Design favorites – 12/11

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Again, our A&E section’s “home of the month” feature presented me with a unique challenge by straying from the usual. The focus of December’s feature was more on the past inhabitants of the home, rather than the home itself. It had belonged to a famous local author, John D. MacDonald, in the 1950s and 60s. Now, the old beachfront cottage is on the market and likely to be torn down and rebuilt into a colossal castle, akin to its neighbors. So, how do you design a story when its focus isn’t on the building in the photos, but what that building represents? I relied heavily on the content, and got to get a little artsy. The headline here really pulled everything together. It was “The Deep Blue Goodbye,” which not only represented exactly what the story was about, but was also the title of one of MacDonald’s books. And we had this gorgeous photo taken from the home’s porch, with two empty chairs looking out onto the bright blue waters of Sarasota Bay. I used my slimmest type with a white glow effect to give a kind of lonely, fading look.

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I created a similar look on the jump page over an aerial photo of the home.

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Another focus of the story was a small spiral staircase which led to MacDonald’s old writing room. I organized the secondary photos on page 11 in a staggered manner to mimic the steps and draw attention to that important element.SDV 121114 011

Read the story here.

The feel of this next story in that same issue goes in a completely different direction: big, bold, colorful and loud. A local artist, Jorge Blanco, had just sold his first sculpture at Christie’s in New York. His art is well known in Sarasota for being somewhat cartoon-like and consisting of bold, primary colors. Since our readers already know well what Blanco’s art looks like, we chose to run a world map of locations where Blanco’s art is on display. I created the map in bold primary colors to reference his art.

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Read the story here.

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Design favorites – 12/04

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This week’s issue of the Business Observer had a special theme – top salespeople. Whenever we run these special issues, I create a unique logo or style to signify that the issue is different from our typical week-to-week coverage. My goal is for the style to be content-driven, without being cheesy. For last year’s top salespeople issue, I incorporated a very simple handshake illustration. A little gimmicky, I only used that on the intro page this year, instead focusing on type. I emphasized the word “top” in a heavier, black type, since that’s the important part of the phrase – these are the top people, the best. The word salespeople was more subtle and in green, to evoke the idea of money. I reformed this logo throughout the paper to make the section cohesive.

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Read that last story on selling Girl Scout cookies here.

For our A&E cover story, the main art had an ugly background. The subjects were in the backstage area of a theater. Not much you can do to make that pretty. However, they were standing by a Christmas tree, which was relevant to the story. So I drew the focus to the subjects and the tree by cutting them out and removing the background.

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Read the story here.

Design favorites – 11/27

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Each month, we run a “home of the month” feature in our A&E section, Diversions. Being in Sarasota, the homes are typically glamorous beachfront mansions with a killer view. November’s home, however, was on the less-opulent side. Of course the home was still an over-the-top castle, but its exterior color and style weren’t as eye-catching, and the dreary weather on the day of the photo shoot didn’t help the situation. So, how do we turn this relatively drab house into a striking cover? The house did have one remarkable feature I kept coming back to – a bright purple gate. The story’s headline, “Great Beginnings,” seemed to fit well with this photo, as the entryway is where the house begins. I played off the door’s color with purple accents on the page.

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Read the full story here.

This week in the Business Observer, we ran a story showing how area malls were attempting to compete with the recently opened mega mall – The Mall at University Town Center. It broke from our typical feature format, being comprised of three vignettes and a comparative infographic sidebar. So I created a new format within our stylistic framework.

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Design favorites – 11/20 issue

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This week presented a variety of design challenges. First, an article in the Business Observer featured results from research on residential real estate by none other than Tim Allen. No, not the Santa Clause version. Or the Tim-the-Tool-Man-Taylor version. The Florida Gulf Coast University version. Probably a lot more accurate that way. In this publication, we have a very basic formula for stories that we stick to each week. We’ve been trying to break from that, and I believe we did so successfully here. Rather than telling the story of Allen’s research in our usual photo + narrative format, we chose to break out four of his most interesting findings with accompanying graphics.

