When it comes to print design, take risks and go beyond the ordinary

Jason Chiu, the design editor for The Globe and Mail, says that taking risks in layout is a great way to grab readers’ attention and keep it.

“We’re still in the era of news, we’re still in the era of print, but now we’re bombarded with information,” Chiu said during his presentation ‘Daring Print Design’ at the INK+BEYOND conference in Toronto on April 26. “We have to do a lot more work to earn people’s attention.”

While Chiu mentioned many elements of layout design—colour, balance, alignment, typesetting, photo, story-telling and concept—another important aspect is going beyond the ordinary without overdoing it.

“Showing a certain amount of restraint is a sign of maturity,” Chiu said. “If you want to make a statement, use a little less.”

Complete originality isn’t necessary; Chiu said designers shouldn’t be afraid of repurposing layouts from other publications. “Some people say ‘That’s stealing,’ but I like to say it’s borrowing, modifying and adapting.” Designers can learn from the mistakes of those who came before them, Chiu explained. “There’s no reason why you need to go through their pain again.”

Risks are a necessary part of daring print design, Chiu said. As an example of a successful risqué cover, Chiu showed the audience an award-winning Economist cover which featured two camels in a compromising position under the headline ‘The trouble with mergers’. “The clever thing about this cover is that they’re not saying anything explicitly; you can see what you want to see.”

“To avoid clichés, sometimes using a graphic that plays on a metaphor or an analogy is better than a picture,” said Chiu. “Staying away from the obvious is always a good idea.”

Chiu suggested that another way to attract readers is to link the design elements between different editions, making these issues collector’s items. “Daring design will keep people coming back to your publication.”