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Newspaper Design After The Independent

Sarah Morley has been Deputy Art Director of The Independent on Sunday since 2005, having won numerous design awards whilst at the paper.

Sarah will sit on the Magazine & Newspaper Design Jury at the 2016 D&AD Professional Awards.

In the article below she reveals where she was when she heard the news that The Independent was to cease being printed. From here she discusses the future of newspapers in the digital world, showing some of the best examples of integrating digital and print.

Sarah Morley The Independent

As Deputy Art Director of the The Independent on Sunday, it was not the best news to wake up to. The print editions of The Independent were to close.

I was in New York to judge The Best of News Design 37, along with some of the top Art Directors and designers from around the world. The day before, we had all seen online the rumours of the closure. I had contacted a few colleagues; it had all been said before, commentators for rival publications had been writing the titles’ obituary since 1994, why should it be true this time?

That evening, at dinner, I discussed the news with some of the other judges. Print was not dead - there would always be a place for the press in news. Owners need the printed brand to support and lend credibility to online operations. A few years ago there was a lot of excitement about apps. News would be redesigned and repackaged so that you could read your paper on the iPad in the morning rather than having to buy a hard copy. However, this excitement faded. The Mail plus department in London shut after a short period and there were similar stories in America. One colleague, a university professor of design in America, told me they are teaching students to design for digital formats as well as print - so, preparing them for the digital future while training them in the essential skills of print design.

The Independent Newspaper Front Cover Fonts Gadaffi
The Independent Newspaper Fonts, Yellow Pencil / Crafts for Design / Typefaces / 2014

The Independent was what first got me interested in newspaper design. I remember the typographical front pages during the first Iraq War in 2003. They were so bold, different, and eye-catching. Not using photographs but purely type on a front page of a newspaper was radical. So much so, that I wrote my dissertation on one particular front page and the power of the design. 

When the bad news was confirmed the following day, I felt shocked and saddened that such a unique voice in the British press would be silenced. The Independent and The Independent on Sunday pride themselves on standing out from the crowd. The most successful front pages were always the ones that broke from the pack with a different story and picture - a different attitude.

Later that morning, I got a call up to my room from my fellow judges. They had heard the news and were concerned about me. They were waiting in the foyer. I felt fortunate to be with international newspaper friends and colleagues at that time. It was comforting to be with people who understood and were genuinely sad about the closure too. I think for many it highlighted the precarious nature of the business we are in.

My first job that day was to judge the entries in the digital and print category. A particularly appropriate category; I had just heard that while the Independent print titles would close the digital version would live on.

In many newsrooms there is little interaction between the print and the digital teams. Both in Europe and in America, newspapers are choosing to keep the two departments separate and using coders to create online content without a design input. This needs to adjust. The communication skills that print designers have developed are equally applicable to digital media, and by utilising their design communication expertise they can create content that is accessible and creative.

We need to think about how digital applications of design can enhance and extend the information that we have traditionally only seen in print; in what ways can we give the reader a fuller, more in-depth experience?

A few news agencies stand out in their ability to combine digital and print design. The New York Times magazine is thinking creatively and pushing print boundaries. Its recent feature on the global displacement of refugees won the 'Best in Show' at News Design 37. It is a long-form piece, printed in the magazine, with all the outstanding design and photojournalism that we have come to expect from The New York Times. The story also has a supporting interactive website and a 3D experience using google cardboard. I urge you to download it, and see for yourself.

These added dimensions to the telling of the story transport the reader to where the refugees are, and enable us to empathise with their stories first-hand. Readers have been saturated with, and desensitised by, pictures of refugees fleeing. In the virtual reality video there are threads of type which appear around you, they act as virtual pull-quotes to the narrated story and echo back to the print design in the magazine. In this case the journalism in print works to support the digital material and vice-versa. Each element backs up the other and gives the reader a more rounded in-depth experience of the subject. 

Understanding the audience is a key point: how we receive our news is evolving and developing at an incredibly fast pace. It is how we apply all these new technologies to design in journalism – in an appropriate way – that is important. Visual and conceptual consistency for readers is essential and the best projects are creating a journey through the entire project.

We did see this consistency on multiple publications. One newspaper that is doing this particularly well is The Guardian. There are always smart, subtle visual echoes back to their original identity, from their print to digital, and branding. 

One particular example is its printed bi-annual fashion magazine: though in the form of a traditional print magazine, it is exciting in its pacing and playful with its typography. The cropping of some pictures of fashion models at the waist was bold and different along with some more unusual picture choices for a fashion magazine. The attention to detail on the project made it stand out.

There are a variety of publishing methods being used at the moment; social media, ebooks, inter-actives, virtual reality, photo essays, illustrations and traditional long-form journalism. 

It is how we apply all these new technologies to design in journalism which is the key, and also the quality of the content regardless of scale and resources of the newspaper.

There is no doubt that this is an exciting time to be involved in the future of editorial design. The Independent newspapers sadly did not survive, for a variety of reasons, however the digital site will live on. The digital output now has a huge task: to live up to the quality and originality that The Independent titles are loved for.

We have a digital world that can complement print design and, at its best, it can work alongside the printed page to bring stories to life in a more in-depth way. Design continues to be an essential part in the world of newspaper and magazine and there are exciting times ahead.

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