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A Designer’s Perspective: One Year of Design

“A Designer’s Perspective: One Year of Design”

This semester I was the Assistant Designer for the Daily 49er. My role is simple: design and lay out text and graphics onto the pages of the newspaper.

From an outsider’s perspective, my position may seem too simple. But there is much more to design.

By the end of the day the Editor-in-chief, Managing Editor, Design Director, Design Adviser, and I make sure the paper’s style is a representation of our university and standard—eligible and good-looking. The designers need to collaborate with each other, communicate with the editorial staff, and fuel their creativity and refine skills—all by the end of the night of production.

As designers, we are not only on the lookout for creativity or appearance of the paper, we are foremost journalists. We always need to keep both eyes on the design aspect of a page, and each story’s level of importance or priority. I honestly didn’t read every story I inserted on each page, but I needed to know at least a little about the story to understand how I could design it appropriately.

I started out with design in Gary Metzker’s Media Design class last spring semester. In his class I learned how to use Adobe InDesign for the first time (the program that is used to design the 49er). I learned how to put together graphics, newspaper and magazine layouts, photo pages, and newsletters. Taking the class redirected my eyes to a side of journalism I had not yet delved into—design. And I was intrigued.

By the end of the semester, Gary suggested I think about applying to the Daily 49er for design. By the week of commencement ceremonies, I had already started training in the newsroom with the previous designers.

Over summer session, Jen, the Design Director, had me train in the newsroom for the weekly summer issue, about once or twice a week. Fall semester rolled around and I started designing the news pages every Monday and Tuesday, alternating with Jen the other production days.

It took a while to get used to designing and balancing the schedule of my life, especially in the beginning of the semester. I came into the newsroom around 3 p.m., waited until around 6, 7, or 8 p.m. when all the stories were finished, and didn’t finish designing until 10 p.m. or even 12 a.m. It wasn’t until mid-semester that I was told I didn’t have to be in the newsroom until all the stories were done.

It’s been stressful for me to design, particularly under pressure, without all the fine-tuned skills, and with people I barely know. As a quiet person, I knew it would be a challenge for me to develop a quick relationship with the rest of the staff. I struggled to talk and work at the same time because I was still new at designing, and I wanted to concentrate on what I needed to do and how. I also wanted to get out of there earlier than the last night because I was tired and had unfinished priorities to take care of, too.

I had a conversation with our Content Adviser, Barbara Kingsley-Wilson this past week. We talked about coming back to the paper next semester, and other prospective opportunities I have. She also asked if I liked working in the newsroom. I admitted to her I don’t talk as much and explained how I worked trying to finish design well and without losing concentration.

Barb then affirmed me that there are all kinds of people in the newsroom. Different types of characters have worked for the 49er. Even an editor who barely talks could be the best editor in the newsroom. I appreciate what Barb told me that day, and I hope to not forget it.

One lesson I’ve learned while at the 49er—there needs to be a level of understanding, for all the staff members, of efficiency and teamwork. Without efficiency, the newspaper would run without immediacy and stories could lack in quality. Without communication and teamwork, student journalists would not get a glimpse of the real field.

The life of a daily newspaper is one of frequency and needed consistency. You shouldn’t have one style of layout and apply another style the next day, then show a completely new style the following week. There may be enough days in the semester to test new designs and which writing style flows best, but there isn’t constant familiarity. With familiarity follows trust—in content through presentation.

With the consistent hard work and ethics of the editors and staff of the Daily 49er, I couldn’t ask for a better, more fun student-led newspaper to design.

Thank you to the staff and advisers for all the encouragement, pointers, laughable moments, bearing with the time it took me to design, and being passionate journalists. You’ve fanned my passion for people, truth and the core of journalism.

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