How we redesigned our student newspaper in a week

The Asbury Collegian, redesigned: Sept. 2, 2011

There are many good reasons to redesign your campus newspaper (here are a few I discussed earlier). And I was fully convinced at the end of this past semester we needed to redesign our newspaper at Asbury. The difficulty was figuring out how to go about it. Here’s what we ended up doing; and I hope it may help you if this is something you’re thinking about.

 1. We determined the extent of the redesign

I did research online, I looked over newspapers students had redesigned and I stalked tabloid design on Newseum. But even with this research and the various conferences I’ve attended on newspaper design, there isn’t much out there explaining how to go about completely redesigning a newspaper. All we could do is dive in – and that’s what we did. Last semester came to an end and I met with the Executive Editor to determine how far we could go with the redesign. We set our goal: a complete revamp, including a new personality, page size, structure and content. We had high hopes, but little idea of how difficult it would be to actually accomplish the task.

 2. We put together a team of talented individuals who were dedicated to the project

The team consisted of Jane, the Graphics Editor; Erika, the Layout Editor; Anna, the Executive Editor; and me, the Managing Editor. We would have never finished if it wasn’t for the four of us dedicated to completing this redesign no matter how long it took to complete. And it took a long time, believe me. For some reason I had this idea we could begin and finish the redesign remotely during the summer months. I laugh now when I consider how impossible that would have been. To do something this complex we had to be together. After two months of pathetically trying to get something working remotely, we made the decision to return early to Asbury.

 3. We talked – a lot

Granted, the redesign team did comprise entirely of women, but there’s a lot of good that came out of our discussion. The four of us arrived on campus a week before the beginning of class and met in the Collegian office Monday afternoon. We knew we wanted to take the paper from broadsheet to tabloid and from an undefined personality to a very specific personality. Our Graphics Editor did good deal of research over the summer so we mostly spent our time narrowing down our new personality. I love the description we settled on: Dove men’s shampoo. Seriously! It defines our style so well, and it gives us a good chuckle.

4. We spent hours creating a mock-up Collegian

It took the Graphics Editor and Layout Editor many, many hours to create a mock-up of the newspaper in the new tabloid page size. Erika tackled the layout, and since broadsheet layout and tabloid layout is quite different, it took a little getting used to. She worked on incorporating more info boxes, graphics and pictures into the pages. We also played around with layouts you would typically find in a magazine and rarely in a newspaper. It was SO MUCH FUN!!! Jane dedicated her time to figuring out several important details, which I’ll discuss in the list of newspaper elements below.


Jane worked first on the new nameplate. We wanted the nameplate to look more like a logo than our last nameplate and to be flexible so it could go at the top, bottom, right or left. I think Jane accomplished this very well. What do you think?

The official Asbury Collegian logo designed by Jane Brannen.


Since our first edition this past Friday, we’ve decided to modify the folio further but I still like it. We just need to change the location of the page number so it’s easier to decipher which page you’re looking at. Thank you, Zach, for pointing this out.

 Type Faces

Honestly, we didn’t spend as much time discussing the typefaces since Jane had already completed most of her research over the summer. Headlines and the folio are Steelfish; the body is Arno Pro; and the subheads are Museo. We may introduce more weights as the semester progresses. For now, we’re still testing out these fonts and we’ll see if we need more flexibility.


Previously we ran cutlines directly below the pictures in left alignment. But I’m a big fan of a white box at the lower right corner, which is where we’ve decided to place our cutlines. They are in Helvetica Neue in right alignment.

 Pull Quotes

I feel like pull quotes can easily ruin a layout, but I’m fairly certain our pull quotes don’t fit in that category. They’re fairly simple. The quote is right aligned with white space above, which the eye naturally creates into a box.

Page 4 of the redesigned Asbury Collegian

5. We communicated the new personality to the newspaper staff

After four days of nonstop design work, we took a break for staff training. The training lasted two days and we dedicated two sessions on Saturday to explaining the new design. Not much, but it helped. And it was so encouraging to see the staff embrace the new personality! We also had the opportunity to learn from Buck Ryan, the creator of the Maestro Concept. I can’t go into all the specifics right now, but there’s a lot we learned from his session and a lot we will continue to develop throughout this year.

 6. We did it

Production night came much faster than expected. I encouraged the section editors to arrive early and place the content on the page. When the content was laid out, Erika and I would go through and design the pages while Anna and Courtney edited – at least, that was the plan. It worked for the most part, but we came across many unexpected problems. Let’s just say this past production night was the longest ever! Erika, Anna and I didn’t leave the office until 4:30 a.m. It’s a memory to never forget and, hopefully, never repeat.

