Sean McKeown-Young — Wisconsin team leader at the Gannett Design Studio in Des Moines, Iowa — bragged this week about one of his young designers.
Part of staffing the studios was that we could take some chances. We could hire people that weren’t necessarily “safe.”
Dave Lafata was one of those hires. He had no background in newspapers but he did have an impressive portfolio and he struck us all as the kind of guy you would want around while launching 10 daily newspapers. [Creative director] Nathan Groepper was an early supporter. Dave has really good instincts and I was excited to see what would transpire.
Dave is a 2012 graduate of Central Michigan. His degree is in Fine Art. Part of what makes him so interesting is that he comes at design and presentation from that Art background; less hard angles and perfect justification and more unusual photo play and painterly headlines. His innate understanding of color and composition are incredibly impressive for a designer that is still in the early part of his career.
And, in fact, I have several of Dave’s pages in my collection. On the left, here, was a great page from the NCAA Tournament last year.
The page on the right I called:
My favorite front page of the day…
Several papers, over the past few days, have used images of the power players in Washington. But the designer here — I’m told it was Dave Lafata, a recent graduate of Central Michigan — used an old trick to focus on just the eyes of John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and Harry Reid. Think of it as a cinematic treatment, but on paper.
And then, nearly a year ago, I posted a blog item in which Sean praised Dave’s work on a series of covers for the week-long Experimental Aircraft Association “AirVenture” air show.
Sean called them…
…some of the most exciting covers I’ve seen. I love everything about them. I love the really measured volume the amazing use of great photography, the variety and the cohesiveness.
And he was right. Those covers were terrific.
So that’s the background. Sean picks up the story again:
After an impressive set of designs for the 2013 Oshkosh Northwestern EAA covers, Dave started lobbying us to design them again in 2014. We would have been fools not to let him continue.
He was already showing signs of stress (good stress) by New Years. As the weeks have lead up to the 2014 EAA I could see Dave agonizing over the details and sweating through a variety of dummy layouts.
But the ulcers look like they’re worth it. Dave’s first two designs are getting me really hyped up for the continuation. You know how ‘easily excitable’ I am – so, that’s not a big leap.
This year, Dave has dropped the rest of the page and turned the entire front into a poster presentation. Given the importance of this event to the city of Oshkosh, that’s not a problem at all.
Nor is using fantastic photography this large. Man, is this page gorgeous.
(Side note: Air Force Thunderbird pilots are insane.)
That was Sunday’s front page. Here was yesterday’s front:
Today’s front page features a Boeing V-22 Osprey.
Sean tells us:
Dave’s a great designer — or he is on the road to becoming a great designer — but without brilliant content and an awesome site to work with, we could get really stuck. We’re incredibly lucky to work with the Oshkosh Northwestern team. Editor Jim Fitzhenry has been a huge advocate for creative conceptualization and encourages unexpected and exciting design and editorial ideas. His excitement and positivity has really set the tone for the design that we aspire to deliver to them on a daily basis.
To top that all off, the photography that the site generates is absolutely breath-taking, particularly for this event. In a way, I sort of feel like I just have to keep from screwing it up.
The photos are awesome. The site is awesome. The designer is young and hungry. If I’m smart, I’ll stand back and let it happen.
I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.
Average daily circulation for the Northwestern is 14,113.