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Newspaper design

We relish the demands and discipline of newspaper design and in today’s fast changing media landscape a great looking, well crafted newspaper is more important than ever…

Working with others

The best magazines and newspapers are born when there is great teamwork and collaboration between designers, photographers, editors and clients. Over the years, Nick has had the privilege of working with some of the best photographers and illustrators in the industry – working with great images makes a designer’s job so much easier. Click on the pic for a little taster…

Liking US: University of Sussex branding

Notebook: 10 July 2017 | BRANDING

I like this cluster of publications produced by the University of Sussex (US) and picked up by myself and youngest son Harry on a recent University open day visit. There’s a strong and consistent identity across all the literature, and across the website, social media and signage on the campus. The branding was carried out by designer Dan Cottrell for Pentagram in 2015 and the Pentagram guidelines are now closely followed by a roster of approved independent designers that the University calls upon. There’s a bright, breezy and confident palette of colours that contrast well with the more academic and authoritative choice of typefaces – good old Baskerville (UOS Baskerville Titling – a bespoke version for the Uni’) and Franklin Gothic in assorted weights. Type is centred to echo the original 1962 prospectus when Sussex Uni’ first opened.

I particularly like the large format 12 Stories of Sussex publication – a collection of short interviews, quotes and photos from current and former students and members of staff – and three spreads are shown below. Photos are by Stuart Robinson and Andy Hall.

This year, all universities will be having to try just that bit harder to attract students following the drop in the intake of overseas students due to the fall-out from Brexit, and so having a good, strong university identity that prospective students can relate to – fun, happy place to be, great institution of learning and so on – is an essential part of a uni’s armoury.

The University of Sussex brand guidelines can be viewed here


It’s showtime: A visit to the LCC and NUA graphics exhibitions

Notebook: 5 July 2017 | DEGREE SHOWS

Last year I managed to squeeze in visits to 11 different graphic design degree shows but this year with time against me, I’ve visited just three exhibitions – Reading (see my previous post), the London College of Communication (LCC) and Norwich University of the Arts (NUA). LCC and NUA were both excellent shows – not only was the work of a high standard with plenty of editorial design and typography to satisfy my interests, but it was also very well presented with careful editing, clear captioning and lots of space around it to allow it to breathe and to show the designs off to their best. There’s no point in a student spending a couple of years producing fantastic work only to then present it poorly.

Both LCC and NUA choose to loosely group the work into sections – printed magazines here, book jackets there and so on, rather than displaying the work by individual student, and (rightly or wrongly, depending on your viewpoint) this allows them to wheedle out the poorer designs and focus on the good stuff – which is refreshing for the exhibition viewer, and it allows for easy comparison across subject areas.

LCC was up first and on Wednesday 21 June I emerged from the Elephant and Castle tube station into bright sunlight, busy traffic and a wall of hot air. It was the warmest June day in London since 1976. I dashed across the highway and into the cool of the LCC plaza. The Graphic and Media Design show was held in a large exhibition hall just beyond the main foyer. At one end of the hall a huge and captivating tv screen (pictured top) projected students’ work, and along each side of the room selected items were displayed on smaller monitors on the walls and as printed publications on tables. An antechamber housed the students’ process books or ‘roughs’ which helped show the thinking behind their designs.

LCC has a rich heritage from its days as the London College of Printing and alumni include the magazine designers Neville Brody and Kuchar Swara, and the photographer Rankin. Graphics at LCC errs towards typography, information design and editorial design as well as ‘visual design systems, design for social change and design for moving image and smart media’. Students are encouraged to be exploratory in their thinking and their use of media and materials. Here’s a snapshot of some of the work that caught my eye:

An interesting set of characters from a type design project by Samuel Bloch

Intriguing spread from a book by Francisco Casaroti. The book is a compilation of the thinking and processes behind three of his major projects

Phoebe Salter’s ‘Two Points’ project features striking photography from Shepherd’s Bush and Smithfield markets presented in a newspaper format

A favourite of mine: ‘The Obsolete Directory’ by Dennis Lee – a documentation of visual research carried out around two phone boxes in Bermondsey and presented in a thick telephone directory-like publication on thin newsprint

Tim Lucraft’s ‘process’ books that document the thinking behind his major projects

Peter Roden’s ‘process’ book. It’s good to see the students put as much time and effort into presenting their thought processes and rough designs, as well as they do, their finished design

Ball bearings roll around on a lightbox and generate data that creates random backgrounds for posters. Richard Underwood’s major project questions the role of the graphic designer in a world of artificial intelligence and automation

The work at LCC was fascinating, and much of it was beautiful and thrilling to look at. Before I dashed off I just had time to pop into the illustration show and caught sight of this comic book called ‘Strainees: The Martian Curse’ with illustration by Miranda Smart. I think she may be someone to watch out for.

