Hierarchy of need

Use different font sizes and weights to make a page more attractive and readable

By Tyson Bird, Ball State University

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There are a lot of things to think about when designing news: style guides, headline writing, photo cropping and color palettes, to name a few.

One thing I’ve noticed is often overlooked by high school publications is keeping visual hierarchy. Publications I’ve seen have a dominant element to ‘anchor’ the page, but the rest of the spread is littered with fonts and sizes too similar to guide the reader.

Take a look at Example 1. It is a technically accurate layout. The grid is consistent, elements are spaced properly, and the designer avoided stacking elements in a practice known as “sheetcaking.” However, all of the headlines use the same font size and weight.

Graphic by Tyson Bird

Graphic by Tyson Bird

Example 2 uses (almost) the same layout, stories and headlines. However, by varying the weights and sizes of the headlines, the designer has made this a much more attractive and readable page.

Graphic by Tyson Bird

Graphic by Tyson Bird

Fortunately, fixing hierarchy issues is usually as simple as adding one or two typefaces to a publication’s style.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tyson Bird is a freshman at Ball State University. Bird was the Editor-in-Chief of the Cedar Post (Sandpoint High School) from 2012-14 and was Idaho’s student journalist of the year in 2014. Be sure to follow Bird on Twitter (@TysonBird).

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