Notebook, Teaching

Editorial design for journalists

Notebook: 6 March 2016 | TEACHING

I’ve recently been working as a visiting lecturer at various UK universities teaching students all about editorial design – not just graphic design students but journalism students as well.

It’s always tough for any student making that step from university into paid employment and it seems to be especially tough for those seeking a career in journalism given the huge number of journalism, media and English graduates entering a shrinking market each year. For a journalist just starting out, it pays to be multi-skilled and that includes having a good working knowledge and some hands-on experience of magazine, newspaper and digital design, as part of their toolkit. As Mark Porter, the renowned editorial designer said, “visual journalism – the intelligent use of photography, infographics and layout – has become an essential tool for editors”.

Journalism students don’t tend to get taught that much about editorial design, and what they do pick up can be a bit piecemeal and is often from journalists themselves rather than from designers. What I can offer, as a practising magazine and newspaper designer and as a visiting lecturer, is a huge amount of invaluable knowledge built up over 30+ years. I’m available for one-day workshops or longer, or just for one-hour guest lectures, and the sorts of topics that I cover include:

  • Why do we need editorial design? Design is not just for decoration – it  can help with the storytelling by enticing the reader, aiding clarity, making navigation easier, adding pace and so on.
  • Understanding your audience. In the same way that a journalist writes for a particular type of audience, the design style should be chosen for that same audience.
  • The brand. What is a ‘brand’ and why is a publication’s brand so important?
  • Words. How do words look? Understanding typography. Headline fonts and text fonts/legibility/tracking/kerning/line space/column widths/justified v ragged text. Type hierarchy and a type system.
  • Pictures. The power of an image. Photos/illustration/infographics. Commissioning/briefing/picture editing/picture cropping.
  • White space. How white or empty space can add emphasis and help a page breathe.
  • The grid. Understanding how the grid works – working with it and not against it. Simple grid systems v complex grids
  • Colour. Colour palettes. CMYK and RGB. Legibility.
  • The ‘journey’. Varying the pace in a publication – ups and downs and highs and lows. Effective page planning. Working with the adverts

If you’d like to know more, or want to book me in for a teaching session, please call me on 01953 688304 or 0779 638 0779 or email on

“… you did such a fantastic job for us and you were absolutely excellent on all the units. The students recognised and respected the scale of your knowledge and they also came to like you immensely and speak of you with affection. However the biggest testament to your success is the quality of work they produced as a result of your tuition and this was singled out for praise by our external examiners – particularly the third year work. I am immensely grateful for all you did.”

Kate Ironside, Senior Lecturer Journalism, University of Bedfordshire

“Nick – thanks very much for your excellent day’s workshop with my 1st year journalism students. They certainly learnt a huge amount about magazine and newspaper design which I know will prove to be very valuable for them going forward – and it was great to see them so enthused. As a professional journalist even I picked up loads of really useful information which I wish I’d have known at their age”

Jon Boyle, Journalism Lecturer, University of Bedfordshire