Redesign: Folios and Section Logos

A look at how 2 small design elements can play a big role in your publication

William Love, Sandpoint High School

The student-run newspaper I advise went through a massive redesign last year. Some elements that didn’t change too much from the previous year were the section logos and folios.

I liked the section logos my students used because they were not traditional, just large page numbers identifying the section. Not what you typically see with a broadsheet newspaper.

Cedar Post 2

But what made them untraditional, also led to problems. Readers were sometimes confused because the section was not clear to all readers, with the emphasis being the page number. It also did not include the usual folio elements like the newspaper’s name and publication date.

Finally, the section heads caused a lot of design problems for staffers who were just learning to design broadsheet pages. Even with the veteran designers, it left them handcuffed as they attempted to design around a significant square at the top corner of the page. The example below can show you the confusion it might also cause readers, with the 4 appearing  like it ties into the headline for the app review.

Cedar Post 4

As I’m writing this, the current staff is in the process of redesigning the section heads and folios. Below are some elements I hope they consider.

Newspaper design guru Tim Harrower calls section logos the signposts that help guide the reader through a newspaper. They can consist of just type or include photos and/or other art elements. Section logos should appear whenever there is a new section (News, Opinion, Lifestyle, Sports, etc.), but some papers use them on every page. In other cases, according to Harrower, papers will use a section logo to designate special themed pages or investigative packages.

Here is an example from The Baltimore Sun identifying its coverage of the Freddie Gray death. A design note here: notice how it resembles a tab from an Internet browser.

The Baltimore Sun

In this case, the logo and folio work together. Harrower defines a folio as the “type at the top of an inside page, giving the newspaper’s name, date and page number.” It is important to remember folios are not always the same thing as a section logo, but they often work together.

Here are a few more examples of some folios that I found in my research. Notice how varied they can be.

The Daily Tar Heel

The Daily Tar Heel

The Kansas City Star

The Kansas City Star

The St. Louis Post Dispatch

St. Louis Post Dispatch

The newspaper I advise is eight pages and broken up into distinct sections — News, Opinion, Lifestyle, Sports and Postscript (a feature page heavy on visual elements). The students have used traditional folios in the past to differentiate sections, but in this case, I suggest they make prominent section logos to go with a folio.

As I mentioned earlier, not making it clear can lead to confusion for readers. But with this in mind, a student newspaper has an opportunity to educate teen readers about consuming media. I stress to the staff that a lot of high school students have not spent much time with newspapers. So as a high school publication, you have to help educate the reader on how a newspaper works. Something as simple as a section logo can help do just that.

For example, I have younger students critique each edition of the newspaper after it is published. A critique that I often get back is that an editorial or column on the opinion page includes too much opinion. When I read the critique to the staff they often laugh, but I have to remind them (many of whom are 17 or 18 and have taken several journalism classes) that maybe the student (14 or 15 and in their first journalism class) didn’t know because the old section logos were not clear that Page 3 is the Opinion page.

Here are some examples of section logos from The Baltimore Sun that make it pretty clear what the section is about. Notice the uniformity between the two, but also the differences — some are big (color), while others are more subtle (type).

The Baltimore Sun Health

The Baltimore Sun sports

These are some great examples, but for the paper I advise, the folio and section logos really need to work together on several pages. When I asked around about some good examples, a friend suggested looking at the Indiana Daily Student, an independent, student-run newspaper at Indiana University. Besides liking the design, my friend was a fan of the versatility the section logos allowed in designing the rest of the page.

As you will see, the logos identify the section editors and their email addresses, but also provide room for a news brief or other information. Meanwhile, the folio does its job by identifying the page number, the newspaper’s name, date, and also includes the website address. While they are different design elements, I think the the section logo and folio compliment each other well. (Check out more at the IDS’ Issuu page.)

IDS Region

IDS Sports BW

IDS Classifieds

Here are some examples of the versatility the section logos provide designers. In both cases, the folio remains the same but the logo adapts to fit the design situation.

IDS Campus

IDS Sports Color

Finally, here is an example of how it looks over two pages. In the case of the newspaper I advise, two sections — Lifestyle and Sports — usually consist of two pages.

IDS Campus Spread

I hope this helps, but I would like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on section logos and folios? Do you have any good examples? Have you come across any problems? Please let me know in the comments section.