1) Keep it simple. You don't have time to deal with complicated designs requiring three different software programs. Try pushing the envelope in one program, and avoid time-consuming tasks such as doing a cut-out on a porcupine.
2) Define your perimeters early. Knowing your limits is essential to creating a design quickly. Decide on things like grid structure, art elements and font early on in the process and avoid looking back. Good design doesn't require hours of contemplation.
3) Stick to one font. You don't have time to browse font foundry catalogues or to experiment with 100 different fonts. Try to be as creative as possible within your paper's font family. Experiment with different sizes, weights, and color (if appropriate).
4) Avoid spending money. Most small newspapers don't have the budget to buy outside photography, graphics and fonts. Look for inexpensive art elements such as leaves for a fall foliage splash, file photos for a look-back story and clip art for logos.
5) Make friends. Never forget if it wasn't for reporters, photog-raphers and copy editors, designers would be out of a job. You don't have time for senseless, ego-driven arguments. If the managing editor is bent on using indigo instead of blue for a feature headline, go with indigo!
6) Ask for help. One of the biggest drawbacks of designing for a small newspaper is the lack of people of people to bounce ideas off of. Get to know designers (preferably good ones) at other papers, and solicit their input whenever possible on pages you've already created or pages you're working on.
7) Look at other publications. Look at as many papers, magazines, books, and other publications that you can get your hands on. Just because you're not The Boston Globe doesn't mean you can't look at The Boston Globe. Post your favorite designs on the wall and look at them daily.
8) Read. Many small newspapers don't have the budget to send their designers to workshops and quick courses. If this is the case, read up on design yourself. Do a search for "newspaper design" on Amazon.com for the latest books on design or browse through the classics at your local library.
9) Pray to the God of Small Newspaper Design. Good design at small newspapers is just short of a miracle. You don't have to be religious or even spiritual to get some help from the Universe. It might be as simple as putting a little statue of a Buddha on your computer terminal or wearing a lucky pair of socks. Know that you're not alone. Even if you're the only designer for 50 miles, the God of Small Newspaper Design is looking over you.
Molly Hartle, Assistant Editor
Foster's Sunday Citizen