‘What I love about his work is how absolutely unexpected it is’

Sean McKeown-Young, creative director for the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines, Iowa, writes to tip us off about some great work being done there.

He tells us:

I wanted to make sure that you noticed Dave Lafata’s work. He has rapidly become an ‘uber-designer.’


Aside from being a really great guy with some really exciting ideas about what newspapers can look like, he has a stunning talent. These first two examples are just from [Wednesday]. I am blown away.


He’s originally from Warren, Michigan – so he’s another Detroit-metro dude. He graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in Fine Arts in 2012. He started in the studio in 2012 designing Wausau/Wisconsin Rapids/Stevens Point/Marshfield Sports. It’s amazing how fast he grew.

He is now the lead designer for Green Bay. That is huge for a young designer.


We’ve been so lucky to have some tremendously forward-thinking editors that have really collaborated to let his vision shine.  Dave is also really lucky to work with Bill Wambeke, the Wisconsin Team Leader. Bill has been a huge influence on Dave’s career, allowing him the room to grow and the coaching to hone his statement.


What I love about his work is how absolutely unexpected it is. It feels relevant and relatable but totally fresh. I think that’s rare. He is a tremendous artist and his work increasingly has elements of his fine arts work; he’s blending hand drawn work with digital.

I get really excited when I see new talent and designers coming into ‘their voice.’

Sean has bragged on Dave before — when Dave built a series of covers about a huge air show in Oshkosh. I posted a batch of these covers in 2013 and again in 2014.

A few samples:







Gannett’s Dave is not the David Lafata who is an internationally known soccer star. As far as I know.

A Q&A with the Harvard Business Review’s Matt Perry

Former San Diego Union-Tribune graphics editor Matt Perry traded coasts over the holidays, moving to Boston to become a senior information designer for the Harvard Business Review.


Just in time for the snowiest winter in the recent history of Boston.

Great timing, huh?

The Harvard Business Review‘s parent unit — Harvard Business Publishing, which was founded 21 years ago — is a nonprofit subsidiary of Harvard University’s business school. It employs about 350 people mostly in Boston but also in New York City, India and the U.K.


In addition to the magazine, the unit publishes books, blogs, webinars and a bunch of other stuff, too.

Matt answered a few questions for us about what brought him to the other side of the contintent:

Q. What can you tell me about your new job? How is it different — if it is different — from the newspaper world?

A. My job at Harvard Business Review is similar, yet significantly different, to what I did in my past newspaper roles.

I’m still creating information graphics — researching, pitching, executing, editing and so on — and still using the same software. But I’m not doing graphics that span the spectrum of topic areas a general-interest newspaper tries to cover. Instead, I’m focusing on subjects more in line with HBR’s mission, which is how to improve the practice of management in a changing world.

I asked Matt to explain the sample pieces he sent me. Click any of these for a readable view.

Matt writes:

The orchestrator model (a two-page spread in the magazine) piece is an example of something I did to explain the author’s concept.

JulAug14 SPOT Arons.pdf

My work in newspapers primarily involved data-driven charts and maps, so it’s been nice to expand my skills by working on process/idea graphics such as this.

We try to work a data-driven element into the magazine’s Idea Watch section, and the slopegraph of global connectedness is an example of something I built for that.

1001 Mar15 IdeaWatch.indd

This final attachment is an example of a Vision Statement, a self-contained two-page spread in the magazine that is intended to be a data- and/or visuals-driven piece. (And yes, I know Alaska and Hawaii are states, but it was decided that since this wasn’t breaking news – the piece focused on the philosophy of how one approaches visualizing data – having the lower 48 states was sufficient to drive that point home.)


Three of us – Matthew Guemple (a senior designer), Scott Berinato (a senior editor) and me – worked on this piece.

HBR is a sharp, beautiful and insightful magazine/website, and I’m honored to be part of the team here.

Now, let’s pick up with the Q&A. Matt says:

The pacing has been a big change too, in that there’s not a daily print deadline I’m racing (and often staying late) to hit — we’re working far in advance. There are internal deadlines and targets, of course, but there’s a much bigger focus on thinking through multiple options for a graphic and refining approaches.

