William Castronuovo — former art director of the Washington Times and the New York Daily News, former design director of the Miami Herald and currently editor and publisher of the Washington Reader — noted the funky skybox treatment atop today’s Des Moines Register…
… and tells Jim Romenesko:
The Register is the last newspaper I though would do something like this . Then again, it is a Gannett Company paper and we know they seem to love playing with flags of late.
A reference, of course, to the USA Today blue balls.
My good friend Nicole Bogdas of the Gannett Design Studio took immediate offense to Castronuovo’s comment. As you might imagine.
So, not only did I like the skyline today, but this guy clearly doesn’t read our paper on a regular basis as this not the first time we’ve “played with the flag.”
Additionally, what is wrong with that? This guy needs a new hobby.
Today’s skybox — which, as you can see, interacts with the nameplate –was designed by Erin Baker-Crabb, Nicole tells us. However, she also sent us a number of other examples of playful skyboxes that interact somewhat with the Register‘s flag. Nicole points out:
And these are just from the first six months of 2012.
Jan. 2: Designed by Scott Lester.
Feb. 6: Designed by Scott Lester.
Feb. 13: Designed by Nicole Bogdas.
Feb. 24: Designed by Erin Baker-Crabb.
April 9: Designed by Nicole Bogdas.
April 17: Designed by Nicole Bogdas.
April 18: Designed by Nicole Bogdas.
May 4: Designed by Scott Lester.
June 21: Designed by Scott Lester.
UPDATE – 7 p.m.
[Here] is my favorite skyline I have designed for the studio.
I asked Nicole to explain her philosophy on “playing with the flag.” She replies:
Why do it? Why not?
All the arguments for not doing it go against common sense. No one is going to mistake our product for the other daily paper in Des Moines. There isn’t one.
When done right, it can catch eyes, which helps sell papers, and isn’t that what we want to do?
To appease some folks, no, I don’t have hard numbers. But I don’t think anyone is not buying the paper because of the skyline.
I, of course, agree wholeheartedly. Readers of this blog — of which Castronuovo is obviously not, but then again, as Nicole points out: He also doesn’t regularly check out the Register via the Newseum — know that I often write about interesting skybox treatments and I encourage playing around with the flag — or nameplate, as I prefer to call it.
In my consulting work, I often run into editors who feel like the nameplate is sacred. That’s an outdated idea from, say, the 1970s or early 1980s. It’s perfectly OK to have some fun with your skyboxes. It’s perfectly OK to mess around a little with your nameplate. It’s perfectly OK to do whatever it takes to surprise and delight your readers from time to time. When the day’s news merits it, of course.
The nameplate is not sacred. What is sacred? 1) Content. And 2) The money a potential reader pulls out of his or her pocket and uses to buy your paper.
Now, that’s sacred.
I don’t call “bullshit” on Mr. Castronuovo, because he’s entitled to his opinion. But I do call “bandwagon” on him. And I also call “attempted cheap shot foiled by actual facts.”