Newspapers, Notebook

The best of the Ali tribute supplements

Notebook: 7 June 2016 | NEWSPAPERS


A big news event often brings out the best journalism and news design – big pictures, great picture editing, well crafted infographics, ‘poster’ front pages, timelines, sidebars, striking quotes and so on. We saw it with the coverage of David Bowie’s death and life (see link) and this week the quality newspapers have again pulled out all the stops with their tribute issues celebrating the life of Muhammad Ali. Here’s my pick:

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THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

I might not agree with The Sunday Telegraph’s political stance but I do love the design of their newspaper. It’s carefully and very subtly crafted with fine attention to typographic detail. It has both a traditional and sober elegance plus a freshness and lightness of touch. Their headline font is the wonderful Austin by Commercial type foundry which comes in a great range of weights. Their large broadsheet size allows them to run big, big pictures and on pages 2-3 and 4-5 of their eight-page Ali supplement they’ve splashed with two of the very best Ali pics (see picture top). A simple timeline runs across the top of each double page spread tying the whole supplement together. The main paper’s front page has a cheeky and striking picture of Ali above the masthead and fold which allows them to run other news below the fold. The design of the Telegraph is masterminded by Design Director Jon Hill who has created a delicious homogenous look that runs across the paper, weekend magazines and website.

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THE SUNDAY TIMES

The Sunday Times have opted for a wraparound cover on the main paper and a beefy 16-page tribute supplement. The pictures are strong and the headlines are big but the typography lacks subtlety and there’s little synergy between the main paper and the Ali supplement. The design of The Sunday Times, including its regular numerous supplements, seems to have lost its way over the years – it’s a strong ‘brand’ but the visual part of the brand identity seems confused with a mishmash of styles and fonts. The Ali supplement is jam-packed full of goodies – great photos, an infographic, good copy – but it all does look a bit old fashioned with its unrelenting justified columns of text and its all CAPS headlines reversed out of pictures.

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THE OBSERVER

A bold black and white close-up of Ali fills the front page and inside we have not one, but two supplements! The main pull-out tribute is 12 pages long and the cover picture is a striking shot of Ali’s fist with Ali blurring out in the background – and this very same picture has been used, probably even more successfully, on the back page of the Sunday Mirror‘s tribute and on the front of the French newspaper Libération (see pictures below). The Observer‘s second 8-page supplement focuses on Ali’s key fights.

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THE SUNDAY MIRROR and LIBÉRATION

As you’d expect, The Sunday Mirror‘s supplement is pretty full-on and scrap-book in style, but what I did enjoy, was the contrasting calm of their back page with its eye-catching picture (same as The Observer‘s) and the accompanying quote (‘He took a few cups of love…’) from Ali that goes with it – great pic and typography (pictured above). The French daily Libération has used the same picture equally as effectively, for its front page.

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THE GUARDIAN and THE TIMES

Some of Monday’s papers carried their own tribute supplement. The Guardian, recognised globally as one of the best looking newspapers and visually cohesive news brands, didn’t disappoint, with its chunky, slab-serif headlines, delicious white space, great picture selection and carefully engineered construction (pictured above).

The Times had more finesse than its sister paper The Sunday Times (see above) although not quite the same depth of coverage. The best bit for me was their page 5 (pictured below) which carried a life size picture of Alis’s fist with a caption that invites the reader to hold their fist against Ali’s so that you get a real sense of just how big physically he was. Brilliant visual journalism – you wouldn’t be able to do that on an ipad or phone.

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