Special section on homelessness

For more than a month, the newsroom worked on a big project about homelessness. It rejuvenated a lot of the newsroom staff to be working on something so “newsy.” I don’t want that to sound silly. In a time where newspapers are cutting positions and pay, morale can be pretty low. The reporters and editors and photographers were energized to be journalists delivering the news.

And I got to design the special section. Ron came by my office while I was putting one of the pages together and asked me if I ever thought I’d end up doing stuff like this when I got my degree in graphic design.

“Are you kidding? This is exactly what I wanted to do,” I told him.

Granted, I wanted to work for a magazine. But putting the layout together? The photos, the pull quotes, the flow of the articles… so very my thing.

On the cover, I knew I wanted to use the photo of a homeless man’s hand, holding a doorknob. What is a better metaphor for having no home than holding a doorknob as a key to a house when you don’t have one?

On page 2, I edited the Wordle to make sure “choice” and “unemployment” were juxtaposed as reasons people end up homeless. The size of the word relays how many people gave it as the reason they are on the street. Choice is so small.

On page 3, I wanted the portrait to be big and in the center. When you open this section, you literally find yourself face to face with the homeless.

On page 4, I had to give the photo illustrations a different treatment than the news photos. I gave Sarah’s photos a slightly feathered edge and a small white inset inside the normal .3 point border. A mat, if you will.

All of the articles feature a pull-quote design that is based on the one we use in the regular paper but different for this section.

I’m probably boring you. But these minute details? To me, they are small ways that tell the story.

I am energized by making a good print product, and that makes me a little sad. Print is the dying breed as everything goes digital. Packaging it for the web just isn’t the same to me.

I’m glad that I also find excitement in telling people’s stories, whether that’s profiling a person or just letting people know about an upcoming event.

Cyndi noted this in my year-end performance review: “I continue to be surprised and delighted by your ability to adapt. Keep it up, and 2010 will be an exciting adventure!”

Let’s hope so!


I was checking out “new and hot” fonts the other day and I cannot help but think of friends when I go “fonting.”

Halloween 2009

2009 Halloween party invite

Forgot to post in October.

Cash Dean's birth announcement

Tunes for Tots 2009

Tunes for Tots '09

When Eric saw the flyer, he was like “what’s this? Laura Catoe using FIVE different fonts?”

Yes, and I’ll tell you why: in this design, the different fonts act as logos. The Liz Wood Project is the only band to be on the lineup for all three Tunes for Tots events, but if you go back and check the previous flyers? The font is always the same.

The Blackstone Pub & Eatery is actually a file I pulled from them. I assume it’s their logo.

I went to check the Donna Angelle MySpace and couldn’t find a logo for them.

“Nawlins in Gadsden” is this year’s theme.

The rest of the text? All in one font.

Do not use five fonts for font’s sake alone! Have a reason. Is all’s I’m sayin.’

Birthday fonting

Eric’s birthday is today.

Nathan’s was yesterday.

Consider this a birthday fonting.

Foods on Sticks

foods-on-sticks b-day party invite

Via, I noticed that Etowah County has put property parcels online. I visited the site to see if I could figure out who owns the lot of trees across from our house. I couldn’t, but I did notice that whoever was in charge of putting the parcels online used Papyrus as the font choice.

My guess is that the person responsible for getting the parcels online doesn’t know much about choosing fonts. Maybe they thought Papyrus was pretty. I do. I don’t hate on Papyrus the way I do Comic Sans.

I Tweeted about the Papyrus find when I saw it, thus opening the following dialogue with Liz:

woodlayson@DameCatoe Oh, everyone has a Papyrus phase in the youth of our aesthetic development.

DameCatoe@woodlayson I got nothing against a good Papyrus. But you gotta use it right!

woodlayson@DameCatoe I dunno, it’s kind of dated now. I think it’s damaged goods.

DameCatoe@woodlayson Sounds like a challenge!

woodlayson@DameCatoe Consider the gauntlet thrown.

So I had to make a design where Papyrus is a good choice. I thought about a recent conversation where there was a suggestion to have a tiki-themed birthday party where all the foods would be on sticks. The invitation to such a party is above and features none other than the lovely Papyrus font, in an environment where it blends.

