This is the maestro plan that I created, perfected, and used during my 25+ years advising high school newspapers. The concept of a maestro plan is certainly not mine--it's used by many journalists, professional and scholastic. This is my version that worked for my newspaper production class. It helped my newspaper students--most of whom were not the artistic type and were surprised to find out I expected them to design their own pages and spreads--to think visually about their stories and, most importantly, actually plan their design before they sat down at a computer to make it!
My students would work on this with their editor first. First, the individual designer or design team would fill out the plan (the white parts of the sheet) and draw a dummy. I have provided a blank dummy page for one tabloid-sized newspaper page. Make a ton of copies of this--they'll be needed! (There are many ways to draw a dummy, and they don't have to be technical. However, my students used the format, symbols, and codes that are explained in Tim Harrower's incredible book, The Newspaper Designer's Handbook. If you are new to advising journalism and/or you are an English major, not an art major, like me, I highly recommend this book!) I always encouraged my students to find "inspiration designs." These were professional designs that they liked and thought they had the technical skill to execute on InDesign that they would use as a model for their page. We had a few pages that were always the same and so were templates. Some of more my advanced students would "go rogue" and do their own design--but only with my approval first.
After the student completed the plan and dummy, they met with their editor. The editor used the checklist on the first page to review the plan and dummy. If any item on the checklist wasn't successfully completed, the editor would send the student back to fix it. Then the student would check with the editor again...and again...until the editor could sign off on all of the checklist items. At that point, the completed plan, checklist, and dummy came to me for a grade. This process had several great benefits. First of all, the designers were immediately getting feedback, correcting mistakes, and learning about design. Second, the process follows journalism education best practices in that it puts the students in charge of editorial and visual content. Best of all, by the time I saw designs, they should have been free of any major problems!
If you like this resource, be sure to see my other journalism resources, including the “5 Essential Rubrics Bundle,” which includes this form and other grading forms I used during the production process.