The A4 project

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The first project in this module is to design and publish an A4-sized daily newspaper for the Literary Ipswich festival. We’re doing A4 because it is the most flexible format, easy to reproduce on paper without going to a specialist printer, easy to also output and view as a .pdf, easy to distribute together with other A4-sized or folded-newspaper media, easy for historians of the future to bind and archive.

As a first step before doing our layout template let’s think through the decisions we need to set up our own publication – the dimensions along which things can vary. I have a list but let’s each come up with our own and merge them. Assume that the raw copy and art are going to be magically produced by some other process (most of you are working in parallel on that other process), so as editors you only need to make design and style decisions. The first one is made already: Page size is A4. It could be just one A4, or a couple if we find we horrendously misjudged the amount of copy. Folding the A4 into A5 wastes too much space in margins so we will use the full A4. However there is no law that it has to be in portrait (vertical) orientation.

We also have to think of a good name. So far the field is open: we can be literal, allusive, surrealist …

Here are some examples of A4-sized newspapers, newsletters and other ephemera, some obviously amateur and some professional-looking. More suggestions are welcome. You’ll see there is considerable room to improve the medium:

Illustrious¬†issues 1 / April 22, 2 / April 23, 3 / April 23, 4 / April 24, and 5 / April 25.¬†These are daily news sheets from the 2011 UK national science fiction convention aka Eastercon, renamed Illustrious in that year. It’s also common for business conventions and trade shows to have their own daily newspapers, though I haven’t got any examples handy.

Locus, the science fiction community journal. It is a proper magazine magazine now, but used to appear as sheets of tiny, probably photoreduced, typewriting: intricate, detailed lists of upcoming conventions, books, magazines, awards, meetups, author sightings. True fans would fold the events listing into eighths, keep it in their wallets, and plan their lives around it. (They would print their personal contact lists of people’s phone numbers on another A4 for the wallet, photocopied or stored on a computer so it could be replaced when it got frayed.) You can see that even in the new magazine format the Locus people are trying to squeeze in as much as possible.

Ansible, from April 2011, apparently one guy’s attempt to keep the dense information style going.

Science Fiction Journalen, a Swedish example of the dense information style.

Tuomiolehti, the daily news sheet of the Finnish convention Finncon. Aamulehti or Morning News is the main newspaper in Tampere where the con was held that year and Tuomiolehti would be Judgment Paper, with overtones of Doom Paper and Throne/Seat/Cathedral Paper.

Exposure, my prototype for a newsletter for the School of Arts and Humanities.

Release 1.0, Esther Dyson’s newsletter about technology, which was the AllThingsD or TechCrunch of the 1980s. Originally published by a brokerage house as part of its reports to investors. Brokerage news reports, by the way, typically look like this (“Euro at Risk” from Encima Global) and often have chirpy titles like Morning Espresso – that one, if I recall correctly, was the 90-page daily overnight update from JPMorgan on Latin American pulp stocks. These documents are bulked up with scientific-looking charts but the important thing is the analyst comments on the latest news and what will happen next.

Left Business Observer, Doug Henwood’s long-running, descriptively named newsletter.

Picked Up For You, a weekly digest of the science press that circulated for many years at the CERN physics lab (blurry image).

The Daily Confusion, MIT’s induction week schedule for new students – mainly living-group related events as students spend the first weekend choosing where they will live on campus.