Rethinking your magazine, newspaper, website or other publication? Start here.

Magazine and newspaper redesign resources. Start here.
By Ron Reason

Welcome to Design With Reason, the blog of Ron Reason Consulting. I’m passionate about excellence in storytelling, editorial design, branding and strategy, and have collaborated worldwide for more than 25 years with news publishers, as well as corporate, academic and nonprofit news providers. (Bio. LinkedIn. Client list.) Read the full post »

Free papers, is it time for a redesign? Here are 7 factors to consider

By Ron Reason

Adapted from materials prepared for and distributed by IFPA, Spring 2018.

In advance of speaking later this year at the IFPA / Independent Free Papers of America conference in Philadelphia, I’m hearing good feedback that readership and advertiser interest are holding steady for free papers, or at least are not as in peril as they are for many paid-circulation publishers. Some free or TMC papers are even looking at redesign as a way to keep interest high among readers and advertisers in their markets.

But let’s face it – redesign is extra work, and, if you don’t have the manpower or brainpower on staff, extra cost. Unless there are some mitigating factors, it’s tempting to just let the look and feel of your newspaper exist “as is” a little while longer. What are some of those factors that may prompt rethinking your design, your content, your newsgathering or organization, whether the work is done internally or with outside help? Read the full post »

New offering for alumni and academic magazines: content/design audits

By Ron Reason

Dear editors of alumni and other academic publications:

Are you making the most of your storytelling tools to reach the audiences most important to your school’s mission? Beyond alumni in general, is your content seriously reaching out to those who are also donors (or should be), those who help recruit potential applicants, and others who are most critical to keeping your mission going? Do your peers at other schools look to your publication as a standard bearer in your field?

Each year around this time I try to do something to give back to the publishing industry. Now through Jan. 7, 2018, I’m offering free detailed critiques to the first 10 alumni or other college publications that respond. (More below on how to reach me and what else I need.) Here’s what I’ll be looking for: Read the full post »

A passage to India, where magazines and newspapers thrive

Top editors and staff from the Mathrubhumi Group of newspapers and magazines discuss progressive publishing techniques with great enthusiasm, during our training workshops in July 2017 in Kerala. [Photo by Ron Reason]

[August 2017] While newsroom training is mostly a thing of the past in the U.S., it remains alive in India, where I’ve just returned from two weeks conducting workshops in visual storytelling, UX design, and innovation in publishing news across print, digital and social media. Some observations:

Print thrives – for now

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Redesign amplifies NCAA magazine’s focus on diversity, equality

[Related posts: How new formats and philosophies for the Cincinnati Enquirer frame its powerful investigation of the region’s heroin epidemic; The Standard of Nairobi, Kenya, shines a spotlight on government corruption, public safety, poverty and famine.] 

By Ron Reason

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Alternative story forms: Just say no to lifeless, gray pages

Magazine publishers who contact me about redesign are interested in making pages inviting to readers in new ways. In each case, I identify areas in their existing design that could easily be reformatted to make the pages more inviting, the publication flow more easily, and production – including the writing and editing process –  simpler and more streamlined.

Champion, the magazine of the NCAA, does terrific work with alternative story forms such as these. (I advised Champion on strategy and process for its reinvention; you can read more about that process, and see other great layouts, here. The following are live pages produced by Creative Director Arnel Reynon.)

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For Athletic Business magazine, an architectural approach to redesign

Athletic Business magazine redesign

By Ron Reason

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The art of the critique, Part 2: Making “post-mortems” work

The pages of The Villages Daily Sun are attention-grabbing, and the subject of lots of internal critique, before and after publication.

Feedback after publication has its rewards, if done right

(Second of two parts. For the first part, focusing on “pre-mortem” critiques, visit this link.)

It’s been a while since I’ve helped manage a daily newsroom, so, for my two-part series on what works and what doesn’t in newsroom critiques, I thought I’d reach out to Bonita Burton, Executive Editor of The Villages Daily Sun in Florida, for a view from the front lines. The Sun is a 44,000-circulation newspaper, robust and yes, growing (thanks, retirees!), and in recent years Bonita has carved out an expanded role for visual journalism in the newsroom. The payoff? The paper was named one of 12 finalists earlier this year for World’s Best-Designed Newspaper, in the annual competition of the Society for News Design. Here Bonita shares thoughts on my preference for “pre-mortem” critique, and offers lots of specifics about how “post-mortem” works in her newsroom, too. – Ron Reason

By Bonita Burton 

I prefer “pre-mortems” as well. I hate the morning-after “critique,” when it’s too late to make improvements, and the final gatekeepers are typically not even in the office yet to explain their decision-making. Here’s what we do instead – it doesn’t always lead to brilliance, but the hope is it does elevate the report AND morale. Read the full post »

The art of the critique, Part 1: The value of “pre-mortem” feedback

3 newsroom factors must change to allow feedback before, not after, publication

(First of two parts. For the second part, focusing on quality feedback after publication, I spoke with Bonita Burton about what works at the SND-award winning Villages Daily Sun. Link here for that blog post, with lots of tips for post-publication feedback.)

Read the full post »

Bringing change into focus: ‘Photo-activist’ sets sights on Kenya Parliament

Boniface Mwangi takes his message to the streets in this photo by our mutual friend, Noor Khamis [via Reuters].

Once a newspaper photojournalist and now a candidate for Minister of Kenya’s Parliament, Boniface Mwangi takes his message to the streets, in this photo by our mutual friend, Noor Khamis [via Reuters].

He once delivered live pigs to politicians to protest their outrageous pay. This week, the President conceded: salaries must be slashed. Meet Boniface Mwangi, the former Standard photojournalist making change happen. 

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NYTimes 2020 report: What it means for visual journalism, there and elsewhere

By Ron Reason

The New York Times today released its 2020 report, identifying various targets for newsroom innovation and improvement, and there’s lots of good news for visual and multimedia journalists, at the Times and elsewhere. Read the full post »