newspaper design
classified design
web design
online design
newspaper redesign
classified redesign



API sponsors first hands-on,
classified design workshop

By Jennifer Streisand, MacDonald Classified Services

Advertising directors and classified advertising managers recently had the opportunity to develop classified redesign ideas during a two-day seminar organized by the American Press Institute (API).

The seminar, entitled “Classified Redesign from Print to the Web,” was held in April at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

“The key was that it was hands-on,” said Alan Jacobson, president of Brass Tacks Design, a newspaper design consulting firm based in Norfolk, Va.. Jacobson led the seminar and provided instruction to the participants, though he noted that the workshop was more focused on active participation by attendees than long lectures and presentations by the instructor.

“I did a very brief introduction, but then we actually got people on computers and had them designing themselves,” he said.

Real results

The goal was to give classified advertising managers and advertising directors the opportunity to accomplish something in terms of trying to change their design, even if it was in a very short period of time, said Tom Linthicum, seminar associate with API.

Everyone attending wrote a statement of his or her goals at the beginning of the workshop.

“I thought that was a great idea on Alan’s part,” Linthicum noted. “He wanted everyone to be very clear on what they wanted to accomplish. Then he went over the goal statements with each person."

Participants had access to state-of-the-art equipment at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“We couldn’t have done this 10 years ago; the technology didn’t exist,” Jacobson said. “Of course, the lab at UNC was great because they had 25 computers in a room, and they were all the same."

Participants used QuarkXPress to accomplish the redesign work.

Some of the classified advertising managers brought a creative person with them to work on the computer, and those that did not were paired with graphic design students from the university’s journalism school.

“I think the students gained a lot from it in a number of ways,” said Jay Anthony, associate professor at the university’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Students learned a lot from Jacobson’s presentation and from working with attendees to help them troubleshoot and develop ideas for their classified sections.

“A number of the students who helped out came to me afterward and said, ‘Wow, most people don’t know a lot about newspaper classified advertising,’ so they were amazed at the complexity of it.”

The participants gave the students rave reviews and enjoyed interacting with them, according to Anthony.

“A lot of the folks that were attending, their background is not in design,” he observed. “They are sales and management types, so the kids were offering them suggestions. (The students) would say, ‘Well, what do you want to try to achieve here? And then the kids would say, maybe you should try this.’”

Anthony saw the experience as beneficial to both sides, and workshop participants concurred.

“I worked with a student there because I didn’t have a graphic designer along and that was really nice,” said Donna Mueller, classified advertising manager at The Journal Times in Racine, Wis.

Different agendas

Mueller used the seminar to work on redesigning her newspaper’s classified headers.

“We talked a lot about redesigning classified headers as far as using graphics and photography and things that would be more attention-getting,” Mueller noted. “Making the headers easy to navigate is also a priority."

A priority for Pat Royal, classified advertising manager at The Miami (Fla.) Herald, was to differentiate the English version of the newspaper from the Spanish version.

“One of the first things Alan said to me was, ‘Why does your Spanish section look just like your English section? I would think that the flavor would be different — that the culture is different, that the message would be different.’”

Upon further review, Royal agreed with that assessment.

“We came away with not one design, but actually two designs — one for the English paper and a totally different design for the Hispanic newspaper,” she said.

Royal said she is concentrating on changing the message to focus more on the name of the newspaper, the phone number and on what page a reader can find the main categories and sections.

“Our existing section actually squeezes as much information as you could possibly get into a half-page,” Royal said. “Alan explained to us that this was just overkill. He pointed out the components that were really important to people and what we should focus on in our message.”

The work Royal did at the seminar will serve as the blueprint for the redesign. The newspaper plans on rolling out Royal’s changes in September.

“We are also adding photos,” she added. “Because we are celebrating our 100th birthday, we are going to have a contest or ask our readers to send in pictures that reflect the last 100 years of Miami’s history and use those as part of our design for the next year.”

Jeffrey Hahne, special sections writer/designer at the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., worked on different headline styles and different ways to present photos.

“I brought some of my pages, and I was redesigning them on the system and getting feedback from Alan while I was doing it,” Hahne said. “He gave me tips on different ways we can take photos for the fronts of our sections and how we can make our copy easier to read. All kinds of things.”

Hahne found the workshop useful for redesigning the online component of the newspaper as well.

“I would recommend it because it gave good insight into the print side, but also online,” he said. “It covered everything as far as online tips, advertorial tips and advertising tips. The workshop was well done as far as all the information that was covered.”

The seminar provided a good framework for redesigning the classified section of the Journal Sentinel in Milwaukee, Wis., said Bonnie Henke, that newspaper’s real estate advertising manager.

Henke plans to implement what she created at the workshop.

“We are going to use it, and we are going to go actually in full force to redesign within the next six months,” she said. “I have presented it to the staff of managers and rolled out what we are planning to do."

The redesign will include a more local look, Henke said.

“We are going to put a Milwaukee feel to it. Right now, it’s pretty generic. We are going to give the readers a reason to look at it every day — change the graphics, be it a picture, perhaps a picture of themselves, something like that.”

While Henke accomplished a lot during the workshop, she felt it could have lasted longer.

“It could have been a three or four-day session,” she said. “We just kind of got into the meat of it."

However, Henke appreciated the “hands-on" approach.

“It was very interactive,” she said. “A lot of things are, but this really was."

Kitty Vance, assistant classified advertising manager at The Washington (D.C) Times said she learned enough at the seminar to move forward with redesigning her newspaper’s entire classified section.

“We’ll take some of the principles I learned down there, and we’ll set up committees here,” she explained. “We’ll involve people in the whole advertising department, and use some of the things I learned and make it us."

A little something extra

At the end of the seminar, participants were able to get samples of all the work that was done.

“An extra bonus that we hadn’t even thought about when we pitched this was that at the end of the conference, we burned a CD of what everybody had done, and we gave everybody a copy of the CD,” Jacobson said, “so it was really practical.”

API plans on holding a similar workshop in the future, according to Linthicum.

It was well worth the time, the money and the effort, Vance reported.

“I am very, very, pleased that I went,” she said. “We all had to give presentations the last day we were there to get the group’s critique. It was just well done.”


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