Search Menu


This site is available only to JEA members. Please log in below.

Designing publications nameplates


The nameplate of a newspaper connects it to the image of the newspaper to its reader, creating an identity familiar to readers. In this lesson, students will create a series of nameplates for a newspaper that portrays different identities for the staff and program. This lesson is meant to accomplish two purposes: building a brand and using design to portray a specific purpose.


  • Students will construct a nameplate that portrays the newspaper’s philosophy.
  • Students will design a nameplate that conveys different purposes.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W-9-10.2d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of a subject.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.


90 minutes


Internet access for Newseum: Today’s Front Pages (or samples collected in advance)

Graphing paper (or computers with software such as Adobe InDesign or Photoshop)


Colored pencils


Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 5 minutes

As an introduction, define nameplate and discuss its purpose with the class. The nameplate is the title of a newspaper or magazine at the head of the front or editorial page. It identifies a publication to its readers and gives information such as address, contact information, URL and issue and volume numbers. It also presents a visual identity, including a tone or personality, through its style of typography.

2. Application — 10 minutes

After discussing the purpose behind the nameplate, students will brainstorm different ways that advertisements in the media portray different tones for similar products (cell phone and car insurance commercials work well here). As they share examples of commercials they have seen (or pull up on their phones), students will decide what tone or purpose the commercial indicates.

  1. Is it serious, funny, building a reputation, attacking the competition, shocking, loving?
  2. What elements of the commercial contributes to the tone/purpose portrayed?
  3. What was effective in building brand identity?
  4. Were any examples negative experiences or memories of commercials?
  5. Did any commercials convince a student to buy a product? (e.g. The Serta sheep was a very effective marketing campaign to sell beds tied to the idea of counting sheep to go to sleep).
  6. Did any commercials prevent a student from buying a product (e.g. Quiznos had a commercial years ago featuring sea monkeys that looked like rats. The thought of eating at a food establishment associated with rats was a turnoff).

3. Guided/independent/group practice — 60 minutes

Once students have shared commercials, students will describe different tones or purposes they would like the newspaper (or other student media) to portray in its branding. After brainstorming a list, have students choose three tones or purposes they would like to portray as the publication’s image. Using these three choices, students will design a nameplate to portray each tone or purpose. Colors, fonts, graphics, alignment and proportion are essential to creating a theme for the nameplate.

  • Colors will portray a sense of emotion. Students can research colors and their meanings to find colors that signify a specific tone. School colors are important to use but how they are presented can change the feel of an image.
  • Typography choices can give a sense of order or disorganization, as can the use of different families within a font.
  • Graphics, especially staff logos, are a very effective method of branding and creating a connection between the viewer and the newspaper.
  • Alignment of elements can entirely change the perception portrayed by a design.
  • Sizing of elements within the nameplate and the proportions of specific elements can dictate a certain tone for a design.

As students design the nameplate, they need to choose consistent elements to include besides the logo and address. For example, should there be a consistent rule line used.

For the purpose of this lesson, students may design the nameplate on blue graphing design paper or using computer software. They will need to have three different designs created or printed by the end of the lesson. After designing the nameplate, students will exchange them with classmates and try to analyze the design to determine the tone portrayed. On the design, students will write the tone they feel portrayed in the nameplate on the back of the graphing design paper or printed hard copy.

4. Closure — 15 minutes

Return the nameplates to their designers. For each of the three designs, assign students to answer the following questions on the back:

  • Were your classmates close in their evaluation in the tone or purpose portrayed in the design?
  • If yes, what do you contribute to the tone or purpose being successfully perceived by your classmates?
  • If others did not interpret the tone or purpose you intended, how did it differ from what you intended? Can you see how your classmates arrived at their perception? What could you change that would help convey the tone or purpose more effectively?

After answering the questions, choose the designs you like best for presentation to the class. Based on the top five designs, vote on the design that best fits the tone or purpose of your publication.