Pulling off a redesign that a staff can execute smoothly is one thing. Pulling off a redesign with a staff that changes every year is another.
That was the case for the redesign of Le Provocateur, the student-run newspaper at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“We didn’t want to design for just one year,” said Creative Circle Media Solutions’ lead designer Lynn Rognsvoog. “We wanted the design itself to have some legs.”
The team at Creative Circle Media Solutions knew that it needed to build continuity into the redesign, and that meant training.
The overall structure needed to be simple enough that people who didn’t have extensive training in layout, design or the Adobe Creative Suite application InDesign could learn it easily. The training included ways to lay out and design attractive pages, but also write better headlines, drop heads and top graphs, Rognsvoog said. It also included a streamlined stylebook and limited range of style sheets, so that page-building was simplified.
That approach was welcome, said editor-in-chief Kaitlyn Akers, who was on staff last year during the redesign and training. The training let students know that “this monster of a program, InDesign, isn’t as scary as it seems at first glance,” she said.
Many of the page editors had not had formal training in InDesign, noted Creative Circle founder and president Bill Ostendorf. “Hopefully, we saved them a lot of production time,” he said. “As is often the case, we strived to get rid of barriers and help the students focus on more and better content."
While the nuts and bolts of building pages were crucial, it was also important to get the students to think like designers, Rognsvoog said. That means teaching them to see their content from the point of view of the reader, rather than fill pages. “We wanted them to think more about the reader experience,” she said. “My favorite thing to do when I’m looking at a page is thinking of myself as the reader.”
The redesign launched in January 2015, but Rognsvoog returned in September 2015 for a refresher training. “It was nice to be reassured that we were heading in the right direction with positive reinforcement and Lynn’s humor,” said Akers, who is heading up the staff this year.
The refresher training, included individual critiques, Rognsvoog said. She encouraged students to think about packaging with rules and story labels.
Students had decided to use an alternative story form called pro/con, and Rognsvoog worked with them to use every level of display type to hook readers into that story. “I think they can certainly rise to it,” she said. “I could literally see the woman working on this page get it.”
With every redesign, Creative Circle provides a stylebook that averages more than 100 pages, but in the case of Le Provocateur, the streamlined style guide has just 68 pages.
Akers said the staff was grateful for the training. “(Lynn) is genuinely there to help us reach our goals. She was willing to explain things a few times just to make sure we understood what we were doing.”
“(Bill) is a very vibrant character, and he made the training a lot more fun than you would think,” Akers said.