Bubble yuan's Blog

3. Design: Print vs Online

Posted on: September 12, 2009

This posting discusses about the design considerations between print and online publication where two examples from each are provided.




ST frontpage

^Fig. A – The Straits Times front page, 10 September 2009.


The Straits Times above illustrates a typical layout of broadsheet newspapers. According to Parker (1990, p. 12), dominant visuals creates reading paths that communicates relative importance to readers.

For example, Time magazine (see attached Fig. B below) demonstrates dominant visuals. Such as the title printed in red and large prominent fonts while black and smaller fonts for less prominent news stories. Also, by using universal images such as the barcode, registers with readers immediately:


times front

^Fig. B – Time magazine cover page, 21 September 2009.


Reading paths for both print examples, portrays left to right, top to bottom, referencing to the Gutenberg diagram (Wheildon 1990, p.8); reading gravity. Other elements such as framing and contrast in typography (colour and font sizes) interacts with readers to scan the provided information.

Both layouts demonstrates Center and Margin (Kress and van Leeuwen 1998, p. 196) using white spaces and lines to diversify its information values. Unlike broadcast or electronic publications, print cannot report live and are more reliant on the reading process to stimulate interaction with readers.

Thus when designing for print, by applying appropriate semiotic language, visual and salient elements and understanding how readers may react helps create effective layouts for print.





Similar to print, the layouts for online publications observe reading gravity. However, the vast difference is that a single webpage can multiply into many reading paths for readers with embeded videos, audio, images, hyperlinks and navigation buttons (Walsh 2006, p. 30).

The chosen website examples shown below – The Straits Times online and Amazon.com demonstrates how text , spatial display and other visual elements work coherently in their respective layouts:


ST Online

^Fig. C – The Straits Times (ST) online <link>.


Kress (1997, p. 69-70) states that modern visual representations on online space comes from the perspective of the creator of the representation. For example, the layout for ST online shows that it caters to a more local (Singapore) audience while Amazon.com caters to the American audience.

However, since websites are placed on the internet, it is in public view. That means anyone from any part of the world has access to your website. Therefore, online publications must also carry a global perspective when designing for its layout.



^Fig. D – Amazon.com <link>.


Online content can report live by using motion graphic elements such as animation to allow websites to auto-generate interaction with readers.

Both online examples from above illustrates dominant visuals similar to print. The important consideration is to avoid overcrowding or overloading the layout with information as shown above.



Observations between print and online publication designs shows that it requires the combination of various elements to work together in relation to how readers interact (reading process) with the layout.

As print is static, it is able to include more details to inform readers about a topical issue but cannot refresh that information instantly unlike online content. However,  the fundamentals are common.

The layout for both print and online has to be clear, scannable and reader-friendly.




♥ The Straits Times 10 September 2009, p. 1.

♥ Time Magazine, 21 September 2009, p. 1.

♥ The Straits Times Online, 2009, The Straits Times, Singapore, viewed 18 September 2009, <www.straitstimes.com>

♥ Amazon.com, 2009, viewed 18 September 2009, <www.amazon.com>

♥ Parker, Roger C, 1990, Looking good in print: a guide to basic design for desktop publishing, Ventana Press, Chapel Hill, NC

♥ Wheildon, Colin, 1990, Communicating or just making pretty shapes: a study of validity – or otherwise – of some elements of typographic design, Newspaper Advertising Bureau of Australia, North Sydney

♥ Kress, Gunter and van Leeuwen, Theo, 1998, Ch7: Front Pages: (the critical) analysis of newspaper layout, Blackwell, Oxford

Walsh, Maureen, 2006, Australian Journal of Language and Literacy Vol 29, No.1, viewed on 15 September 2009, <http://search.informit.com.au.ezlibproxy.unisa.edu.au/fullText;res=AEIPT;dn=149631&gt;


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