Along those lines, there are significantly more levels of proofreading and editing too, which is great. And I’ve adapted to getting out of work in time to eat a dinner that’s 1) not always fast food and 2) not always consumed at my desk. That’s pretty awesome.

Q. When did you start?

A. My first day at HBR was Dec. 1. Prior to moving to Boston, I had been working in a freelance capacity for them since May.

Q. What’s it like being on the East Coast again? Tired of the snow yet?

A. My only experience with the East Coast before now was a summer internship and winter holiday temp work in NYC. I grew up in northern Indiana though, so I’m familiar with snow.


That said, this is my first “winter” in 14 years, having lived in either New Orleans or San Diego since 2001. And there’s been an insane amount of snow in Boston this year — I’ve never seen anything like it, both in terms of the amount that’s fallen in such a short window and how much has accumulated because it’s been too cold to melt off.


I can’t say I’m truly tired of it, as I had been missing seasons (and weather in general) after a decade in San Diego, but an occasional non-snowstorm weekend would be nice.


And it turns out that my beagle loves snow — it’s her first true winter after 13 years in Southern California — so she’s had a blast this year.

A 2001 graduate of Ball State University, Matt worked for the student paper there, the Ball State Daily News, served an internship for the Portland Oregonian and freelanced for the Times-Union of Warsaw, Ind., the Star Press of Muncie and the Associated Press.

He spent three years as an artist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune before moving to the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2004 as a news artist. He was promoted to senior news artist in 2006, to graphics editor in 2008 and to director in 2010.

Matt left U-T San Diego in February of last year. A few samples of his newspaper work:






Find Matt’s portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.

Read more about the Harvard Business Review here.

Just what you need: A real, live bullshit detector

Neal Pattison, executive editor of the Daily Herald in Everett, Wash., wrote Wednesday to ask:

You’ve seen this?

No. No I have not.


This is a cute little website+font that incorporates a real, live bullshit detector.


You type or cut-and-paste some copy and it’ll automatically redact any words it thinks are unworthy. For example, there’s that little line there in the header:

The agile unicorn funded an uber immersive beta below the fold.

Type that in and you’ll get:


Oh, what fun! So, naturally, I wanted to give it a test spin. But what copy to use as a guinea pig?

You’ll be glad to know that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address passes muster.


No bullshit at all there. I then tried other obvious choices, like the preamble to the Constitution…


…and the opening of the Declaration of Independence.


As you can see: No luck. Sans Bullshit Sans finds no bullshit at all in these samples.

It also found no bullshit in my official web site bio…


…or in the opening to a certain 49-year-old TV show.


It looks like this would work pretty well with PR copy or even memos from your friendly neighborhood HR office.

Check it out here.

Fargo Forum seeks a ‘versatile, energetic’ page designer

Last week, I taught a week of visual journalism classes at the Forum of Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn.

My host for the week — presentation editor Jason Miller — contacts me now to tell us he’s looking to hire a “versatile, energetic” page designer.


Here’s the official want ad, as posted at JournalismJobs:

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead is seeking a versatile and energetic person to join its team of page designers.

The ideal candidate would be able to design bold, striking pages with dynamic art and eye-catching headlines. The Forum isn’t afraid to take risks with its design, especially on Page One. Our covers are consistently in the Newseum Top 10 and featured on Charles Apple’s design blog.

We’re looking for a designer who can not only build six-column centerpieces daily, but can also dissect a story and get to its heart to create an illustration or can find additional information for a breakout that will add more to a story.

This designer must also possess sound news judgment, work efficiently, be able to turn a page on its head in the event of breaking news, and be able to upload content to our website. Design will primarily be on A1 and Metro+State sections.

Experience building charts, graphics and illustrations is preferred, but not required.

A few samples of the Forum from my collection:



Back to the ad…

The position involves evening and weekend work, and salary will be based on experience. We offer four-day workweeks with three consecutive days off.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper on the Northern Plains reaches more than 45,000 highly-engaged daily readers and boasts the region’s most popular news website, averaging more than 10 million page views a month. We are family owned, financially stable and in a growing and dynamic market with strong K-12 schools, large and small universities and many cultural, recreational and entertainment options.

