Keeper quotes for the ages about design

December 2, 2014

By Ed Henninger
Design Elements 

The following quotes have had a prominent place on my blog over the past few years, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Some of these will amuse you, some will make you think—some may even shock you. I think you’ll agree, though, that these quotes about newspapers and design are keepers.

If you’ve got a favorite newspaper/design quote, send it along to me at Otherwise, read on—and enjoy!

“When I was young and foolish, I hated Helvetica almost as bad as Futura. Now I have come to realize that Helvetica is like a ball peen hammer. You can’t beat it for the right use.” —Loyd Ford | The Lake News

“To look at the paper is to raise a seashell to one’s ear and to be overwhelmed by the roar of humanity.” —Alain de Botton

“If you saw a man drowning and you could either save him or photograph the event—what kind of film would you use?” —Unknown

“Life is one world, and life seen in newspapers another.” —G. K. Chesterton

“The average newspaper, especially of the better sort, has the intelligence of a hillbilly evangelist, the courage of a rat, the fairness of a prohibitionist boob-jumper, the information of a high school janitor, the taste of a designer of celluloid valentines, and the honor of a police-station lawyer.” —H. L. Mencken

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” —Steve Jobs

“A designer can mull over complicated designs for months. Then suddenly the simple, elegant, beautiful solution occurs. When it happens to you, it feels as if God is talking. And maybe He is.” —Leo Frankowski

“Design is intelligence made visible.” —Alina Wheeler

“Most of us probably feel we couldn’t be free without newspapers, and that is the reason we want newspapers to be free.” —Edward R. Murrow

“The noiseless din that we have long known in dreams booms at us in waking hours from newspaper headlines.” —Theodor W. Adorno

“The public is more familiar with bad design than good design. It is, in effect, conditioned to prefer bad design, because that is what it lives with.” —Paul Rand

“I believe journalism is coming to be regarded as quite a respectable occupation for gentlemen nowadays.” —Anthony Trollope

“Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.” —Ben Hecht

“The way for newspapers to meet the competition of radio and television is simply to get out better newspapers.” —H. L. Mencken

“Journalism is the ability to meet the challenge of filling space.” —Rebecca West

“The media—it sounds like a convention of spiritualists.” —Tom Stoppard

“I keep reading between the lies.” —Goodman Ace

“Our readers think editors sit around all day inserting errors into the newspaper, misspelling Aunt Tilly’s name in her obituary and writing fiction.” —Ed Orloff 

“The press, Watson, is a most valuable institution—if you only know how to use it.” —Sherlock Holmes

“That endless book, the newspaper, is our national glory.” —Henry Ward Beecher

“They are so filthy and bestial that no honest man would admit one into his house for a water closet doormat.” —Charles Dickens 

“News is what a chap who doesn’t care much about anything wants to read.” —Evelyn Waugh

“One reason cats are happier than people is that cats have no newspapers.” —Gwendolyn Brooks

 “Anyone who doesn’t design, accepts to be designed.” —Giulio Carlo Argan

 “Newspapers are unable seemingly to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of a civilization.” —George Bernard Shaw

 “The devil’s aversion to holy water is a light matter compared with a despots dread of a newspaper that laughs.” —Mark Twain

 “If you don’t hit a newspaper reader between the eyes with your first sentence, there is no need of writing a second one.” —Arthur Brisbane

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 2014

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

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