If you want to redesign your student newspaper, do it! Seriously. None of us regret all the work put into this project. We’ve had so many students mention how much they like the new paper. Thank you to the amazing Collegian staff who put all this work into the first edition and for the work you will put in for the rest of the year! =) It’s something to be proud of.

(View the entire redesigned issue)


A few good reasons to redesign your college or university newspaper

Why not? That’s the real question. While professionals in the newspaper business have written about the advantages of redesigning traditional newspapers, there are some differences between a college newspaper and a general newspaper redesign. First, the main reason behind a redesign of, say, the Charlotte Observer would be to drive more sales. Make the paper look fresh and maybe more people will be tempted to pick it up. However, college newspapers are not sold; we give them away. So what is our motivation to slave away on InDesign and Photoshop during the summer?

It’s a good question and one you might consider answering before committing yourself wholeheartedly to this monstrous (or small) redesign. But here are some reasons for thought that sum up why I am pursuing a redesign:

  1. There’s nothing quite like seeing good work published, especially when you created it. At first I only knew the extreme excitement of getting an article published, now I get to enjoy working with others and becoming way overexcited when our work gets published.
  2. Perhaps this should be first, but I love seeing people pick up the newspaper and actually find it interesting. I think, with this redesign, our newspaper will become more focused toward our age group and more engaging.
  3. I want my college newspaper to be on the cutting edge of technology and design trends. Let’s show off our awesome talent in a bold way and not hide behind a shabby design outdated 20 years ago. Other newspapers are limited by their audience, advertisements and editors. We are only limited by our imaginations…and a few common sense guidelines.

No matter how your college or university newspaper is set up, don’t settle for average. Go for the best newspaper this country has ever seen. Take your newspaper to a whole new level this year and, whatever you do, make sure you bring your readers with you. Bring it to a level above their expectations so they will be excited each week (or day) to pick up your publication.

Why your college newspaper should be redesigned

Personal Update

I know, I know. It has been almost a month since I last updated this blog. But, believe me, I have a very good reason for being tardy. Not long after my last post, I applied for a web copywriting internship at a marketing company near my hometown. And guess what! That’s what I have been up to for the past few weeks. I couldn’t be happier, too. This internship has been an incredible opportunity to learn more about corporate writing and develop my writing skills through constant practice.

Because I end up spending almost eight hours a day writing, I’ve found it very difficult to come home and find more time to write. It has also been difficult to find time to work on the Collegian redesign, but that’s also been combined with technical difficulties. So here I am, enjoying the summer by doing what I have come to truly enjoy, writing. Don’t think the redesign won’t happen, because it will. We may just have to be a little creative in accomplishing it.

Why your college or university newspaper should be redesigned

And I would encourage you to consider redesigning your newspaper too. Perhaps you’ve noticed, but the world changes very quickly; design does too. There will always be new trends, new styles and new perspectives. In everything else in life beside newspapers, dictionaries and obituaries, it seems the design is updated regularly. Even cookbooks and the Wal-Mart brand go through redesigns.

Resist change, get left behind

For some reason, journalists tend to resist change when it comes to their occupation; but I think we’ve seen enough in the past nine years to know that unless you are willing to be flexible, you will get left behind. That doesn’t mean I advocate taking on a new set of values; on the contrary, hold tight to the truth and to your determination to serve the people, but consider being flexible in your presentation. So many newspapers are still so very far behind when it comes to design and technology. As a result, the entire field of journalism has suffered.

Newspaper design says a lot about your newspaper’s identity

If you believe that actions speak louder than words, then consider this: the way you present the news may speak louder about your newspaper than the very articles you write. Your newspaper front page design does matter. And so do the inside pages and every last detail. The way you present your content also says a lot about your newspaper’s identity. And maybe it’s time you created a new identity for your newspaper that matches your audience. Redesigning your newspaper can help you accomplish this.

If you’re a journalist and you still disagree, consider this:

If you’re a college student studying traditional journalism, research graphic design and learn more about page layouts. Believe it or not, this will help you develop better content. When you have a better idea of how your content can be presented, your mind will be broadened to greater possibilities. Give it a shot. You might actually find you enjoy page layout.

If you’re a graphic designer, you already agree…BUT!

If you’re a graphic designer, try to understand journalists and the world they come from. Write a story or two so you can see what it takes to put together the content you so often wish you had. When designing a page, it’s easy to see the content and visual opportunities a journalist missed. With writing experience, though, you will be better able to offer advice to journalists when they are working on a story, and they might even listen.

Just do it

And now that I’ve ranted to you about redesigning your college newspaper, it’s time I check out for the night and brainstorm some more ideas for my student newspaper.

Live long and prosper!