5.10.2007

Quick Course insights: Visual-editorial relationships

Last weekend saw a dedicated group brave torrential rains and high winds for a Quick Course in the Twin Cities, "Design: Content On Steroids." Chris Clonts caught up with the Strib's Leslie Plesser for the low down on how things went. The Blog knows you prefer alternative story forms, so here's one of the Q-As to get the party started:

Q: This Quick Course allowed editors and managing editors to attend free. Any takers? Did you get any feedback from them?
A:
I had a few inquiries before the event, but in the end none showed up. That was really disappointing for me. I always go to these events and wish that top editors were there so they could see what can be done with such great planning. I thought this might be a good way to set such a process in motion.

Read the full interview...

By Chris Clonts
Assistant Design Director/News
The (Minneapolis) StarTribune

Last weekend saw a dedicated group brave torrential rains and high winds for a Quick Course in the Twin Cities, "Design: Content On Steroids." During a tumultuous week in Minneapolis (don't even go there, honey), Star Tribune designer and course coordinator Leslie Plesser, left, still found time to answer a few questions from The Blog:

Q: Give us the data dump. How many attendees were there? Where’d they come from? What paper sent the most people?
A: There were 32 folks who attended. A lot of them came from Minnesota, but we had some from Iowa, Colorado, Missouri, Wisconsin and South Dakota as well. The St. Cloud Times sent the most folks with nine.

Q: This Quick Course allowed editors and managing editors to attend free. Any takers? Did you get any feedback from them?
A:
I had a few inquiries before the event, but in the end none showed up. That was really disappointing for me. I always go to these events and wish that top editors were there so they could see what can be done with such great planning. I thought this might be a good way to set such a process in motion.

Q: What were some of the highlights? (Spend as much time as you want on this one, a related question comes later)
A:
I thought all of our speakers were really great, but a personal highlight was Bryan Nanista's (art director, Metro magazine) performance. He was really nervous about speaking publicly, and it turned out really well. He had great energy and the crowd was laughing a lot. I'm still hearing from folks that loved his talk and how applicable it was. And he had to follow Monica Moses! If I were speaking publicly, I would *hate* to have to follow her -- she's so smart and engaging.

Q: Speaking of Moses, she made her first appearance since leaving the Star Tribune abruptly. Did she talk about that situation at all? Any lessons in newspapering she learned?
A:
She didn't talk much about the situation at the Strib. I mean, she discussed her own experiences there in design, but nothing to do with recent changes. One thing in her presentation that really resonated with me was her empathy with the reporting staff. The numbers that she showed from the eye-track studies really support the importance of great design, but she pushed us to be sympathetic to the writers who are seeing these statistics. This is their livlihood and their passion, and it's all changing quickly before their eyes. It's really hard to accept, so be gentle with them.

Q: What was the funniest thing said all day?
A: One attendee asked the St. Petersburg Times' Suzette Moyer how she worked to develop such a strong relationship with the photo department. She replied, "Well, I married the photo editor." That was pretty funny.

Q: Is there anything you think future Quick Courses should focus on or do to improve? Any tips for would-be site coordinators, other than the most important two words on site, "VGA adapter?"
A: The presentations that seemed most successful were the ones that involved hands-on work from the group. But be careful about asking for volunteers -- it can be a shy bunch.

As for site chairs, plan a more structured critique session. Who should do the critiquing? How many pages should folks bring? And maybe set a time limit. Oh! And drinks! We invited everyone to an area bar after the event for Cinco de Mayo margaritas. That was a nice way for folks to relax and get to know each other on a more personal level.

Q: Anything else?
A:
Yeah, if you're thinking about being a site chair, do it. The amount of one-on-one time that I got with my out-of-town speakers was priceless. I got such fantastic tips, and it's fun just to get to know these industry leaders on such a personal level.

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Missed Minneapolis? The next Quick Course is set for May 14-16 in Bogota, Colombia. Need some inspiration a little closer to home? Check out Portland, Ore., on June 23... the killer lineup there features such luminaries as Tim Harrower, Consultant, Outside Ink; Michael Whitley, News Design Director, Los Angeles Times; Steve Sandstrom, Sandstrom Design, Oregon; Martin Gee, Features Art Director, San Jose Mercury News; and Mark "Newsdesigner" Friesen, site chair and designer at The Oregonian, who will lead a panel discussion about designers and online newspapers. The Blog can't wait!

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