pure design: centered vs. flush-left headlines

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The nineteenth "fable" from Mario Garcia's "Pure design"


  • mario garcia


    Centered vs. ush leftheadlinesCentered headlines dominated newspapers for decades, until, in the

    1970s, more experimental newspapers began experimenting with

    flush-left headlines. Suddenly, newspapers would use the left-hand

    side of the page to align not only headlines, but also other elements

    like bylines, summary paragraphs, quotes and captions under photo-

    graphs. One of the first newspapers to do this was the now defunct

    Chicago Daily News. The style was also adopted by the Minneapolis

    Tribune when, in 1971, it also switched to an all-Helvetica approach.

    Since then, newspapers have opted mostly for flush left-headlines,

    especially in the United States, where centered heads are rare in any

    newspaper today. However, a quick trip across the Atlantic, and one

    finds the classic Times of London, continuing to use centered heads,

    as do many other European newspapers, as well as dailies in Asia

    and South America.

    Any comment about one style of headline alignment versus the

    other would be based only on personal preference. However, how

    one aligns headlines does have an overall effect on the look of

    the page.

    Centered headlines give a page a more classic and traditional look;

    flush left headlines are more modern, and invite more white space

    onto the page.

  • pure design


    Flush-left headlines must be followed by a flush-left alignment for

    all other elements that follow it, while centered heads can very

    well be accompanied by bylines and other elements that are

    aligned to the left.

    Tabloids fare much better with flush-left headlines, while broad-

    sheets can use either style.

    Consistency is important: keep either all heads centered, or all

    heads flushed left. However, some papers with centered headlines,

    such as The Times of London, do offer a bit of contrast by making

    the headlines for briefs flush left. This is better when there is also a

    switch of type font.

    After all this, we are reminded that the wording of the headline, the

    message transmitted, the hook to get the reader to read the text is, at

    the end of the day, far more important than how one aligns

    the type.

  • Elegant and easy to read: When Ron Reason first sketched pages forour redesign of the Staten IslandAdvance, he never imagined head-lines in any other way than centered.It was a way of lending elegance to anewspaper with a rich communitytradition. Centered headlines alsoallow for good headline counts, whichwriters appreciate.

    mario garcia


  • pure design


    Perfectly aligned heads: The DailyStar of Lebanon, designed by our JanKny, employs flush-left headlines,which became popular in the 1970s.They help organize the page, withperfect alignment of elements thatemphasizes a better use of modularlayout. They also accommodate per-fectly square modules much betterthan they do centered ones.