I absolutely love a well-chosen font. Typography conveys so much, but it’s the kind of thing the viewer often takes for granted. You may not notice the “right” font the way you would a “wrong” one because a well-chosen font does not stand out. It blends in to the design, becomes a part of it.

Evolution of a "logo"

Last weekend was RiverFest 2009. I’m proud that a city the size of Gadsden manages to host an outdoor music festival every year. I just never go to it, for one reason or another.

This year, they had something called the ZeroMeth Boardwalk Bash for teens. Youth. Whatever you call those whippersnappers these days.

Venture Marketing was promoting the bash and asked me to design a flyer and logo. The following is an exercise in the pitfalls of e-mail only communication.
Could you please come up with a logo for us to use on the flyers outlined below. It’ll also possibly be used on cups and other promotional items. Needs to be edgy, fun, and appealing to teens. You’ve got the ZeroMeth logo, right? Think you can handle this?

I responded sure! For reference, here is the ZeroMeth logo (which somebody else designed):

Before I began working on the design, I asked “Does the Boardwalk Bash logo need to incorporate into the ZeroMeth logo or be more like a companion piece to it?” and the response was a companion piece to it. So here is what I sent them:

And they said:

I like the boardwalk font a lot. But I think we’ll have to leave the ZeroMeth logo alone and find a cool way to incorporate it under it.

So I sent this, thinking one could just remove the ZeroMeth part completely:

But what they were really getting at was not to alter the original ZeroMeth logo in any way, so they asked me to:

find a cool way to incorporate the boardwalk bash font you’ve come up with underneath it. Make sense?

Which means really all they needed were the words “Boardwalk Bash” in a cool font.

The font is Lt. Chicken Hawk, which looks rather a lot sweeter “out of the box,” don’t you think?

Since I didn’t make it to RiverFest, I have no idea how the Boardwalk Bash “logo” was used in the end. But I hope it rocked. Like Bret Michaels.

Extreme Expression now archived

It was mentioned in a newsroom meeting today that archives now go back to 2000. I logged on later to see if my “Extreme Expression” series is there. It is.

They were my first real foray into writing articles for the Times. It’s hard to believe they were so long ago — written in 2003. In case anybody wants to take a trip down memory lane, here are links:

Part I: Dye Tryin’ (mentions Jaimie and Kristie, Jesse Lauffer)

Part II: I Pierce, Therefore I Am (mentions Brad & Cindy, Ashley Ross, Courtney)

Part III: Inked (mentions Jill, Jeremy Crawford, Andy Brown, Josh Lacy)

I still love this series. As a complete and total nerd, I kept all my notes and page proofs. They’re in a folder at my desk at work.

These are the little peeps I made for the series logo. Do they look familiar?

Carol's Cubano Birthday

Carol's Cubano Birthday

The dude was a freebie from istockphoto.

Steven Smith Construction logo

This is a logo I made back in February and then forgot to post. Kris and I were watching TV one night, and it’s very rare that we see commercials because most everything we watch is DVR’d or a Netflix offering, but we were watching live TV and I said “hey! I designed that logo!”

So, let’s see, first time I saw one of my logos walking around on the back of someone’s t-shirt was forever ago – it was the first Finlayson Landscape & Design logo. We re-vamped it in this century, so this would have been early to mid ‘90s?

First time I saw one of my logos on a truck was for a metal building fabricator. I think they just happened to pull over in the city parking lot behind the Times.

Blueberry’s Emporium (now defunct) was the first time one of my logos appeared on a billboard.

The Humane Society of Etowah County was the first swag (pens, magnets, post-its) that I recall featuring my work.

I can’t remember any other firsts.

So here are the first drafts of the Steven Smith Construction logo. (You can click on the thumbnail to see it full size.)

He builds nice homes that often incorporate the outdoors, so the first designs were more masculine but had earthy elements. But he wanted it to focus more on the upscale aspect of his business, hence the refined, more serif-y versions.

And yeah, that’s Zapfino for the swooshy Ss in the final version. Zapfino, I don’t know how to quit you!

Times round-up

This was a last-minute illustration for a Sunday package on Twitter. It borrows from the style Twitter uses for their Service Unavailable and Suspended User pages.

