The 163 History of The New York Times

Class: Communication Design Fundamentals (Fall 2015)
Project: Create a 10+ page physical book of your choice
Tools: Adobe PhotoShop & Adobe InDesign

Observe my process below or view final product here!



My initial idea was to find New York Times (NYT) papers throughout history and replicate their aesthetic appeal with different content that described the time period. Each page would represent the look and feel of the newspaper at the time, with the content in the paper informing the audience about the NYT furing that time period. Taking the first paper released in 1851 for example, I would look at a picture and attempt to recreate the look and feel in InDesign as you can see below. I did not know where I would find the text to fill up the entire page, what background to use, or what else I could do to create an old looking newspaper. As I spent an hour or so trying to match fonts, play with columns, find backgrounds, and various other things that would recreate a similar image I realized this was in no way scaleable to create an entire book.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 7.35.33 PM

Since I was trying to convey the look and feel of the NYT over time, I decided I should instead use real pictures from the history of the NYT to convey the actual look and feel.


Originally, the left and right sides of a spread were not to be related aside from the fact that the book would be read in chronological order. With the idea of using real pictures of real NYT front pages, I decided to put the picture on the right spread and use the left spread to depict the history factually.

Around this time, I was creating my document in InDesign and was playing with some different ideas for the size of my book. As I thought about how the size could convey the project, I stumbled upon the idea of making the book the actual size of a newspaper. When I learned that one side of a newspaper could fit on a tabloid sheet of paper, I decided to go through with the idea.

I started the actual design by determining which historical moments I wanted to focus on. I came to the conclusion of doing six spreads. The spreads would consist of the very first issue, an issue from the day after the Titanic, an issue from the day after JFK’s assassination, an issue from the day after 9/11, as well as a spread on the NYT’s first digital efforts and another spread on their digital efforts today. I found large images online for the first four newspaper articles, but had to create the final two myself. Here is an example of one of the NYT’s early newspapers that I included on the left side of a spread.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 3.35.26 PM

As for the digital spreads, I came up with an idea to include both mobile versions and desktop versions from different time periods, the two primary ways to consume new online today. For backgrounds I found an old Mac OS background that was slightly blurry for the first digital spread that contrasted well with a modern, very detailed Mac OS background for the digital efforts today. You can see these two images below.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 3.38.51 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 3.39.01 PM

As for the right sides of the spreads, I decided to make these consistent across all of the spreads. I used font that was found both on the NYT website in addition to in the newspaper itself. I found content on the NYT site, its FaceBook page, in addition to various other places across the web. My initial idea was to keep these pages very minimal, with only a title, some headlines, and some smaller text. I was expecting the user to view the left size, read the date, then view the right side and read the title and content to match the sides together. Here is an early version of how the right side of my pages looked.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 3.23.51 PM

Around this time I had also created a front cover that I was very proud of. The front cover encompassed the entire feel of the book, while still providing a very aesthetically appealing image. It encompassed the feel by showing an iPad over scattered NYT newspapers, with bold, futuristic text conveying the title. Below is my front cover at the time. As an aside, my back cover was still blank at this time.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 3.50.00 PM


After I had put all of this together, I printed it out and brought it to a class critique. Here I learned some important things.

  • Readers understood why the book was the size it was
  • Readers enjoyed that the right side of the pages were simple.
  • Readers did not understand why the left and right side of the pages related. Specifically, they did not understand the time period each page was representing.
  • Readers did not understand why the bottom right side of the pages were so blank.
  • Readers did not understand that they were supposed to be reading the smaller text on the right side of the page.

Based on these responses, I made a few changes. I still wanted to keep the right sided pages simple, but I knew I needed to convey some stuff clearer. I added a timeline to each page that visually displayed the time period being talked about. I also, moved the text from the right to the bottom and formatted it differently. I formatted as one would see on the NYT newspaper today, with section titles, small headlines, and supporting text. With these changes I solved most of my problems. I solved the issue of conveying the time period to the user in addition to conveying that the smaller text was still meant to be read. As reader took in the visual information from the left side and written information on the right side, they now understood the link much more clearly. Specifically, because the time period bared resemblance to the image and the supporting text discussed the time period, linking everything together.

I also needed to add a back cover at this time. Keeping with the theme that my book felt like a newspaper, I turned to a real NYT newspaper for inspiration for the back cover. I learned that the back page was always an advertisement. I searched the Internet and found a fairly large, well made NYT advertisement and places it on the back cover. I also added my sources. Below you can see my final book in its entirety.


View a flipbook version of the final product here!

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