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March 11, 2010

The need to take art to heart

by Warren Zhang, Managing News Editor and Ombudsman
One of the many things we are trying this year for Silver Chips is using more artwork and graphics in the paper to make our pages more visually appealing to readers. A problem associated with this increased emphasis on art is that there are issues with. Moving forward, Silver Chips definitely needs to place more rigorous standards for art.

Ombudsman Warren Zhang
Ombudsman Warren Zhang
Before talking about the ways in which Silver Chips should seek to improve the art elements in the paper, we should first discuss what qualifies as art. In each issue of the paper, there are three general types of graphical elements: photos, art and graphics. Graphics are usually computer generated and accompany many stories within the paper, serving as tools to visualize a statistic or a process mentioned in a story.

Art, on the other hand, consists of hand-drawn elements that have been scanned into the computer. Art is usually found in the paper in the form of cartoons or as part of a story. Because of the nature of the art we use in Silver Chips, art assigned to a story is usually only thematically related to the story; unlike graphics, they do not seek to convey information relevant to the story.

With the significant differences between the two visual elements, it is only natural that two different teams work on the process. Writers on our design team make graphics, while a dedicated art staff creates the art found in Chips. We will be talking about art for this article, not about graphics.

One major issue that needs to be resolved is consistency on every page. For example, the art in last issue's soapbox page looks disjointed. Different styles are apparent in the final product, detracting from the unity of the page.

While it is entirely unrealistic to expect all of our artists to draw in the same style, more work can be done to ensure consistency in the paper.

We can begin by making sure that only one artist handles all the art on a page, making any differences in style is less noticeable to readers, making the paper more visually appealing and attractive. That is not to suggest that we want all the art in the paper to look exactly the same. Diverse art styles add to the variety of the many pages of the paper, especially the comics, but different styles on the same page look weird.

But, perhaps a more basic issue involved with the art is the quality of the work placed in the paper. The coloring work on some pieces of art, on occasion, leaves much to be desired.

The most recent example would be the large art background on the Feb. Silver Chips issue's "Race to the top" page. The color of the apple hardly contrasts with the table color, making it blend too well with the table. Individual objects are also not colored very well, with many small smudges appearing on the artwork.

The solution is not as simple. Our artists may just have to get better at coloring in art. Coloring in scans on Photoshop is not an easy process and more time needs to be spent crafting better pieces of art. Fortunately, art is usually in black and white, so problematic coloring isn't a frequent problem in the paper.

Though there's a large focus on the written aspect of the newspaper, the visual elements of the paper also play a massive role in how much readers enjoy reading the newspaper. We are not saying that the art in the newspaper is dreadful - our art staffers are excellent at their jobs, they produce quality art, most of the time. What we are saying is that art could be and should be improved.

By focusing on improving the art in the paper, we will be able to create a newspaper that is both well-written and visually appealing, something that readers will truly be able to enjoy.



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