Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Memory lapses yield twice the information... twice

I have a lot of material on "why modular layout is a wonderful thing", but have been searching high and low for practical info on why irregular layout (nested doglegs and so on) was a popular look in newspapers around the world after WWII.
A colleague offered to bring me a book he said might have some of the info I've been looking for. So tonight he brought it in. I took one look at the cover, reached into the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet and, from under a pile of old stuff I've worked on over the years, I pulled out the same book. Someone gave it to me about four years ago; it looked "old-fashioned" and, with hardly a glance at it, I decided it was an outdated British layout manual not relevant to my daily work, so I put it away and forgot about it. Was I wrong. It's actually a very good account of newspaper design around the world from the early 1800s to the beginning of the 1970s.
The book is Harold Evans' Editing and Design, A five-volume manual of English, Typography and Layout. Book Five: Newspaper Design, William Heinemann, 1973.
I've only had a brief dip into it so far, but it appears to cover everything I've been looking for on irregular layout and a whole lot more that will be extremely useful. A bonus is that it's full of examples from papers around the world. The overall tone of the analysis in the book seems a bit preachy, but the knowledge and detail is there. Obviously he couldn't cover the news design history of the whole world in depth in one book, but he did hone in very closely on some papers and on some elements of popular design.

An (off-that-topic, but fun) quote that is still relevant today (except for the gender discrimination):

A layout which changes each day is not necessarily a layout which changes in the right way. Change will add variety and surprise, but it must not do it at the expense of a continuity of news values or the identity of the newspaper. Some layout men get paranoid about this. They fear that someone out there (up there?) is watching them so that if ever the elements of a page arrange themselves in roughly the same way twice in a lifetime they will be struck down for forcing a pattern on a page when the text and artwork do not require it.

Another coincidence today: I discovered two copies of The Age: 125 Years of Age on my bookshelves at home. I bought both copies from the same secondhand bookstore several months apart.
Maybe I should try to speed up the research a bit while I've still got some working brain cells...

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