Revamping a popular UK newspaper

Revamping a popular UK newspaper guardiancrop.jpeg
Our man in London Steven Gregor of Gym Class Magazine is back and inspiring us today with the work of Chris Clarke, The Guardian's Deputy Creative Director.  
The design of British newspaper The Guardian is a fave for many editorial designers.
And it's with good reason. Since it's 2005 redesign by Mark Porter, the paper has been at the forefront of modern, progressive and globally significant news publishing.
Read more of Steven's chat with Chris about the newspaper's recent revamp and future plans after the jump.



Hey Chris, congrats on the design refresh. Looking great. Talk me through the decision to develop the design.
Creative Director Alex Breuer and I started at The Guardian just over a year ago. We immediately set about bringing the design vernacular of the paper into line across every touch point.
Our starting point was The Journal, an immersive long read dropped into the middle section of the paper three times a week. It adds a little 'slow journalism' into the mix of a daily newspaper. It's a chance for us to commission 5,000 word pieces... and beautifully articulate them with illustration and photography. 
We soon realised that we couldn't just drop a new section, and a new editorial way of thinking, into the paper without it looking disjointed. So the decision to refresh the whole paper was made.

How long has it been in development?
The process was rapid, taking just three months. We also implemented the first stage of a total overhaul of the newspaper's Saturday package, including the sections: Review; Family; Travel; Sport; Saturday features; Money; and the Weekend magazine.
We also tightened up of the main newspaper, including the sub sections: Society, Media and Education. We introduced more pace and rhythm into the news run. And we're using graphics more effectively to tell complex narratives.
It was also an opportunity to bring the paper into line with our digital offerings. We took design inspiration from the development of our new website.

Sounds like a massive undertaking.
It was an intense period for myself, and the newspaper's art directors: Sarah Habershon, Andrew Stocks and Michael Becker. 
When doing a large scale refresh it's easy to forget that design is only the beginning. The transition from design to working newspaper pages is very different.
Pages need to be able to cope with fluid ad requirements, and the inevitability of stories being pulled just before deadline. The paper, for the most part, is put together by sub-editors. And design sensibilities aren't necessarily present. The newspaper's design, therefore, needs very clear rules and systems -- and ruthlessly scrutinised for flaws.

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Anything go wrong with the refresh?
Designing across many sections so quickly meant there were teething problems in the first couple of weeks. That, paired with a reluctance for change in some areas, made it tough.

What further development do you have planned?
Phase two is scheduled for early next year. We'll look at the rest of the newspaper's sections/supplements, including: G2; The Guide; Cook; Do Something; our weekly periodical Guardian Weekly; and our biannual fashion magazine The Fashion.
We'll also roll out more changes to the main newspaper and unify our internal advertising to better reflect the editorial. 
The launch of our next generation website is also planned for early next year. The handshake between The Guardian's printed products and digital offerings will become even more apparent.

Which international newspapers do you admire? And which editorial designers are you most inspired by?
Inspiration rarely comes from other publications. Instead, I find it comes with collaboration. I work with some remarkable minds at The Guardian, and I find great joy in orchestrating said minds into something visual. Each day is different. Actually, each hour is different.
I have a magazine fixation. Currently on my coffee table is: Jacobin; Make Shift; Puss Puss; Le Tigre; Dumbo Feather; People of Print; The Outpost; and You Can Now magazine. 
I have a huge admiration for anyone working in editorial design. The hours are long and typically anti social. To name a few I'm inspired by: Francesco Franchi (IL); David Moretti (WIRED Italia); Katja Kollmann (Die Zeit); Vanessa Wyse (ex The Grid); the brilliant and humble Matt Willey; and Matt Curtis over at The Sunday Times Magazine (and ex Eureka). Are all doing some great and challenging things.

Many of the magazine folk reading this interview will be unfamiliar with the process of designing a newspaper (and its accompanying magazine supplements). I find it difficult to fathom the workload. Describe your working week... I'm guessing it's quite structured?
Decisions get made remarkably fast, and having conviction in your design pays premium. But all the processes an editorial designer goes through are exactly the same: rhythm; pace; narrative; hierarchy; story structure; and flow. 
We have two streams of work: the daily, which has a deadline between 7pm and 9pm; and the slow stream content which we try to plan in advance. Slow steam content can include planned obituaries, special supplements or large graphics. 
A typical day on the backbench (a newspaper term for the epicentre) will start with a planning session at noon. A flat plan is constructed and the pages are divided between four designers/layout subs. Everything is monitored tightly by the production team who insure everything is in the right place, on time. 
But it's a delicate pendulum that could swing. We might have to tear the whole thing up and start again if a story breaks. 
Creative director Alex Breuer typically spends his time developing our digital presence while I (currently) watch over the print side. We meet in the middle with ideas for  cross-platform story telling.
Day-to-day I spend my time working on new projects and developing phase two. I also direct the slow streams, the long reads, and oversee all our printed products. 
I'm fortunate to work with a remarkable team who look after the sections on a daily basis: Maggie Murphy (Weekend magazine); Cath Levitt (Head of Graphics); Sarah Habershon (Saturday sections); Andrew Stocks (G2, Sport); Michael Becker (G1); Stephen Jenkins (Saturday Sections); Sara Ramsbottom (The Guide); Ellen Wishart (Do Something); and Tara Herman (Design Executive).
Without the talent of this meticulous bunch, it'd be a much harder (and less enjoyable) place to work. 

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