Friday, May 2, 2008

A design mind

Designing is not my forté. I do it, however, to make myself marketable in a highly competitive job market.

At The Sun, when I am on "slot" (another name for the sports design desk), it usually means someone is on vacation. In this case, editor Steve Millizer took his week-long break, so I had to substitute Wednesday and Thursday for page designer Greg Stark's days off.

Wednesday nights for a designer are usually smooth sailing. Since Wednesday nights are historically reserved for church and religious times, high school athletics have largely taken the night off. We do get call-ins for some games, but the night is normally not too hectic.

Thursday night, I was ready, but it still wasn't enough. I had five pages to take care of, which is more than I usually have been asked to design. And then, as per the editor's request, I had to try and find photos to go with all of the stories.

If you are not a design person, or interested in the process, then you probably already stopped reading ages ago, and that's OK. You're not reading this.

But for those of you who have some design experience, you know the more items you need to include on a page means more time.

I had 12 photos, one logo and one graphic to place on the pages. This means tweaking sizes of the boxes and the photos, making sure the subject will appear as we want it to in the morning. Then we have to tweak the cutline, or caption, information. I have to change the fonts and resize the boxes. It's tedious, especially when all the boxes have to fit together in one rectangular page.

Then, for the local sports roundups, I had extra work to do. We had plenty of call-ins and lots of information to put together. Those little agate lines, the teeny, tiny lines for scores, don't just happen that way magically. Each box score must be formatted upon its arrival on my page. We do as much as we can to prepare for the boxes, but you always have to line things up once the scores come in. And for that part of the paper, you are most always up against deadline. Games end late, and we wait for the calls. And with our extra-early 10:30 p.m. deadline because of the new press, things get dicey.

While you are designing, you are taking these calls. Jon Futrell helps with the calls, but the designer inevitably has to answer some. And while you are designing, you must keep up with sending the pages down to the press room so they can take care of that operation. You write headlines and edit the stories. It's tough.

I spent the night glued to my chair, eyes never leaving the screen, to get things done on time. I had a bottle of Tums by my side, ready to battle the stress that was boiling up.

And then I made what I consider a very gross error: I spelled a guy's name wrong.

It was my fault, my story. The one I had written earlier that day.

I discovered the error this afternoon and about vomited. I thought an "i" was supposed to be a "y". It wasn't. I even put the name in the headline.

Reporters, editors and designers don't like mistakes. When we make mistakes, we look like idiots, and you the reader lose trust. That's why we edit things before they go into the paper and ask good questions.

I just didn't ask the right question.

So Friday afternoon, instead of furiously checking my photos to make sure tiny black lines bordered every one of them, or if I got in all the scores, I had to bemoan my mistake.

I feel awful. I apologize. I'll never spell his name wrong again.

I'll remember to always ask how you spell your name, even if it's the simple "Smith" or "Jones". Twice. Three times.

And I won't have to design for another six months!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad. I do that job every day, and it's not as easy as it looks. I always see something later than I could have done better.