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Design matters

Design matters


Orwell partner Nick Paul played a part in the recent redesign of The Sunday Times newspaper. Here he tells us how good editorial design really can make a difference


Design is important. It makes things look good and it makes them easy to use. For instance, a well designed car is a pleasure to drive, helps keep the occupants safe and is attractive to look at. Similarly, a well designed map, such as the London Underground diagram, should be easy to follow and navigate from. Often good design goes unnoticed, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – but we soon become aware of bad design when we struggle to open a sachet of milk or cannot find what we need from a website…

Good editorial design should help make the written word easy to digest, and the best editorial designers should have a real understanding and feel for storytelling in the same way that the best journalists do. By using effective design, clear typography and good picture selection, the editorial designer can help communicate the message. We call this visual journalism.

Here at Orwell we have many years experience of providing first-rate editorial design for all types of written publications such as annual reports, books, brochures, websites, magazines and newspapers, and a major project that I have recently been involved in is the redesign of The Sunday Times newspaper. The rather dated looking old paper with its clunky typography and mish-mash of styles has been replaced with a fresher and more coherent identity. Here, design has served two purposes: one, to update the look of the newspaper – fashions change and just like cars or clothes, a newspaper or magazine can begin to look tired and shabby; and two, to make the newspaper easier to read.

The starting point for The Sunday Times design team was to replace the existing fonts with a new set of elegant and robust fonts that would work well through all the different sections of the newspaper. To quote the renowned designer and author Francesco Franchi, “the secret history of newspaper design, the one that is never apparent and readers are not aware of, lies in the type” and through careful font selection the identity of The Sunday Times has been subtly changed and improved without the reader really being aware of it.

The new front page design is probably the least changed element of the redesign and as Simon Esterson, one of the lead designers on the project says, “This is the market leading quality Sunday paper and you don’t mess with a formula that has been refined and tested over the years. Drama should come from the news, not from overly clever typography”. However, once you turn the pages, the new design becomes more apparent but it immediately feels comfortable. Punchy and confident but well-ordered news pages lead you through to the longer reads of the news review pages.

Like its predecessor, the Sport section packs a big punch, but this time with much more style (pictured above) –and the chunky bold condensed headlines are a perfect match for the drama of the sport’s stories.

The Home and Travel tabloid sized supplements (pictured above) are designed to be more like magazine pages and consequently the content feels more accessible with more entry points for the reader such as boxes, quotes and cut-outs – but it’s all held tightly together by careful assembly on the underlying grid.

The new Culture section (pictured above) is a vast improvement on the old, which had lost its way and had become rather trashy and unpleasant. Now we have a neat and tidy solution which feels much more considered yet is still bold when it needs to be. The TV and radio listings pages have been carefully redesigned to make them easier to use – this is where quiet and well-considered typography comes in to its own with fine adjustments to detail being made here and there in order to fit in layers of dense information that need to remain perfectly legible.

With any newspaper redesign it’s important that the changes are handled carefully and that the existing readership are not alienated by the new look. What the design team have skilfully managed to do is to retain the bold liveliness and confidence of The Sunday Times – so it still ‘feels’ like The Sunday Times but now it has a much sharper set of clothes rather than its old dishevelled look.

Design matters – and here at Orwell we will match the best words with the best design. Our mission is to provide organisations with influential content that enhances their core philosophies so that they are better known, better understood and better received.