Latin American Newspaper Design Pops

By: Mark Fitzgerald

In the 1960s, the literary world sat up and took notice of the dozens of captivating novels coming out of Latin America from authors such as Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa. The literary phenomenon came to be known simply as the “Boom.”

Latin American newspapers are in the midst of something similar to that. Although the movement does not yet have a catchy name, designers of newspapers in the United States and abroad are taking notice of the stunning redesigns that are transforming papers that were once so devoid of graphics and dense with smudgy letterpress type that they barely qualified even as Good Gray Ladys.

Among the papers repeatedly singled out for praise are the Argentinean dailies, La Gaceta in Tucum?n and Clar?n in Buenos Aires; the Junco family’s Mexican papers, Reforma in Mexico City and El Norte in Monterrey; Siglo 21 in Guatemala City, Guatemala; and, since a redesign that launched Sept. 11, El Mercurio in Santiago, Chile.

“I would say what you’re seeing is kind of a reflection of the richness and the colors of the culture,” said Ron Reason, the Chicago-based designer whose credits include redesigns of The Dallas Morning News and the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel. “You tend to see a lot more color and a wider range of color palette. The papers use color a lot more adventurously than in the U.S. Sometimes, too, just on [informative] graphics, there’s a complexity of design and richness of detail, a layered approach you don’t see here.”

Reason is now creative director of Garcia-Media, the global firm of one of the pioneers of Latin American newspaper design, Cuban native Mario Garcia. Best known in the United States these days for the redesign that added color and multicolumn headlines on Page One to The Wall Street Journal, Garcia takes his Latin American design inspiration from the colors of a paper’s market. South American papers, he said in a recent interview with Poynter Institute Design Editor Anne Conneen, should reflect the “systematic chaos” of their cities.

Because their newspaper designs are as individual as their home cities, it’s not terribly useful to talk about a Latin American “style,” argued Adrian Alvarez, El Norte‘s design editor. “What we Latin American designers have done is develop a better ability in our eyes to apply color, perhaps because Latin culture is much richer in color than other [cultures],” Alvarez said. A regional director for the Society for News Design (SND), Alvarez has created a digital newsletter for Latin American designers, “?rea-once” (http://www.snd.org).

One thing that good-looking Latin papers do have in common is that their editors are sold on the value of graphics, said Susan M. Curtis, vice president of SND and an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism: “Designers have more freedom with their pages. Their editors have welcomed them into the news process more than they have here.”

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