DzynTweets: Years of maxims and musings

April 2, 2015

By Ed Henninger
Design Elements 

At first glance, this column may appear self-serving. But, I assure you, it’s not. That’s not who I am or how I work.

The purpose of this column is to share with you some maxims and musings about newspaper design. They’re gathered from the past five-plus years of my “DzynTweets.”

The tweets go out to more than 400 followers, and I publish them every weekday (except when I occasionally forget). They’re an opportunity for me to share what I’ve learned in my more-than 25 years as a newspaper design consultant.

What I love about them is that they’re brief. If brevity is the soul of wit, then maybe they’re also a bit witty. I know they’re always fun for me to write—and I hope they’re fun for my followers to read. Occasionally, some of them are even retweeted or favorited. (I assume “favorited” is a word now.)

Because they’re so brief and so random, it would be impossible to create a column from them—except when they run as a collection, as they do here. So, the following are some of my favorites, created since I began with the DzynTweets back in 2010. And if you want to join the fun, you can follow at


Sign behind the desk of an art director: “Good. Fast. Cheap. ... Pick two.” I love it!

Proper headline hierarchy serves to guide readers through your page.

Keep wording in P1 teasers brief, snappy. After all, they’re “teasers”—you don’t want them to tell the whole story!

Design-by-committee—not the most efficient way to do design. A camel is: A horse designed by a committee.

Many design mistakes occur b/c we’re trying 2 hard. Lighten up. You’re not designing for the ages—only this issue.

Design is NOT just a matter of taste. It’s a discipline, a craft, a profession—a lifelong experience.

Place the visual first. (Yep. that’s it! That’s the entire tweet!)

The purpose of a headline: Is it to tell the story—or to get readers to read the story? Both?

I wonder if newspapers would be any better if editors went out on some account calls with ad reps. Might open some minds.

First rule of color for newspapers: Just because you have it doesn’t mean you HAVE to use it.

When you use a drop cap, PUH-LEEZE—remove the paragraph indent!

When you launch a new design, do you prepare readers for the change? How do you do that?

How do you determine the size of your lead headline? Do you have set sizes? No? Hmmm ….

There are lots of tabloid papers out there that do n-o-t-h-i-n-g with the centerspread. What a waste of premium space!

Design is not the practice of placing elements on a page. It is the art of taking things away.

Are you still “mousing around?” Isn’t it time you started to use keyboard shortcuts?

Many editors don’t get the idea that negative space is as much a part of design as words and photos and headlines and …

I know some designers who make columns wider/narrower to fit a columnist’s meanderings. Whatever happened to editing?

I’ve heard people tell me they “love to play with design.” How nice. But design is not “play.” It’s hard work.

Great design requires you to know and respect the rules before you even think of breaking them.

“Design is not just what it looks like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs.

You prove how good a designer you are NOT by what you choose to put on a page—but by what you choose to take away.

Readers read, which puts them at least four or five rungs up the evolutionary ladder from those who don’t.

Most readers won’t notice flush left text type—and those who do won’t care.

News design in two words: Plan ahead.

News design in two words: Edit first.

News design in two words: Write tight.

News design in two words: Dominant photo.

News design in two words: Think visually.


Follow on Twitter if you want—or not. The DzynTweets will be there.

Want a free evaluation of your newspaper’s design? Contact me at or at 803-327-3322.

If this column has been helpful, you may be interested in my books “Henninger on Design” and “101 Henninger Helpful Hints.” With the help of my books, you’ll have a better idea how to design for your readers. Find out more at © Ed Henninger 2015


ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the director of Henninger Consulting. On the Web: Phone: 803-327-3322.

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