Newspaper Design: Designing Hispanic publications: What works?

General market and Hispanic publishers are continually looking for innovative ways to draw more readers and advertising dollars to their papers. Design is key, but when it comes to Hispanic publications there has been a lack of innovative, culturally attuned design that is visually appealing specifically to Hispanic readers. At the same time, publishers must be careful not to over generalize and take a one-size-fits-all approach to Hispanic publication design. “The market is enormously diverse,” says Roger Black, creative director of the design firm DaniloBlackUSA which was responsible for the design of the Texas daily Rumbo (Meximerica Media, combined circ. 260,000/week, Spanish). “The way we are approaching it is by focusing on exactly who the audience is and creating a paper and design that will speak specifically to them.” Black emphasizes the huge differences that exist between regions and cities within Mexico and Latin America and says this diversity makes it dangerous to talk about design for the whole Hispanic market.

More color, more art

Although Black tries not to generalize about a market that is so diverse, he admits that Hispanics do have some things in common besides language. In general, Hispanics are more expressive of their emotions, which translates into more colorful and dynamic publications. When it comes to Hispanic design, most publishers agree that color is very important. Susan Bard, art director at The Houston Chronicle (Hearst, circ. 554,783 Sundays 737,580, ABC audited) worked on the recent redesigns of both The Chronicle and La Voz de Houston (Hearst, weekly, circ. 100,000, Spanish). Bard says La Voz is much more colorful, including color type which would be out of place in The Chronicle. Still, Bard says there are many similarities in the redesigned publications. Both use the same font and the same six column broadsheet format. Both now have more points of entry which include maps, charts, and extra information.

Kathy Nenneker, editorial director at New Parent, which also publishes New Parent en español launched last year, also emphasized color as the primary difference between the general market and Spanish edition of the parenting pub. “We use a brighter palette for New Parent en español. Our editor Isidra Mencos feels the magazine should be vibrant and lively and reflect the tastes of the market.”

Hispanics tend to be more visual than their Anglo counterparts so publications should include more photography and art, and pay more attention to the graphic design and the artistic quality of the entire publication. Susan Bard says La Voz has more and larger photos than The Chronicle. Conexión (Hearst, circ. 50,000, bilingual), a San Antonio weekly that targets higher income English dominant Hispanics, still shares many of the design elements mentioned by Spanish-language publishers. “The paper is very colorful. It's 40 pages and about half of those are in color,” says Dino Chiecchi, editor of Hispanic publications at Conexión. “We have lots of photography, colorful boxes and a lot of text wraps.”

Hip and innovative design

Roger Black says that Rumbo isn't as experimental and radical as he had hoped, partly because of the limitations of the content management system that then publisher Recoletos brought over from Spain. “It was more conventional than I would have liked.” According to Black, Hispanic publications are often less hip and innovative and do not really reflect the upwardly mobile Hispanic market. “They [Hispanics] don't want something that looks like last year's medium.”

Lifestyle and values

Design also has to be functional and reflect an understanding of the values and lifestyle of the readers. “We recognize that Rumbo readers are stressed, so we wanted to put all the content on the surface,” explained Black, who says there are no teasers on the front page. Instead, Rumbo uses long captions so readers can get the gist of the story on the front page. The design also reflects Hispanics' interest in home, food, music and kids. “It came out looking much more like a women's magazine than a typical newspaper,” explained Black. “There is a lot of clipable information, visuals, and charts—things that readers can get information from quickly and that is useful.”

Susan Bard of The Houston Chronicle made a similar observation. “La Voz looks more like a magazine, which is partly because it's a weekly, but also because of the market it serves.” La Voz chose to begin one of its feature stories on the front page. “The first paragraph of the story is printed in extra large type on the front page. It's sort of like a longer teaser,” says Bard.

Broadsheet vs. Tabloid

Designer Roger Black doesn't see any advantage to using broadsheet format. “Every reader I've talked to prefers tabloid.” Black says the reason that papers like Al Día and La Voz de Houston are broadsheet probably has to do with the fact that they are owned by older general market papers that want to be able to cross-sell advertising. “Also, most Hispanic publications have fewer pages so they would seem really thin if they were published in broadsheet format.”

Black predicts that papers will get even smaller. “Madrid already has a very successful paper ABC that's 8 ½ by 11.”

Can US Hispanic papers look to Latin America for ideas?

Not according to Roger Black. “Newspapers in Latin America are written for a very sophisticated, elite audience.” Black says they tend to be very conservative and dry, very unlike the papers being designed for the US Hispanic market. “If you're lower middle or working class in Latin America, there really isn't a paper written for you.” Most US Hispanic papers are exactly the opposite. Even papers targeting more affluent Hispanics in the U.S. tend to be more dynamic, colorful and visually stimulating than newspapers in Latin America. US Hispanic papers probably have more in common with Latin American magazines. Susan Bard of The Houston Chronicle says La Voz's design team got a lot of good ideas and inspiration from Latin American sports magazines.

Carrie Barnes

Design differences: General and Hispanic market papers

Design Aspects


General Market


Both, tabloid more popular and readable

Mainly broadsheet


Lots of visuals, charts, clipable information, more points-of-entry

More emphasis written word, but also adding more visuals, charts, maps, points-of-entry


More, brighter colors

Less color


Emphasize visual story telling, more and bigger photographs and art

Tend to have fewer photographs and tend to be smaller


Usually same fonts as in general market. Type can be in color and in some cases bigger

Usually only black type


More dynamic, playful, expressive, papers tend to more closely resemble women's magazines

Tend to be drier, more serious, but are becoming more colorful and dynamic