Editorial design is a fascinating field that combines our abilities for creative typography, smart layouts and clever compositions.

All around the world people wake up early and stay up late creating compositions that millions get a hold of in the form of newspapers, magazines and books. Editorial design plays a key role in the way information is presented, shared and understood — and, in performing this last function, this discipline can bring transcendental change to society.

Designing newspapers, magazines and books has become particularly challenging as digital takes over most of our communications. While we must learn to adapt our concepts to various screen sizes, paper will always be an essential medium for creative expression. Throughout this article, I’ll introduce 50 incredible newspaper designs (and the design lessons they bestow) to inspire your work.

01. “First-class Ticket” by The Washington Post: Draw Focus To A Custom Graphic

In this design for the Style section, The Washington Post features a movie review as the central element on the page. To increase the piece’s visual impact, they commissioned a custom graphic by Sean McCabe.

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The Washington Post

02. “Origen” by Krysthopher Woods: Bring Structure With Grids

A student project that displays an outstanding typographic scheme and an impressive grid. The contrast between carefully selected serif fonts and a subtle yellow background tone create a retro vibe that plays well with the publication’s name (orígen, or origin).

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Origen

03. “New York City’s Health Care Budget Problem” by Epoch Times: Play With Shape

Ever thought of displaying facts in a circle? That’s exactly what Epoch Times did to split the healthcare budget issue into four potential stakeholders that might end up paying for the rising costs. The semicircle approach makes it evident for the reader that either the Mayor, Unions, mayoral candidates, or Emblem Health will end up bearing the consequences.

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The Epoch Times

04. “Guanacaste” by La Nación: Blend Content Into Imagery

The designers behind this Costa Rican newspaper created an engaging cover for their piece about a special protection program for Cara Blanca, an endangered monkey species. The white text column that takes up nearly ⅖ of the page is emphasized and framed by the high definition images of both monkeys in the midst of saturated greenery.

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La Nación

05. “Roughing it… Gourmet style” by the San Diego Union Tribune: Break Page Flow With Custom Graphics

The fact that your newspaper’s original background is white doesn’t mean that you can’t add some variation every now and then. In this cover for U-T Food, illustrator Cristina Byvik added a distressed custom graphic to break the flow of the page and represent the idea of gourmet food for campers.

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San Diego Union Tribune

06. “Realidades” by Boris Vargas: Use A Limited Color Palette

This was a student project for Typography 2 at the University of Buenos Aires. Perhaps the most impressive design element here is the effective use of a limited color palette. There are basically three main tones in use, and the page doesn’t feel dull at all. The designer’s smart use of typography, separators, layout and proportions make this student project incredibly inspiring for anyone working with (ink) budget constraints.

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Realidades by Boris Vargas

07. “Harvard Finds Upset Formula” by The Star-Ledger: Use A 5-Column Layout

The use of a 5-column layout here makes the page visually appealing and allowed The Star-Ledger to present information snippets that are easy on the reader.

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The Star Ledger

08. “Questions for the Next Vice President” by The New York Times: Draw The Eye Into The Content Flow With Unique Imagery

What would otherwise be yet another complex political commentary suddenly turned into an engaging piece with the introduction of a large question mark. Composed by different symbols that represent issues the next Vice President will face, this giant question mark draws the eye into the flow of the text and might even call the attention of the most apolitical among us.

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The New York Times

09. “The Iceberg” by Socio Design for KAE: Use A Clever Typographic Scheme

Many interesting design decisions here, but the typographic scheme definitely stands out. Clever combinations of serifs and sans-serifs, light and bold fonts, and proportions make this piece an inspiring reference for anyone interested in editorial design.

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Socio Design by KAE

10. “Full Stop” by Sidney Lim: Use Dramatic Contrast Of Color

“Full Stop” was a special publication about the importance of punctuation. It tried to address the topic with an irreverent tone of voice. To emphasize this communication goal, designer Sidney Lim introduced dramatic contrast using black, white, and bold typography.

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Full Stop by Sidney Lim

11. “Überzeitung” by Wolfgang Landauer: Flirt With Form

Sometimes design innovation is all about the medium. What would happen if we produced a giant, human-sized newspaper about our love for newspapers? Wolfgang Landauer answered this question for his Bachelor Thesis.

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Überzeitung by Wolfgang Landauer

12. “Diversions” by The Daily Tar Heel: Introduce Contrasting Textures

Texture is a powerful, and often under-utilized design element. In this background for their Diversions section, The Daily Tar Heel introduced contrasting textures like paper (doilies), cutouts, candy and wood.

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The Daily Tar Heel

13. “Ten Years After 9/11” by The Virginian Pilot: Set A Challenge For Your Readers

This news recap challenges readers to engage in a simple mental exercise: finding the end of each of the strings to the left (year 2001) with their corresponding change to the right (2011). This challenge forces the reader to interact with the piece in a novel way, defying the existing convention of spoonfeeding news to the audience.

