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!