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From Cuba: a Student Seeks Help with Newspaper Design

Posted on the 22 February 2011 by Themarioblog @garciainteract

Feb. 21st From Cuba: a student seeks help with newspaper design

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TAKEAWAY: A busy week starts with an unusual email from a journalism student in Cuba, interested in newspaper design. 

From Cuba, with hopes?

blog post image

Logo of Sierra Maestra, the official organ of the communist party for the Cuban province of Oriente

It is Paris this Monday, one of those days that begins with a little sun, then you get into that cave that is the Paris Metro, and when you emerge 12 stops later, it is cloudy, a hint of a drizzle sprinkling your head.  It is not quite the worst of winter, but you know spring is NOT nearly as close as you want it to be.

And it was one of those Monday Mondays as I call them, when I have a grueling schedule of meetings and presentations that does not allow time for TheMarioBlog at all.  I had to squeeze my daily run in the evening, and in the gym, as there was no way to go out in this silent but persistent rain.

But, oh, I had to pause to read this one email I had, from a student at the University of Santiago, in Cuba’s Santiago de Cuba province.  The writer, a fourth year journalism student, wrote to ask “whatever tips you may send us on modern newspaper design.“

She continued that she had become familiarized with my work through a Spanish version of Contemporary Newspaper Design (published by the University of Navarra, Spain, in 1984, and titled Diseño y Remodelación de Diarios).  “Our design professor uses it as his bible here and we follow it page by page….“

Indeed, I am honored, I wrote back.  But, I added, don’t you think this book is very out of date by now?  I then suggested that she download—-gratis—-my latest text: Pure Design .

Of course, I do not know how much Internet access Cuban university students have, but perhaps there are ways for her to get the download.  One thing you can say about today’s Cubans: they are enterprisingly inventive.

I was interested in the student’s comment about the local newspaper that she and her classmates have tried to redesign: “We are doing our best to bring some modern newspaper design to the newspaper Sierra Maestra, but the editors do not believe in any of this and do whatever they wish, which frustrates us to no end. But we keep trying, and your book has helped.“

It is the first time ever that I have been contacted by a Cuban student living and studying in Cuba.  Her email was open and as natural as that of any student anywhere. Could this signal a new beginning?  Greater freedom for a student to express her opinions without fears of retaliation? I could not have imagined such a note written by a student in fear?

I am full of questions, very curious about the student, her classmates, her project and, of course, her interest in newspaper design.  Cuban newspapers are NOT showcases of design.

Finally, she ends with: I just found out two days ago that you were born in Cuba and that makes me so proud.

This is, indeed, interesting, because in the copy of Diseño y Remodelación de Diarios that has been printed in Cuba, and of which I have a copy, editors had altered my biographical data to read that I was born in Spain.

Of course, that book was published in 1984, before the Internet.  It was the days when the printed page had a finality and sense of supremacy that may not be the case today.

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