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The Virginian Pilot

14. “Fireworks Season Means We’re a Boom Town” by Las Vegas Sun: Aim For A Vibrant Composition

This Fourth of July piece conveys celebration brilliantly. Using fireworks, full-color printing and bold typography, designers at Las Vegas Sun went all out with a composition that would truly stand out in any newsstand.

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Las Vegas Sun

15. “How Many is Too Many” by The Washington Post: Experiment With The Traditional Grid And Layout

At this point you’ve probably noticed that The Washington Post consistently wins the illustration game. This wonderful example by Inca Pan shows how defying the established grid and layout can absolutely pay off.

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The Washington Post

16. “State Liquor Laws Haven’t Aged Well” by The Sunday Oregonian: Alleviate Visual Tension

This wine-shaped infographic is beautifully integrated in the flow of the page to create a seamless layout. Without a doubt, this would have been a much harder read without the visual tension release provided by the infographic.

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The Sunday Oregonian

17. “Go Play Outside” by Arizona Republic: Toy With Tone

One thing is to say “play” and an entirely different thing is to play while saying it. These tipsy letters are successful at expressing the jovial, lighthearted tone implied by the article.

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Arizona Republic

18. “Our Dying Forests” by The Salt Lake Tribune: Focus The Eye

Was your eye drawn to that white box cutting through the main photo at the top? If so, design goal achieved.

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The Salt Lake Tribune

19. “Last-minute, Can’t-miss Gifts for Mom” by Arizona Republic: Introduce Diagonals To Your Composition

In a space where we’re used to horizontal lines of text and images, diagonals can go a long way.

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Arizona Republic

20. “Off the Shelf” by Times of Oman: Create Visual Interest And Intrigue

Wait…is that a torn page? Optical illusions can help you create visual interest, intrigue and attention. Defying the “pixel-perfect” aesthetic that predominates in editorial design is a great strategy to create word of mouth about your work.

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Times of Oman

21. “Start-ups Rush to Bring Chat Rooms to Smartphones” by Times of Oman: Integrate Content Into Imagery

In this clever piece, a smartphone was used not just to illustrate, but to contain text.

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Times of Oman

22. “After Surgery” by The San Diego Union-Tribune: Bring Focus To A Core Message

Yet another example of how visually engaging a small page disruption can be. Designers at The San Diego Union-Tribune emphasized the idea of a mastectomy by playing with the visual illusion of removed paper in the breast area.

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The San Diego Union-Tribune

23. “Blocking Out The Distractions” by Omaha World-Herald: Convey Distraction

A smart way to convey distraction is to use a saturated color palette, a variety of typefaces and diverse angles.

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Omaha World-Herald

24. “Moons” by Orange County Register: Ramp Up The Color

A full-color page will always generate additional impact. When paired with a high-contrast text vs. background combination, the result is sure to stop readers in their tracks.

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Orange County Register

25. “The Call of the Casbah” by The Washington Post Travel: Introduce Photography

There is something about the beautiful photography paired with a white, serif headline that makes this piece an instant classic.

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The Washington Post Travel

26. “Eat, Shop, Repeat” by The Washington Post: Use Hand-Drawn Illustrations

Hand-drawn illustrations have become increasingly popular because they create a retro, comfortable feeling for viewers. They’re not pretentious, perfect or inaccessible. When you’re looking at a piece like this, it feels as if someone had torn a page from their journal and shared it with the world.

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The Washington Post

27. “The End of The Line” by Valley & State: Play With Layers

This piece introduces an interesting play with layers. Instead of making the headline front and center, designers at Valley & State integrated the letters with an impressive full-page photo, placing them behind the mountains.

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Valley & State

28. “Cultural Arts” by Democrat and Chronicle: Use Interactive Imagery And Type

Here’s another great example of integrating type and image to form an engaging graphic. The letters that spell the word “Cultural Arts” are interacting with the dancer suggesting a sense of rhythm that is absolutely relevant for the topic being discussed.

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Democrat and Chronicle

29. “The Perfect Candidate” by The Boston Globe: Use Strong Editorial Design

This design is both playful and intriguing. Combining different facial elements of various Massachusetts politicians, this piece successfully calls readers’ attention about the difficulty of finding a “perfect” candidate.

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The Boston Globe

30. “The N.H. 115” by The Boston Globe: Experiment With Collage

How do you introduce 115 political activists without boring your readers to death? This is how.

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The Boston Globe

31. “The Best Books of 2013” by The Washington Post: Experiment With Custom Lettering

Adding custom lettering to a headline creates visual interest and is a great way to introduce a section that is text-intensive.

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The Washington Post

32. “Final NBA 2014-2015” by Kompas: Differentiate With Color

When introducing opposing sides, teams or ideas, color can be a great tool to separate content.

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Kompas

33. “Deadly Spike” by Daily Press: Editorialize Your Type

One of the most outstanding design features here is the mask created with text and a grunge background in the word “Deadly Spike”.

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Daily Press

34. “Athletic Records for County’s Three All-Black Schools Before Integration Have Been Lost to Time” by The Beaufort Gazette: Use A Plain Color Background

This cover piece for The Beaufort Gazette uses a plain color background to highlight the featured article. The reader’s eye is immediately drawn to the article on the top rather than the secondary content on the bottom.