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Next, a feature in the Longboat Observer dissected a proposal to move more power lines underground on Longboat Key. With our paper’s fabulous lead design editor, Nancy Schwartz, on layout duty, I created the graphics for this package. It required a large map of the entire key showing in which neighborhoods power lines are above ground vs. underground, as well as a visual breakdown of some numbers. My latest favorite chart type, which was applicable here, is the donut chart. The cousin of the pie chart, its extra white space provides a double-whammy of elegant visual appeal and, more importantly, extra space for better text organization.

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Last, we ran our annual Thanksgiving food feature in our A&E section, Diversions. I loved what we did last year, so I knew I had to bring my A-game this year. We broke from our traditional cover look, which is typically a simple photo, headline and dek, by including copy. The plan was to break down the story behind the traditional elements of the Thanksgiving meal, using only stock images for art.

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The story jumped from historical traditions on the cover to local traditions inside. A struggle I always face with this publication is how to marry stories with a traditional feel with the modern look of the publication. With this feature, I chose to change up my usual colors (food features are typically accented with lime green) and add a secondary, handwriting-style typeface to our courtesy photos and recipes of Thanksgivings-past.

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Favorite designs of the week

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It’s rare we run an information graphic in our Arts & Entertainment section. Data doesn’t hold hands as often with arts as it does with news. This week was special exception to the rule. Our cover story highlighted the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County – an organization that advocates and provides funding for Sarasota’s arts community. We had a photo of the organization’s director, but the story was less about him than it was about the organization. So instead of running that photo on the cover, I chose to visualize the breakdown of grants awarded by the Alliance. The result was a colorful and unique cover that (I hope) caught readers’ attention.

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Read the story online here.

Another one of my favorite designs this week was for our East County Observer paper. The area has a brand-new mega mall opening today – a topic which has dominated the media over the last year. We ran several special features focusing on the mall, including a humorous set of columns written by a husband and wife describing how they plan to take on the mall. The pitch was to tell the story in a non-linear, engaging and unique way, paired with sidebars of fun facts. Here is the result:

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Read the story online here.

Business Observer’s 40 Under 40

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Every year, the business publication I design, the Business Observer, releases a special issue announcing its “40 Under 40” winners – “the Gulf Coast’s next generation of business leaders.” This was our second year launching the issue with its own special website – BusinessObserver4040.com. It takes serious teamwork to brings this multimedia project together. My favorite part is that I get to be involved in nearly every facet – from brainstorming a concept, to art direction and finally execution of the final print and digital products.

This year’s concept originated with the idea of a photobooth. It evolved into a casual yet personal storytelling mechanism, featuring candid photography, video interviews and more. Here’s how it all came together in print:

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And here’s how we translated the look and concept to the homepage of our microsite:

WebsiteScreenShotWe created compilation videos featuring the 40 Under 40’s best responses to certain questions:

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And I re-formatted an infographic (which included a quiz) to work online, teased on the homepage with this image:

InterestingFactsSliderI think we achieved the sophisticated and youthful look we were going for here. We ended up nearly doubling our launch day web traffic from last year – definitely a great sign, and a nice reward to all of our hard work.

Design of the week: Think Tank

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Last week my editors approached me with an idea to do something a little different with the front page. We were running a story on the future of one of our town’s staple institutions – Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. The research facility, currently located offshore on City Island, is hoping to build a shiny new aquarium on Sarasota’s mainland. It’s a big story, worthy of a special play in print. The problem? We didn’t have any great photos – the standard anchor for our features. We had a nice photo of the director in his office, but the story wasn’t really about him. Instead, we decided to focus on visualizing data showing the benefits of building the aquarium on the mainland bayfront. That, in addition to a timeline and creative headline, resulted in this …

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… and the jump page:

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Sarasota Think Tank webRead the full story, Think Tank, on YourObserver.com.