The millennial’s guide to working in legacy media

Part One: Page design

Curlydog/Wikimedia Commons

By 2025, Millennials will make up 75 percent of the global workforce according to Forbes.

Some of us will find ourselves in an environment that isn’t operating in the digital world we know. For young journalists, that’s not a bad thing at all.

The text blew out.

“That wouldn’t happen if you used the fonts we use,” said the snarky, lifelong member of the newspaper, my coworker.

Then came the kicker.

“You don’t have to do all that InDesign stuff,” she said. “It’s worked just fine for us for 20 years.”

I’m 23 years old. I’m learning to adapt to my job.

And it’s learning to adapt to Millennials like me.

“You don’t have to do all that InDesign stuff.”

We work in QuarkXPress. It’s a step back from the “InDesign Stuff” I used to do, but it’s taught me the following lessons about page design:

Akash/WikiMedia Commons
A bad workman always blames his tools — French proverb

1. Design is storytelling

I once viewed page design as the culmination of strong art, modern graphics and trendy organization.

Visuals are important, but they’re useless without purpose.

Just like a cleverly written sentence is dung if it strays from the narrative, a nice-looking graphic is unhelpful if it does not serve to move the overall story.

Nicolás García/Wikimedia Commons

2. Your co-workers’ content takes precedence

Reporters and photographers work hard. Their efforts deserve center stage.

First, awesome photos deserve great play. You’ll know which ones make the cut and so will the photographer. Talk to the photographers. Ask them questions about each shot and what opinions they may have on placement.

Art tells the story in unique ways and speaks on behalf of the written content it’s partnered with.

Also, make sure your written content is well displayed, easy to read and not an afterthought.

On special occasion, go big. Don’t be afraid to go all out. Consult your editor, seek feedback from other designers, and let it rip.

I had the chance to let loose with the following page for our Sunday Life section:

3. Find the balance

Working for a legacy outlet might seem stifling. As digital natives, we see the world and the news through different lenses than some of the more experienced journalists we work alongside.

Take pride in your work, but don’t let that same pride seep into your opinion of your paper. Turning the pages of your publication, you may see the design as outdated.

But being young, trendy and talented within a certain software hardly makes you a savior. Millennials are shaking things up, but we aren’t going to save the industry. Journalism is a craft. It’s one we must learn from those who’ve been at it for years.

When an older page designer suggests a change, consider it. Don’t shrug it off. Know your audience, find your balance.

Blend your newspaper’s style with the fresh insights you bring to the table.