Many of our journalists move on from here to major-market dailies. Those who stay have great opportunities for advancement with us or within our parent company’s regional footprint spanning four Upper Midwest states. And while we value experience, newer journalists with strong work ethics and great clips will also be considered for the position, which offers competitive pay and benefits.

Qualified applicants should apply by March 16 to Presentation Editor Jason Miller at…

jmiller [at] forumcomm.com


101 5th St. N.
Box 2020
Fargo, ND  58107.

In case you’re wondering, Fargo is located in the bottom right corner of the state along the Red River, which forms the border with Minnesota.It’s about three-and-a-half hours northwest of Minneapolis and about two-and-a-half hours east of Bismarck, the state capital.

The river is prone to springtime flooding; however, after several high-profile floods in the 1990s, they’ve done some work with prevention efforts. The water rose quite high in 2010 and no major damage resulted.

These two pictures of the city are from Wikimedia Commons…



…and this one of the Forum building, I took last week.


Yes, it gets cold in Fargo. Yes, it snows (an average of more than four feet a year of the white stuff, although this year it was quite a bit less).

The local economy is based primarily around agriculture: Food processing and so on. There’s also quite a bit of insurance and health care industry in town. The city’s second-largest employer is North Dakota State University.

With NDSU and two other colleges in the area, the city has plenty of arts and culture: A jazz group, opera, symphony orchestra, several local theatre groups and so on. There’s a sizable air museum and an annual Winter Carnival.

And speaking of North Dakota State: The school has won four consecutive national football championships in the FCS (formerly known as division I-AA).



If you’re like me, most of what you probably know about Fargo is from the big movie in 1996. Only one or two shots were actually filmed in Fargo. Most of that movie was made in Brainerd, Minn., and Minneapolis.

In addition, the movie claims that the movie is based on actual events. That’s total bullshit — but you probably guessed that if you’ve ever seen the movie.

Famous people from Fargo include 1960s musical icon Bobby Vee, Peter Schickele (better known as PDQ Bach), sports greats Andy Heck, Paul Gaustad, Gary Larsen and Roger Maris and NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro.

The paper itself is a 45,298-circulation family-owned daily.

Find the Forum‘s web site here.

Find the web site here for the city of Fargo itself. Find the tourism section of the web site here.

Go here to read the write-up of my trip there last week.

Birthdays for Thursday, March 5

Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to three talented visual journalists…


Todd Bayha is assistant art director for the Columbus Dispatch. Since 1996, Todd has worked as a news, sports and features designer, as well as doing graphics and illustration for the Dispatch. A little-known fact about Todd: He comes from a huge family of artists and illustrators. Go here to see a few pieces from other members of the family tree.


Jim Borden is metro editor for the Tribune-Review of Pittsburgh, Pa. A 1979 graduate of the University of Idaho, Jim spent six years as managing editor of the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette. He moved to Pittsburgh in 2011.


Marc Correnti is production editor for the Villages Daily Sun of Florida. A 2007 graduate of Eastern Illinois University, Marc spent five years as a reporter and copy editor for the Rockford (Ill.) Register Star. He moved to the Beloit (Wis.) Daily News in 2008 and then back to Rockford in 2012 as a copy editor and paginator for GateHouse Media. He moved to the Villages in 2013. Marc turns 31 today.

Marc, Jim and Todd share a birthday with actors Jolene Blalock, Jake Lloyd, Robert Dean Stockwell, Eva Mendes, Victoria Louise Samantha Marie Elizabeth Therese Eggar, James Barrie Sikking, James Noble, Sterling Sandmann Knight, Lloyd Michael Warren and Reginald Carey “Rex” Harrison; musicians Andy Gibb and Marie Christine Brockert (better known as Teena Marie); magician Penn Fraser Jillette; model Nicole Renee “Niki” Taylor; sports greats Michael Jerome Irvin, Robert Patrick “Rocky” Blier, Fred “the Hammer” Williamson (all three football), Paul Henry Konerko (baseball) and Michael “Mike” Brown (basketball coach); lithographer James Merritt Ives (of Currier and Ives) and PBS NewsHour correspondent Rafael “Ray” Suarez Jr.

In addition, today is World Book Day, Nametag Day and National Absinthe Day. Seriously.

Have a terrific birthday, you three! Best wishes!