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The Beaufort Gazette

35. “Keeping it Real” by The Daily Break: Experiment With A Vertical Headline

We’ve seen horizontal and diagonal text thus far, but this piece takes it a step further with a completely vertical headline. As long as the text is short and remains readable, this tactic can add a much needed layout variation.

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The Daily Break

36. “Go Fish” by Union Tribune San Diego: Integrate Full-Page Photos With Your Content

Full-page photos are the print equivalent of hero images in web design. You can decide to use them simply as a background, or, alternatively, come up with an interesting way to integrate them with the content. Here’s an example of just that:

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Union Tribune San Diego

37. “The Wild Things Are Here” by The Villages Daily Sun: Bring New Life To Your Copy

In the words of the designer in charge of this piece, it “gives a earthy photograph a little pop while still keeping the page pleasant with a fairy tale feel.”

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The Villages Daily Sun

38. “Gettysburg” by the Tampa Bay Times: Set Your Subject Into Your Headline

Here’s another fascinating type-driven idea. Designer Paul Wallen realized that letter G looks like the “plateaued boulders of Little Round Top, where the statue of General Warren looks down on the battlefield.” From there, he developed this composition for an article about a Civil War battlefield.

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Tampa Bay Times

39. “3 Days, 3 Tours” by Tampa Bay Times: Do Plenty With Grids

Same designer, different concept. Far from the pulled back, sophisticated style that we saw for Gettysburg, Paul Wallen worked on this extensive 8-column grid to feature food tours in Vancouver.

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Tampa Bay Times

40. “Why Does Analog Still Feel Good in a Digital World?” by Epoch Times: Bring Life To Your Backgrounds

A wooden background is the perfect complement for an article about analog products. The aged color tones and fonts finish off this visually attractive cover for the Arts & Culture section of  Epoch Times.

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The Epoch Times

41. “The Science of Hangry” by Epoch Times: Deliver A Flawless Composition

Epoch Times does it again with this effective placement of a focal element (the plate) that takes precedence over the text, affecting its shape.

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The Epoch Times

42. “Boston” by Boston Sunday Globe: Blend Color With Black And White

Placing black and white graphics next to, under or above color can create a dramatic, attention-grabbing effect.

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Boston Sunday Globe

43. “The Big Issue” by Times of Oman: Go Bold With Your Type

Go big or go home. If your title demands attention, try making the typographic treatment the focal point of the entire page.

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Times of Oman

44. “Avis” by Elizaveta Kulakova: Experiment With Minimalism

It’s not always necessary to fit as much text as possible on the page, especially when dealing with the cover.

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Elizaveta Kulakova

45. “Poor Reception” by Green Bay Press-Gazette: Use Photos As Text Frames

Photos and the elements they contain can be used as text frames. In this case, the two towers surrounding the main text column provide a sense of containment and help focus the reader’s attention.

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Green Bay Press-Gazette

46. “Packers Took on Eagles Saturday” by Green Bay Press-Gazette: Create Interest In Your Headlines

Another great example of breaking headline conventions. In this case, the football player is placed in front of the newspaper’s name, and his hand is pointing directly to a block of text that reads “Packers Took on Eagles on Saturday”. This helps direct the reader to the article that relates to the player. The other interesting element here is how the main article’s title literally breaks through the gavel.

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Green Bay Press-Gazette

47. “What’s Your Favorite Junky Cereal” by The Grid: Combine Visual Interest and Information Design

Talk about a graphic that breaks through the clutter. This image is colorful, compelling, and useful. Designers at The Grid (Toronto) excelled at combining visual interest and information design, overlaying percentages that tell how popular each “junky” cereal is.

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The Grid

48. “Choose Your Own Rum Adventure” by The Grid: Introduce Hand Drawn Graphics

Ever thought that all that pixel-perfect text makes reading extremely boring? The Grid published this hand drawn diagram to help readers figure out where they should get their rum fix in Toronto.

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The Grid

49. “Das Rätsel der großen Klappe” by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Go From Newspaper To Work Of Art

Art or newspaper? I can’t possibly decide whether this belongs in my magazine rack or up on the wall.

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Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

50. “Cycling in Taiwan” by The Epoch Times: Master Your Balance

Balance here is everything. There is sufficient white space, two compelling images that don’t clash or fight for attention, and a detailed typographic scheme. While headlines use a slab serif typeface, the legibility of the body copy is preserved with a serif font. There is also a special treatment for the image caption, which was created using a sans-serif.

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The Epoch Times

Over To You…

Editorial design is becoming more creative, dynamic, and innovative. The web poses an interesting challenge for creators, who now face the need to translate these amazing grids and layouts into a format that works for different types of browsers. Do you know any other newspapers that are doing a stellar job? Leave a note in the comments section, below.

Laura (@laurabusche) is a Brand Content Strategist at Creative Market and regularly blogs about branding and business at laurabusche.com/blog. Laura earned a Master of Arts in Design Management from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She is the author of O’Reilly Media‚Äôs Lean Branding book.