Richard Curtis, photography and graphics editor TODAY, dies
By David Colton and J. Ford Huffman
Richard Curtis, one of the original designers of USA TODAY’s look, including the bold use of color photography and graphics that revolutionized journalism in the 1980s, has died today. Sunday. He is 75 years old.
Curtis died quietly in his hometown of cancer, surrounded by his wife, Jane and family.
Curtis has been the managing editor of USA TODAY’s graphics and photography division for 27 years, always saying his goal is to be “different” in a crowded and emerging media world.
“You can see a US TODAY page anywhere, anytime, and it’s like an American TODAY page whether it has the newspaper’s name on it or not,” Curtis said spontaneously. boast in 2007. “You can’t say that about the Newspapers.”
As part of the editorial team Gannett founded USA TODAY in 1982, Curtis helped oversee an unprecedented reliance on full-page graphics and small sizes to deliver news and information. He was a tireless advocate for visual storytelling, convincing editors and skeptical reporters that more readers scanned graphics and read photo captions than sometimes read the story itself.
“Today’s readers – especially the younger generation – see narrative as the addendum and visual journalism at its core,” argues Curtis, warning at the same time that the power of visual journalism is at its core. “it is the narrative that follows it.”
That intuitive approach, which many say was an influential factor in later online news, has been widely copied by others.
“It’s amazing how many colored weather pages appeared in the newspapers in late 1982 and 83 respectively, isn’t it?” Curtis joked during a Poynter Institute interview with George Rorick, who helped design USA TODAY’s groundbreaking Full-Page Weather Map.
“It was just the most groundbreaking thing about USA TODAY,” says Curtis. “I remember one of the initial surveys we did about the article and the Weather Page became the ‘second most viewed page’ after Page 1.”
A graduate of North Carolina State University’s College of Design, where he remained active years later, Curtis was a veteran of newspapers in Baltimore, Miami, and St. Petersburg, Florida. He co-founded the News Design Association in 1979, before joining USA TODAY in 1982.
“Richard had a profound influence on journalism and the journalists who worked with him,” said Nicole Carroll, Editor-in-Chief of USA TODAY, who was hired by Curtis in 1995. “He is a visionary. His work, ambition, and spirit live on in our newsroom and in the pages of USA TODAY. ”
Words on Curtis’ death bring tribute from journalists:
“Richard Curtis has changed the books for news designers,” said Matt Mansfield, CEO of MG Strategy + Design. “His pioneering work at USA TODAY has ushered in more than a strong use of color and explanatory graphics. Richard pushed news storytelling to be clearer and more concise. I always think of Richard as a fierce advocate for busy readers.”
Mario R. Garcia, founder of Garcia Media, said: “The work Richard does at USA TODAY has convinced journalists that a story can be better when words and images come together.
Employees who worked on the front lines with Curtis say his mantra never changes, even if it’s the dramatic full-page picture inside the centennial Statue of Liberty. in 1986, or small “Snapshot” charts of American history like hotdog consumption, billions of pounds, every 4th of July.
“Explain and educate with illustrations,” recalls graphic reporter Joan Murphy. “He challenged us to make each sentence clear, concise and less verbose. He is a champion of the arts. “
“I remember him saying, ‘if the graphic doesn’t tell a story and add value, it won’t work,’ ‘former Page One designer Dash Parham, now at No Magazine. army, said.
Henry Freeman, the newspaper’s former sports editor, said: “He made all of us better journalists, and I don’t know how any of us, especially myself , could have survived the early days of America TODAY without him. “We’re perfecting it as we go, thinking outside and innovating and no one is better than him.”
John Walston, former deputy editor at USA TODAY, recalls: “The criticism from the press was unkind. “But working with Richard, I know that every design, every graphic, every photo is news driven. He never wavered from it.”
By 2000, with the rise of online and the 80s-era look of the newspaper starting to feel outdated and even gaudy, Curtis oversaw the re-imagining of USA TODAY. He added more white space for readability, reduced block boxes and primary colors, and generally followed a more complex, “less ink” approach.
Most importantly, Curtis chose consistent typography across the entire newspaper, from the boldest headlines to the smallest sports onyx. Using a single typeface, he said, saved designers “a huge amount of time” that they could use more creatively.
For all his design intensity, Curtis is also remembered as an easy-going North Carolinian who loved plaid shirts, button-down collars, loved cars from classic Porches to go-karts and play classical music in his office while marking suggested layouts. His education at NC State was interrupted due to two years of service in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, where his father had served during the Second World War.
A recipient of numerous design awards, Curtis has worked to fight hunger locally and nationally, and he and his wife support the Richard Allen Curtis Foundation for Design Students at NC State, where he is chair of the Guest Council. of the university.
Nanette Bisher, former president of the News Design Association, recalls working with Curtis at The Miami News. One morning of panic, she was forced to replace a black and white illustration because she couldn’t find a color version ahead of time.
A few hours later, a black and white cover copy was on her desk, with a handwritten comment: “Did you use the best color! Richard”.
Curtis, she said, “was a good man and a great talent. I thank Richard for making our world brighter and more colorful.”
Colton is a former executive editor of USA TODAY; Huffman is a former associate editor at the US TODAY Graphics Department.