[These two front pages were among prototypes I created for DNAinfo. The nameplate on the left was chosen.]
Update as of Spring 2015: Since this post was originally published, DNAInfo has expanded its print initiatives to include six more weekly newspapers for Chicago neighborhoods.
[Jan. 26, 2014] “There aren’t too many media companies starting print publications these days but, by the same token, there aren’t too many media companies like DNAinfo.com.”
Such begins the letter from the editors to readers in the debut edition of DNAinfo, a new weekly newspaper I was asked to design for the creators of the hyperlocal news website, DNAinfo.
Initial designs were presented in downtown Chicago in November 2013, including an overall design and branding strategy, content ideas, and recommendations for exploiting social media to help readers produce features (see below). The solutions were adopted in record time – the first edition was mailed to residents of Lincoln Park, one of Chicago’s most affluent neighborhoods, the weekend of Dec. 8 for a “soft launch,” with the formal rollout just four weeks later.
DNAinfo is a multimedia community news venture, launched first in New York City and then Chicago, backed by billionaire Joe Ricketts, who also owns the Chicago Cubs. (Disclosure: I lived almost exactly between Lincoln Park and the Cubs stadium, Wrigley Field, for a long while.) Some news, features and listings are repurposed from the website, joined by exclusives prepared just for print.
The new paper and its approach are certainly unique among the dozens of projects I’ve consulted on through the years. The note from editors gives more background:
“The DNAinfo.com website is updated seven days a week with everything you need to know in Lincoln Park and Chicago. However, we want to make it easy for you to be informed through many mediums, the web, mobile – and now print.
“The weekend edition of DNAinfo will be delivered to every household in the Lincoln Park area by mail each Friday or Saturday. We will reach all 40,000 households between Wellington and North Avenue on a weekly basis, creating a unique, unmatched opportunity for neighborhood merchants aiming to capture the attention of Lincoln Park’s highly engaged and affluent residents.”
I aimed to create design solutions that were unique, colorful, and dynamic, yet easily produced by the most limited design/production staffing I’ve encountered to date. (And that’s saying a lot!)
Following are additional prototypes I presented to the DNA team, later refined in a final template prepared for publication: Department opening pages, above, whether appearing on a section front or not, were designed to be as bold and impactful as the front page. I presented standing features including these shown above, which are highly formatted, easy to produce quickly by any staff, and created to build on DNAinfo’s growing engagement with users via social media. For example, for a feature such as “Foodie of the Week,” readers following DNAinfo on Facebook could suggest foodies in their social circles; Chicago dining bloggers, Instagrammers and Tweeters could all be fair game.
Congratulations and best of luck to project managers Shamus Toomey and Andrew Herrmann and the rest of the hardworking crew at DNAinfo.
Related or semi-related:
- Dozens of portfolio albums from newspaper and magazine redesign clients of Ron Reason Consulting.
- More on the launch of DNAinfo in print by Chicago media writer Robert Feder.
- Follow Ron Reason Consulting on Twitter.