Student guest post: Editing and design can be a harmonious pair

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guest posts for this blog this semester. This is the 12th of those posts. Chelsea Pro is a senior majoring in journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill. She works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer at the Carolina Union Design Department.

It’s an age-old question, one that haunts every undergraduate across the globe: What do I major in?

How do I take my interests and passions and turn them into a career? How do I make my talents marketable and profitable? For me, the question was how to take a habit of doodling aimlessly on papers and turn it into a roof over my head and a pantry that, at the very least, contained some Ramen.

Graphic design had always interested me. It was something creative and artistic, but also provided more stable and predictable job opportunities than studio art. When I first researched the graphic design program at UNC, I was disappointed and confused. Why was it part of the journalism school? And why was it combined with editing, of all things?

But I went on with the program, hoping that my penchant for (politely) correcting other people’s grammar would be enough to keep me interested in the editing part of my studies. It took me awhile to realize that the two subjects were paired together for more than just convenience.

With the recent budget cuts and layoffs in the field of journalism, many media outlets have decided to combine editing and design into one position. UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is preparing its students for the possibility that a job may require both skill sets.

But it’s about more than the logistics of the job market. There’s a reason editing and graphic design work so well together.

It’s all in the details. Both editors and designers must have a keen eye for specifics. Picking up on the small things that count is an ability treasured in both fields, and one that can dictate either failure or success.

A misplaced apostrophe can be the end of your credibility as a reliable editor. Uneven kerning between the letters of a logo could make your design look sloppy and unprofessional. It’s this detail-oriented aspect of both fields that makes them great partners.

Editing and design also make a logical pairing because they rely heavily on one another. If you can think about design tricks while you’re editing, such as the use of alternative story forms, the result will be more cohesive and effective. Similarly, if you’re aware of grammar, punctuation and syntax, designing will be much easier. Instead of designing a logo and then realizing the emphasis should be on a different word, by having a background in editing, you’ll be able to see these important cues from the start.

So if you’re a designer, brush up on your knowledge of language and grammar. If you’re an editor, think about learning some basic design principles.

Like me, you might be surprised at how often you’ll be able to use both skills together.