Design tips

Things designers don't want to hear


AS OF JUNE 1, I've spent 30 years as a newspaper consultant. That's a long time. I'll be retiring at the end of this year ... perhaps sooner.

It's time for me to turn my attention more toward Julia and my family ... and the pursuits that bring me joy. 

Over the next few months, I'm offering some of my best columns from the past few years. 

This one focuses on things designers hear that drive them nuts.

IT HAPPENS all the time at newspapers: Things we don't want to hear:

"We just lost the Hamilton account."

"Now Adobe wants us to pay a monthly subscription price for the software."

"Bob just fell off a step on the press and broke his ankle. We're gonna hafta report it."

"Geez ... another computer meltdown?"

It's just what happens.

Another thing that happens – in newsrooms large and small and all across the globe – is poor design thinking on the part of those who don't understand design.

File the following under TDDWH: Things Designers Don't Want to Hear. And if you've said some of these things yourself, maybe you should wash your mouth out with soap. OK ... virtual soap.

Here are Things Designers Don't Want to Hear:

"What can we do to jazz it up?"

"What do you mean we need a photo? Why would we need a photo?"

"What do you mean we need a chart? Who's got the time to create a chart? It's just a budget story."

"What do you mean we need a map? It's just a detour."

"Of course we've been working on this story for three months! But why would you need to know that? You've got all night to scramble some art together."

"I am so tired of hearing that you need a faster computer. None of the writers need a faster computer ... why should you?"

"How about using magenta on the headline on that breast cancer story?"

"We're in the business of writing."

"Of course, you can design it however you want ... but just remember you can't trim the story."

"What do you mean we need a visual to go with the jump? The jump is only 20 inches."

"Do you really mean you would cut that story to get in a pull quote?"

"I know readers don't like long stories, but this one is only 32 inches and it's a great read."

"Why do you want our reporters to think about photos? They're not photographers. They're writers."

"We have color on that page ... can we run the headline in color?"

"It's a story about the environment. Can we run a green color block behind it?"

Had enough? There are more ... lots more. But you get the idea. If you've ever said anything like this – or even thought it – perhaps you should search for that virtual bar of soap.

ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the director of Henninger Consulting. Reach him at: or (803) 325-5252.

ed-henninger, design
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