I bought Khoi Vinh's book at the tail end of 2010, knowing that one of the first projects I'd be involved in at Thought Collective would be the redesign of The Zimbabwean newspaper (paper, web and pad). Although a well respected and often quoted (notably by the Guardian) voice for change in the troubled country, to date its design and production has been done on something of a shoe-string. Paper editions are printed in both the UK and South Africa (then shipped into Zim), and the online version is published from England. Currently, its design doesn't live up to what it deserves to be.
So far I've been mostly thinking about the web. So I've been wire-framing. OK, I know a thing or two about grids (for print) but on- (and for that matter off-) line a newspaper is a very particular kettle of fish. So I thought, that man Vinh, he's been through this, he must know his stuff, I'll read his book.
I'm glad I did. Living up to its name, Khoi's book did one really great thing for me: It took what I know and it put it in the right order so I could apply it to the task in hand with something close to confidence. Bundled with other learnings accumulated in both recent and bygone times (I'm knocking on a bit you know) Ordering Disorder helped me swiftly fit it all together - and rather neatly too.
The outcome appears to be a pretty robust and flexible grid system. I guess only thorough testing will tell me if it's up to the mark but so far, it seems to be good.
If you haven't read the book, I think I should tell you a bit more. For one thing, please don't misunderstand what I'm saying here; it's not a step-by-step guide to designing an online newspaper. Far from it. It's actually a fairly lightweight overview of designing for web with a grid. And when I say "lightweight", upon reflection I reckon most of the learning is done about a third of the way through. And the latter two thirds basically coasts you through the application of the established system. Although Vinh, helpfully, goes to lengths to outline the development of grid systems for graphic design, his writing is pretty snappy and the text is bordering on skimpy - there's loads of big white gaps in the book. That might sound a bit critical but actually all that made for a, thankfully, swift read; I've a lot to do and no time for a heavy-going volume.
The basic pages are wired. Tomorrow, I'm whizzing through them with Ryan, who's going to build the back-end publishing system. Meanwhile, Al is beavering away on the print format (looks like we'll be using Hoefler & Frere-Jones' Sentinel for that with Whitney in support).