Five-column vs. six-column grid, Part 2

I mentioned in my last post that many newspaper designers prefer a six-column grid because it gives you more flexibility in designing a page, particularly when it comes to displaying photographs. I asked copy editor and technological wiz  Donna Horvath to help me illustrate that by using the front page of the Thursday, Aug. 18, edition.

What you’ll see below are three versions of Page A1. The first is the one we published, with the main photo displayed in three columns on our current five-column grid. The second also uses the five-column grid, but displays the main photograph on four of the five columns. The third version uses the same photograph over four of six columns.

To my eyes, the photo has less visual impact in the first version (the one we published); looks very big in the second version (four of five columns); and has a more balanced combination of impact and acreage in the third version (four of six columns). And that doesn’t take into account the greater flexibility for writing headlines and adding other visual elements.

Is there more or less copy on the page? It depends. In Version 2 (photo four out of five columns), for instance, the photo has more impact, but it takes up so much space that it eliminates a second visual element for that story  (road projects). In Version 3 (photo four of six columns) you have less copy for the main story, but more for the bottom story (Cross Cancer breakthrough) because the photo that accompanies that story is smaller.

The big plus is that you have more flexibility in displaying both stories and photographs on a six-column grid. That’s why we asked Gayle to use six columns as the starting point for the redesign.

Published version: photo three columns on five-column grid

Alternate version: photo is four of five columns

Version 3: main art is four of six columns



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5 responses to “Five-column vs. six-column grid, Part 2

  1. Paul Cashman

    Always liked the six-column grid for fronts because there are more options with photos but wonder how well it will look on inside pages where we have 10-column grid dictated by the way we sell ads. Might be worth doing a remake of copy on an inside page or two to see how many plug ads and bastard measures we end up with. Maybe we need a six column grid for section fronts and a more ad-friendly grid for inside pages.

    • Most newspapers keep the five-column grid for ads if they switch to a six-column grid. That was the case at the Times Colonist when they made the switch; apart from everything else, national ads at Postmedia are sold on a standard 10-column grid, so it just simplifies lfe for everyone if the five/10 ad grid is maintained.

  2. John Connolly

    I’m really enjoying this blog and the input from staff.

  3. Paul Bacon

    As part of the redesign, perhaps we should give our filler ads a total overhaul. Besides being unattractive, and repetitive, they are often the wrong size for the holes we need to fill.

  4. John Connolly


    I agree and have forwarded your comment to Lynn Propp in Advertising.

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