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Elevating “Real” News Through Web Typography

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 06, 2017

Zeldman's web typography style guide screenshotDuring the Poynter Digital Design Challenge, five designers addressed the leading challenge facing news organizations and their consumers: the prevalence and seeming authority of fake news. Each design brought a unique perspective and solution, from a reader-controlled interface, to an app with customizable news and ad streams, to integrated video and virtual reality experiences. Jeffrey Zeldman, however, went after what he described as low-hanging fruit: the website typography.

In his article on TrackChanges, “Authoritative, Readable, Branded: Report from the Poynter Design Challenge, Part 2,” Zeldman advocates for a “clean, uncluttered, authoritative branded page” driven by typography. He points out that any news publication, no matter how cash-strapped, can invest in better typography. To that end, Zeldman has posted a sample reader layout and style guide.

The Challenge brought together Mike Swarz (Upstatement), Lucia Locava (Locava Design Inc.), Jared Cocken (STYLISH.co), Kat Downs Mulder (The Washington Post), and Jeffrey Zeldman (A List Apart) last October to discuss the issues with online news media during a two-day conference at Columbia. The designers reconvened in January for part two of the Challenge, at which they presented their proposals. In intervening months, the role played by fake news in influencing voters had become a hot topic. It’s a problem Zeldman thinks can in part be addressed through clean, authoritative, branded design: “Authoritative because this isn’t fake news. Branded because the source matters.”

You can read Zeldman’s article on TrackChanges, as well as an earlier article summarizing his co-presenters’ work. The entire Poynter Design Challenge discussions from October and January can be viewed online on fora.tv.

Right: Zeldman's Style Guide from the Poynter Digital Design Challenge, based on a Typecast template from John Martins.

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