cause a reader’s eyes to wander.

It all happens in a split second, completely subconsciously. The average person’s subconscious operates on a very simple rule: avoid confusion.  If the reader doesn’t know where to look first, that can be all it takes for them to flip to the next page.”

Exceptions, sort of

“There are certain circumstances where using several photos of the same size can work. For example, if you have several images in a sequence (like a series of facial expressions or people in similar poses) then grouping them in a series creates a cohesive element. The trick here is that the images have to come together as one, so they are being presented as a package, and not separate photos.”

When to use picture or graphic

“In the case of having to choose between a photo and an illustration, I would say that you should always go with the art that tells the story best. If the piece is about a person, event or activity, then a photo usually works best. If it’s a complicated issue that is based on data and numbers, then a graphic is often the better way to go.”

Thanks Matt!


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