Striking the right tone visually is always important, and when it comes to longform hard news it is downright crucial. Everything from color palette to the type you choose shapes how the story will ultimately be framed and approached. You want to infuse drama without becoming overbearing or maudlin and you certainly want to avoid any tabloid sensationalizing. For Sactown‘s February/March 2012 feature on San Francisco 49er Forrest Blue’s life with head trauma caused by his time in the NFL, we needed to carefully thread that needle. We settled on a solemn, tastefully lit photo of his game helmet (shot by our own Jeremy Sykes) balanced by a tastefully diminished text stack leading into the dek. We wanted you to see the damage done to the helmet and immediately flip the page to see Blue in his prime, thus underlining what he lost.