Digital, Newspapers, Notebook

Attention to detail

Notebook: 29 March 2017 | NEWSPAPERS | DIGITAL


Over the last couple of years, and with little fanfare, The Telegraph newspaper has undergone a major design overhaul that started in 2015 with the main newspaper, filtered out across the website, digital edition and live app and was ‘completed’ in March 2017 with the redesign of the Saturday Telegraph Magazine. Although it’s a newspaper I choose not to buy because of its political bias, I do admire it for the quality of its finely crafted design and attention to typographic detailing.

The brains behind the Telegraph group’s redesign is creative director Jon Hill who joined The Telegraph in May 2014 after having worked for seven years at The Times. Hill’s brief from the group’s owners and the editor, was to improve, modernise and bring consistency to The Telegraph. It was refreshing that he had an understanding ‘client’ who gave him a free hand and told him that ‘everything was up for grabs’. He assembled a team of designers for the task, that included Nicola Ryan, Sara Martin, Mark Hickling, Joel Wade, Fraser Lyness, Steve Davis and more recently Kuchar Swara as design director of the Saturday and Sunday magazines. (Kuchar Swara is probably more well known for being the co-founder/publisher and creative director of men’s magazine Port) The result is a daily and Sunday newspaper with accompanying magazines, website, digital edition and app that all have a wonderful synergy to them and are a pleasure to look at and use.

Carefully honed design will often go unnoticed by the reader (which is a good thing – this isn’t the place to shove design down the reader’s throat) and it is this attention to typographic detail that can make all the difference to the look and usability of a magazine or newspaper and that can elevate a product from being just average to ‘great’. Combine this craftsmanship with great photography, illustration and visual storytelling and you have the ingredients for a winner…

Jon Hill’s starting point was to select a new palette of fonts. He turned to type designer Paul Barnes of Commercial Type who supplied a modified version of the elegant font Austin (that Barnes had designed for Harpers & Queen magazine back in 2003) in headline and text versions and in a full range of weights. Commercial Type also provided a sans-serif (Telesans and Telesans Agate) for dense clusters of information such as football results and TV listings, as well as the elegant and intriguing decorative font Marian which is used in large sizes as section heads. (Marian is probably best described as a monoline/hairline serif – you can read more about it here).

Commercial Type’s ‘monoline serif’ font Marian, used as a section header

With their font palette in hand, Hill and his designers were able to assemble a carefully thought-out typographic system across every part of the newspaper. The bolder and punchier weights of Austin were used for news and sports pages with the lighter weights being reserved for section heads, ‘quieter’ pages and some feature pages. Splashes of Marian have been added in appropriate places to give pages a more relaxed, informal and magazine-like feel.

In the days following The Telegraph’s redesign in 2015, Eye magazine wrote a very good summary of the new look, and as they state, “the changes reach into every corner of the newspaper and its sections”. Flicking through the pages of the paper, the fine attention to detail is apparent in all nooks and crannies and includes a re-drawn crest with the motto ‘Was, is & will be’ by illustrator Celia Hart, decorative drop caps, carefully crafted box headers, free areas of white space, elegant infographics and other rich but subtle detail that we normally associate with magazines such as GQ or Vanity Fair – all those things that make for a more enjoyable and engaging reader experience. Some of this detail is shown below.

     

The Saturday and Sunday editions of The Telegraph with their numerous sections, display the design off to its best and the same branding has been rolled out across the Sunday magazine Stella and now into the Saturday Telegraph Magazine, although both supplements have their own special design twists. Stella magazine (redesigned by Sara Martin) makes clever use of the Marian font whereas with the Telegraph Magazine, Kuchar Swara has combined a condensed version of Austin with the blocky condensed sans-serif Druk, again supplied by Commercial Type. The magazine has distant echoes of Willy Fleckhaus’ Twen magazine from the 1960s or Roland SchenksCampaign and Management Today magazines.

   

Sunday’s Stella magazine (above) makes use of the Austin and Marian fonts whereas Saturday’s Telegraph magazine (below) uses Austin and the bold condensed sans Druk

The Telegraph’s digital offerings are a triumph. In the same way that The Guardian has achieved a perfect brand synergy across all its platforms, Jon Hill and his team have done the same with The Telegraph and their ‘Edition’ app is a joy to use. The digital design work has been largely led by Nicola Ryan, the Deputy Creative Director. She has managed to find the balance between great looking typography/graphics with great user experience. The website naturally works well across all devices and the user experience is only disrupted by the inevitable adverts but these never become too intrusive. The mobile ‘live’ app uses bold ‘poster’ images or ‘cards’ as Hill describes them – type and simple cut-out pictures on coloured backgrounds deliberately designed to have impact on mobile screens.

A selection of ‘cards’ – simple but bold news story headers for use on the mobile app

But it’s the ‘Edition’ app designed for tablet (but which also works well on mobile) that I like the best. The reader subscribes to a daily edition with a new copy being quickly downloaded each day. It’s not ‘live’ so it does not have the benefit of updating itself but it uses a simple two-way swipe navigation system which is a real pleasure to handle. An up-down swipe takes you through a story, with a sideways swipe taking you to a new story or into a new section – and if you hit the button top right, you are given an overview of all the contents which you can rapidly swipe your way through to find what you are looking for.

  

The digital Edition’s contents ‘page’ looks great and is a pleasure to use

         

A selection of pages from the digital Edition

The digital work is naturally, constantly developing and Jon Hill and his team are always looking to improve the user experience and stay one-step ahead. Likewise the printed paper will continue to evolve. Whether The Telegraph’s redesign, with its fine attention to detail, has helped slow down the inevitable decline in the circulation of the printed product, it is difficult to assess – but an improved digital offering with its clarity of design has surely contributed to their growth in online circulation. I look forward to following their development.


For more on Commercial Type, take a look at Eye magazine’s excellent profile of Paul Barnes and Christian Schwartz or the Commercial Type website.


And here’s my post from June 2016 on the best of the Muhammed Ali newspaper tribute supplements – with more examples of pages from The Daily Telegraph.