The Mario Blog
06.17.2008—2am
Subheads are effective mini navigational engines

For impatient scanners who sweep through the pages with a huge appetite for information, and little time, subheads are like sweet M&Ms on a plate—-irresistible.

blog post image

TAKEAWAY: Break up the text and advance the story. Some newspapers, such as Salzburger Nachrichten (Austria), and Daily Xpress (Thailand), above, colorize subheads for greater visual impact.

Behold the subhead, that most minuscule of all navigational tools in the designer’s box, but, alas, how effective to allow for “finger reading” as today’s fast paced and impatient readers decide to move around the content of a story at their pace, sort of “I already know the first part of the story, so let me jump to this next segment, which appears interesting.”
The Germans call their subheads “zwishentitels”, the Spanish “entretitulos” and in Latin America they are referred to as “ladillos”. No matter, subheads are the ultimate navigational tool, placed just at the transitional point of the story, where they pull the reader into the next segment.
Especially in longer text—-more than 25 inches—-but not necessarily limited to that length, subheads are exactly the right formula to get us from here to there within a story. So, if you are in the middle of a long analysis of the outcome of the US Democratic Primary election, suddenly you read the subhead that reads: What next for Hillary?

Your finger leads you to that one spot, alerts your eyes, and you continue reading, or perhaps you begin reading the story there. We notice in EyeTrack research, that today’s reader is anything but disciplined. He/she may read a headline, skip the introductory part of the story, and move right to where that subhead signals an interesting or provoking segment of the story.
In that sense, well placed, well written subheads are sort of like huge rocks in the middle of a lake, allowing you to jump from one spot to the other.
How to write subheads? Treat them as mini headlines, but keep it simple: one line subhead works better than two.
How to design them? Make them at least one point larger than the size of the text in the story, but two points is even better. Make them bold, and I prefer them in a striking sans serif font, for contrast.
And, please, allow two lines of white space above them, since the finger must be able to find these little gems of information, and the white space helps.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION: Is the use of big capitals in the middle of text as effective as a subhead.Not at all. Subheads convey information, move the story along and guide the scanner to a certain spot, while initial letters are mere decoration, lacking any utility.
WHERE IS MARIO: Working in Tampa all week.

Blog Post06.27.2017—12am
Goldman Sachs and the economics of design
Blog Post06.26.2017—1am
Trump, lies and storytelling
Blog Post06.23.2017—1am
Here’s Exchange, the new Frere-Jones font: it projects calm, authority
Blog Post06.22.2017—1am
The word “redesign” should be retired
Blog Post06.21.2017—1am
IAPA’s Digital Summit 2017 opens today in Miami
Blog Post06.20.2017—1am
Senior citizens read news on their mobile platforms! Surprise!
Blog Post06.19.2017—1am
Italy: we create new logo for The Post Internazionale
Blog Post06.16.2017—1am
Forget the one headline fits all theory!
Blog Post06.15.2017—1am
Change in newsroom goes beyond just a protocol statement
Blog Post06.14.2017—12am
Telling the story with just quotes
Blog Post06.13.2017—12am
How US front pages displayed the Comey story
Blog Post06.12.2017—12am
Making those complicated Washington political stories more visually interesting.
Blog Post06.09.2017—1am
Attracting young audiences (2)–Snapchat Discover
Blog Post06.08.2017—1am
Montreal’s La Presse+ says adieu to print!
Blog Post06.07.2017—1am
Attracting those younger readers (1): one gift subscription at a time
Blog Post06.06.2017—1am
The battle for your ears
Blog Post06.05.2017—1am
Quick ways to tell stories
Blog Post06.02.2017—1am
Garcia Media turns 25!
Blog Post06.01.2017—1am
It’s social media the publisher
Blog Post05.31.2017—1am
Before you get the room, read the Airbnb Magazine
Blog Post05.30.2017—1am
It’s a new homepage for The Atlantic
Blog Post05.26.2017—1am
New book: Designing for Touch
Blog Post05.25.2017—1am
Medium redesigns homepage: curated content is the key
Blog Post05.24.2017—1am
It’s the new storytelling, the new editing, the new design
Blog Post05.23.2017—1am
Millennials and their obsession with their phones—publishers, take note!
Blog Post05.22.2017—1am
Spiegel Daily: the German magazine’s new product
Blog Post05.19.2017—1am
Another day, another Trump bombshell for the front pages
Blog Post05.18.2017—1am
From digital to print: another example
Blog Post05.16.2017—6am
Trump bombshell news lands on the front pages
Blog Post—1am
For The Guardian: one contributor at a time
Blog Post05.15.2017—1am
The New York Times banks on kids: never too early!
Blog Post05.12.2017—1am
Good guide to e-newsletters that catch the reader’s attention
Blog Post05.10.2017—2pm
The firing of the FBI Director on Page One
Blog Post—1am
Sarasota Herald Tribune gets new look
Blog Post05.08.2017—8am
The Macron victory in France through the front pages
Blog Post—1am
Tony Awards: And the winner so far…..
Blog Post05.05.2017—1am
And now Dubai has its own font!
Blog Post05.04.2017—7am
The NYTimes’ Sketchbook: great visual solutions
Blog Post05.03.2017—1am
The luxury of paper
Blog Post05.02.2017—1am
Trump: 100 days and the front pages
Contact us with speaking requests, questions or to discuss a project.