Historic moments call for historic front pages and historic headlines. Yet not all of them are as successful as they would like to be. Both the Newsdesigner and The Guardian websites have compiled galleries featuring the front pages of yesterday's major newspapers. Newsdesigner.com has over fifty American front pages, while the 21 on Guardian.co.uk include foreign ones as well. And if you're feeling particularly unproductive today or tomorrow you can always trawl through over 700 front pages from 66 countries on Newseum.org. But don't tell your boss/partner/spouse that you got that link from me. ;)
While some limit their creativity to coming up with a striking headline, other newspapers did a complete overhaul of their front page for this historic occasion. Of special interest is how the recently redesigned Chicago Tribune, The Oklahoman and Hartford Courant handled the story in their new formats.
The Oklahoman chose a rather conventional option. A page-wide landscape picture takes up about a quarter of the page height, and the headline in Tobias Frere-Jones' Retina – together with Chronicle the new typographic style of the newspaper – spells it out in bold letters. The Chicago Tribune favours a bolder approach with an almost full page photograph that extends behind the nameplate, and the Mercury Display headline reversed in white at the bottom. The front page is powerful, with an interesting composition – note how Obama's outstretched hand seems to rest on the headline, and the upwards vector from hand to face makes it a dynamic but still dignified image. And the Hartford Courant takes it one step further by tilting their front page sideways to accommodate a landscape photo of the President-elect and his family. Yet by doing so – and in the absence of any type except some small Rockwell at the bottom – this execution almost literally falls flat.
The Chicago Sun-Times displays the impressive power of subdued typography. The small "Mr. President" in Utopia (thanks, Kent) at the bottom of the full page image proves to have tons more impact than the biggest, boldest headline.
Quod erat demonstrandum. Not only does the headline on the Boston Herald verge on being condescending, but Helvetica Compressed looks unwieldy at such giganomous sizes. They'd better have stuck with Bureau Grot Light which is used in the secondary headline. The whole piece is a mess anyway, with the disparate elements positioned in a seemingly random way.
As far as bold type and big images go the front page for Rocky Mountain News fares far better, but you'd expect no less from a publication that was designed by Danilo Black (see also Roger Black's excellent The Last Blog) with the custom headline face Rocky by Matthew Carter. And Benton Sans has that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes it sit on the page so pleasantly.
The New York Times stick to their regular format and this poses a slight composition problem. The "Obama" above the headline – set in Matthew Carter's beautiful custom designed Cheltenham – accentuates the centred setting. Because the photo right underneath it is positioned according to the column grid it is off centre and makes the whole thing look a tad misaligned. Classy and conventional.
Although it follows the same modus operandi as The New York Times the front page of The Wall Street Journal looks more balanced. The headline type is the custom WSJ Scotch by The Font Bureau, Inc.; the great looking numbers on the right side belong to the aforementioned Retina. The WSJ Scotch family is now commercially available as Escrow (thanks, Kent). This is a nice conventional one as well.
The Star Tribune front page teaches us that it so helps to have a striking headline face. The page-wide photograph perfectly complements the headline set in Christian Schwartz's Stag. The typeface was originally commissioned by David Curcurito and Darhil Crooks for Esquire. It is reminiscent of classic slab serif faces like Beton, Peignot's Egyptienne Noir, Georg Trump's Schadow, and Scarab but more compact and contemporary, with the blackest weights coming dangerously close to Aachen. Popular, with the subhead in Whitman Display (thanks, Kent).
Another newspaper which has been in the news a while ago is The Baltimore Sun which was redesigned in 2005. It uses Mencken, a family of custom faces in Text and Head version by Jean-François Porchez. The type itself is quite beautiful, but is poorly integrated in the photo. It prevents the image from "breathing", making it feel a bit claustrophobic. And why on earth is that horrendous Eurostile allowed to reside on the front page?
The San Francisco Chronicle combines a striking image with equally strong typography on its front page. The full page photograph is literally underlined by the headline. Reversing out the first line at the bottom edge of the photograph and sticking the top of the second line to its baseline makes for a dramatic and surprising composition. It's a shame the banners just below the nameplate look so corny.
One of the most beautiful front pages I discovered in the Newseum gallery up till now, and up to par with the Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle ones, is the stylish front page for The Patriot News. The sepia tones of the photograph, Obama's head that slightly covers the bottom of the Poynter Old Style Display headline (thanks, Jan), the composition with the two quotes – one by Martin Luther King and one by Barack Obama – reversed in the photograph, … It all comes together perfectly in an elegant and dignified front page.
And to close off this arbitrary selection of front pages I present you "my" newspaper De Morgen, two times winner of the European Newspaper Award, which came up with a novel solution. As the outcome of the election wasn't yet known due to the time difference they simply went for a reversible front page. Elementary, my dear Watson. Yet the location of the bar code and colour strip betrays the editor already had a hunch who was going to win …
If anything, this collection is testimony to the endurance of newspapers and the printed media. Print is not dead, as this entry on Khoi Vinh's Subtraction blog attests. This is confirmed by the reprints of the front pages that are offered on many a newspaper website. So I'll just leave it up to you to discover those numerous front pages in the various galleries. Of course you're always welcome to comment below. The floor is yours.