Out of all the evolutions in newspaper design in the last century, none have been more transformative than the styling of nameplates. They are the crowning jewel of a newspaper’s design, setting the tone for the style of the entire publication.
The nameplate is the lynchpin in a publications brand. And to most casual observers it is the single most recognizable element of a newspaper’s design. It helps readers to develop a connection between the brand and the content in a way that enables the formation of preferences and judgements.
Technology has heavily influenced nameplate design trends over the years. And although some newspapers have opted for a traditional look, paying homage to the letterpress era, the opportunity to innovate and explore new styles has never been so apparent.
Here’s a visual look at several different North American broadsheet nameplate styles.
Visually separating the nameplate within a block of colour can give it significantly more page dominance. It draws all of the weight to the top of the page to showcase the paper’s brand.
Interweaving clipped images or graphics around the nameplate can bring a typographic logo to life. Readers drawn to faces and photos are forced to subconsciously separate the images from the nameplate, and in the process it builds their connection to the brand and the content.
Running content above the nameplate can be a bit of a gamble, but if executed carefully, the impact can be worth the risk. Stories or photos with mass appeal can serve to capture the readers immediate attention. As their focus shifts from the lead story, the nameplate is the next element they see, allowing them to connect the content with the brand.
There is no doubt that the top of page one is primo real estate. There are usually mixed opinions about selling ad space above the nameplate, but for papers that go that route, the ads can have the effect of drawing the readers focus to the top of the page. Just so long as they don’t overwhelm the page.
Less is more
Many iconic papers have done very little to alter their nameplate over the years, opting for traditional, less-is-more aesthetic. For these newspapers, the long-established and clean look speaks volumes to the credo of the publication’s brand. And if it ain’t broke…
More is more
Alternatively, some newspapers load as much stuff as they can on and around the nameplate. Sometimes this can work to keep the reader’s attention up top, but without an incredibly sharp editing eye, it can quickly turn into a overcrowded mess.
Integrating locally recognized architecture (usually a line-drawing) into a nameplate design was trendy several years ago, but I seem to be seeing it less and less. It brands the paper as being distinctively local and adds a visual element to the logo, making it easier to recall.
Horizontal and vertical rules
Using horizontal and vertical lines above and/or below the nameplate can be a great way to add structure to the design. They clearly divide elements without overwhelming the page.
Most commonly newspaper nameplates are oriented horizontally. I’d have to speculate that this is because of the technology that newspapers have had to work with over the years. Traditionally nameplates were composed of nothing more than typography, which in the English language, runs horizontally from left to right. It’s becoming more common for newspapers to experiment with different nameplate configurations.
Playing with whitespace
Using whitespace can be an incredibly effective way of visually highlighting a newspaper’s logo. However, it needs to be tackled with care. There is a huge difference between whitespace and emptiness.
Skyboxes are cordoned off blocks of space used to throw to content inside the paper. They keep the reader’s focus around the nameplate and add structure to the design.
Teasers typically accomplish the same effect as skyboxes without adding the extra weight at the top of the page from being contained in a box.