Other things I was up to last week: my feature/preview story on Attalla’s Top Model competition, an Eagle Scout project and FLD’s Longleaf Pine seedling giveaway. That was an expensive interview, because I simply had to buy $50 worth of plants while I was there.

Relay for Life tee: Walkin' After Midnight

This is the t-shirt design I did for the Gadsden Times’ Relay for Life team. I did the mock-up on this blue-violet because that’s the color in the Relay logo, but I think the actual shirts will be blue.

Home & Garden 2009

I did the layout for the cover and a story inside on my checkerboard floor.

I would link you to the story on the Times website, except I cannot find the story on the website.

Last week, I was on the Christian school community service beat. I covered Westbrook’s Work-A-Thon and Coosa Gives Back Day.

Waterdeep Wordle

Eric and I attended a one-hour webinar today that could have been summed up with links to two web sites: and

The above “wordle” was created using lyrics from three of my favorite Waterdeep songs on their Sink or Swim album.

Be creative at your library

This was a (rejected) design for a t-shirt. The idea (Jaimie’s) was that the kids would be provided markers and color it in as they saw fit.

Inaugural coverage

The Times printed an extra 5,000 copies of today’s paper so that all the school kids in our Newspapers in Education program would have a commemorative issue. One of our editors decided we should just use the entire cover for photos and tease to the coverage inside. Because the inauguration took place in the middle of the day, we had so many more photos to choose from (as opposed to the election, when we didn’t have the option of running a shot of Obama’s acceptance speech due to the press time).

I rarely get to work on the front page of the paper; it’s usually designed after my shift. But because today’s edition was so unusual, I got to do the layout. Eric says it could have been bolder, and I agree, but I argued that this is pretty bold for our paper.

The editors initially picked out a different picture of Obama. Very similar to this one, but he looked a little stern and you could see the entire presidential seal on the podium. That shot was a bit more vertical and left no room for a headline or additional teaser photos, so I asked if we could use this one instead.

The headline font (and yeah, if you know me, you know I have font psychology) is not our usual one. Because the cover was getting special commemorative treatment and the headline was a quote (also unusual for the main story on A1), I wanted it to have a different look. We’ve heard from at least one person so far that our cover was “a bit over the top.” After perusing hundreds of other front pages at, I see that we were far from alone in dedicating such an amount of real estate.

Ten percent solution

This was the illustration I made for an article we ran last year on tithing. I had zero trouble scanning the $100 bill, but when Eric overheard me asking Andy Powell for a $10 to scan, he informed me that Photoshop wouldn’t scan money. He jinxed me. (Several years ago, I scanned a $5. I maintain that one can scan money, as long as they don’t tell Eric first.)

It was a pretty good article, too. Some excerpts:

“Tithing is not just giving 10 percent of your income, but it really is about worshiping God,” said McDonough, pastor of Faith Life Church in Tampa. “Instead of having our financial well-being determined by the economy, we look to God. Tough times economically really do try our faith, but … God really is our source.”

At St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church in St. Petersburg, the Rev. Chris Schuller recently challenged his members to tithe. He told members at a Wednesday night service that if they tried tithing and didn’t realize any benefit, he would write them a refund check from his personal money market account. So far, no one has asked for a refund.

Andrea Long, a 19-year-old student at Hillsborough Community College, said the high price of gas has made her think twice about tithing.

“I’m very tempted not to tithe,” said Long, who makes $11 an hour as a data entry clerk. “But when it really comes down to it, I have been greatly blessed because of tithing. A lot of people say you can’t afford to tithe this month or this week. But I just look at it as I can’t afford not to.”

Whenever Debbie Carter gets paid, her tithe check is the first one she writes. It wasn’t always that way. After her divorce in 2000, Carter, who lives in Temple Terrace, struggled to raise her two children alone. Sometimes she had to choose between paying tithes and covering her rent.

After three years of spotty tithing, Carter made a commitment to tithe regardless of her financial situation. Since then, she claims she has been the beneficiary of just what she needed when her funds were lacking. Sometimes someone gave her a free bag of groceries, said Carter, who works as an administrative assistant at Faith Life Church. Other times, a check mysteriously arrived in the mail.

“Provision was always there,” said Carter, 53. “A lot of times there wasn’t an abundance, but our needs were always met. I feel that it was just a direct result of being obedient to what God says about tithing.”