On Friday June 30, I was back in Norwich for the NUA shows. Graphics students at Norwich have a choice of three options after their first year of study. They can chose the straight graphics course (BA Hons Graphic Design) which has always been strong in ideas-based design as well as packaging and branding; or they can opt for the Graphic Communication route (BA Hons Graphic Communication) which encourages students to solve complex communication problems and push the boundaries of their discipline; or finally, they can take the Design for Publishing course which focuses on editorial design and typography across both print and digital. The Publishing students are often encouraged to work in collaborative groups which is such a sensible idea as it helps prepare them for life on the outside – they learn how to debate and reason with others, and they discover their strengths and weaknesses within the team. Matt Goss, Natalie Sowa, Alicia Mundy, Julia Clark and Crystal Loh all worked together to produce Dickybird magazine which ‘explores life through language’ and their display is shown below.

There was some exceptional typography on display from DfP student Matt Longley who had designed, and had printed, a complete magazine, Politics and New Liberty – a collection of long- form opinion articles. Matt had also turned his hand to type design and Pathfinder Mono and Mondrian are two typefaces he created in just seven days from initial sketches to finished product, both of which embrace the imperfections of design that come from rapid prototyping. Both projects are shown below and you can see more of them on his link.

Natalie Sowa’s publication Brothers looked at the interesting similarities between Obama and Putin through the use of found Google images and then carefully edited and juxtaposed those images to tell a powerful story. And Natalie’s American Anxiety posters highlight unsettling messages with quirky and unsettling typography (below).

Other Design for Publishing work that popped out at me was a set of OS map covers by Alicia Mundy, Sights and Sounds – a series of posters by Matt Goss promoting an exhibition of the story of Stones Throw Records, and Hannah Moulton’s designs for the online Bridget magazine.

I moved on and, housed in a separate space, I found the NUA Graphic Communication in_form show. The students and tutors had clearly worked hard to create a bold exhibition that showed the work off to its best with hanging posters, table-top displays, monitors and a… confessional box. It was all done with clarity, confidence and a real professionalism and there was a buzz, energy and ‘hot-house’ atmosphere that reflected the ground being forged by these particular students who are working on the edge of the graphic design discipline. Here’s a taster below with four posters and a mag from (in order) Sophie Norman, Jake Gilbert, Jonathan Leonard, Louis Scott and Jack Lambert

The Design for Publishing and Graphic Communication shows at NUA both have accompanying websites where you can look at more of the students’ work – and on Hannah Moulton’s page I discovered her Sunday Times newspaper designs (pictured below), a project that the students undertake in their second year and one that I help run as a visiting lecturer. (See link)

The LCC show has been and gone for another year but if you’re quick you might just catch the final day of the NUA show which finishes on 5 July. And both LCC and NUA are exhibiting at the D&AD New Blood festival in Shoreditch on 5-6 July.

Good luck to all graduating students.



Reading, writing and typography

Pictured above. A collection of old signs and letters on display in the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading. Photo by Rachel Bray

Notebook 18 June 2017 | DEGREE SHOWS | TYPOGRAPHY

Reading with a cap ‘R’ – the Thames Valley, Crossrail boomtown; home to the rock festival and the gaol where Oscar Wilde was incarcerated; and home for a while, to poor old Jude Fawley in Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure. Once upon a time I spent a week in Reading hospital having my appendix whipped out. It was my first encounter with a scalpel (a few years later I was to learn that the ’10a’ scalpel blade was the graphic designer’s preferred blade of choice). And in 1974 or so, I would have tottered on my platform shoes into Reading’s Top Rank nightclub to see the legendary singer Edwin Starr perform. The ugly old station-side nightclub has long since disappeared and been replaced by smart office blocks but the town is still rather dull and congested with traffic. But if you head south-east out of the centre you run into attractive, wide, leafy streets with large Victorian houses, and then the University of Reading campus. Tucked away on the far side of the campus, across the lake, are an assortment of unassuming single storey 1940’s buildings which house the University’s Department of Typography and Graphic Communication – an institute of learning and excellence with a world-wide reputation. Ex-students include luminaries such as the type designer Paul Barnes of Commercial Type.

The Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading. Photo by Rachel Bray

The Department is made up from the 3-year BA undergraduate course in graphic design; an assortment of MA postgraduate courses such as book design, information design, design research and typeface design; and an unrivalled library which holds a collection of graphic design and printed ephemera. At the centre of the department is an exhibition space and past exhibits have included historical and contemporary graphic design, typography and print – such as sweet packaging, celtic inscriptions and newspaper design. I’d come to see their current exhibition – Emigre Magazine (which runs until the 14 July), and to take in the end-of-year BA degree show.

Emigre was a ground-breaking journal of experimental typography and graphic design writing and was self published by the Dutch designer Rudy Vanderlans in California from the mid 1980s until 2005. Early copies were large format, later copies smaller, and then smaller still. The magazine coincided with the birth of the new apple macintosh computers and Vanderlans and his partner Zuzana Licko were inspired to design their own custom fonts for the mac – and set up the Emigre font foundry which still exists today. Whole issues of the magazine would focus on particular designers of the day including Jonathan Barnbrook, Vaughan Oliver and David Carson. There’s a fascinating assortment of Emigre items on display at Reading which have been pulled together from the University’s own collection and from the collection of design writer Rick Poynor who also teaches in the Department. Some of the exhibits are pictured below.

Cover and spread from issue 11 1989. This issue was devoted to a collection of interviews with designers about their experiences of using the new apple mac computers

Issue 50 1999. Type specimens for Vendetta by John Downer

Issue 55 2000. Vendetta and Cholla Slab type specimens using texts from the 1901 book The Desert by John C Van Dyke and photos from a road trip to the Mojave desert

Palm Desert photo essay book

Next up was the end-of-year Graphic Communication degree show. It’s a graphics course with an understandable bias towards typography as well as problem solving and information design, across both print and digital. There was plenty of good work on show and because of my background, I naturally found my eye zeroing in on the editorial design and fine typography. Several students had wrestled successfully with the demands of designing a double-page-spread and footnotes, from Shakespeare’s Henry V, and many of the results were exquisite and showed a real understanding and feel for type. Other students had produced newspaper and magazine designs and I particularly enjoyed looking at Katy O’Hare’s Jaunt magazine and Susann Vatnedal’s Hygge newspaper pictured below. All work was well captioned and easy to understand. A minor criticism was that the exhibition space felt a little cluttered and wasn’t allowing the work to breathe.

Jaunt magazine by Katy O’Hare

Spread from Henry V by Susann Vatnedal

Hygge newspaper by Susann Vatnedal

Newspaper designs from Anna Scully, Eleanor Harris and Izzy Wedgwood

Discovering Reading website design by Claudia Smith

The Department’s library has a fantastic collection of printed ephemera and graphic design and this is a great resource for students. Head archivist Laura Weill showed me around and my eyes widened as she pulled open drawer upon drawer of old prints and posters. Some of the goodies in the collection include old manuscripts, ornamental Victorian playbills, old magazines (including Emigre) and the Isotope collection of early twentieth century information graphics – and even Egyptian hieroglyphics on papyrus!

Archivist Laura Weill displays a striking 1950s health and safety at work poster

With my visit complete, I made my way back into Reading town centre and crossed over the river Thames into the suburb of Caversham to visit an old friend from my student days at the Royal College of Art. As we chatted about the past and swapped anecdotes, he reminded me that one of our old RCA tutors, Ken Garland, had also taught at the University of Reading on the Typography course.


University of Reading Department of Typography and Graphic Communication

University of Reading BA Graphic Communication

Emigre Magazine exhibition details

Why Emigre mattered – and still matters. Rick Poynor’s exhibition review for Creative Review magazine

Emigre Fonts




Newies but goodies

Notebook 25 May 2017 | MAGAZINES

Last month I wrote about a cluster of wonderful old magazines that I’d unearthed tidying the studio. This month I’m taking a look at a selection of new purchases that I’ve recently enjoyed, starting with a couple of heavyweight and always good-looking consumer titles…

GQ (UK edition) June 2017. Creative Director: Paul Solomons, Art Director: Keith Waterfield

In some ways GQ is the perfect magazine. For anyone who knows me, I clearly don’t buy it for its features about fast cars, expensive watches and male grooming products. Instead I admire it for its consistently good looks. And it’s the magazine that I like to wave in front of journalism and design students as an example of ‘this is how you do it!’ – because it does do everything so well – from its rich mix of high-quality, short and long-form content, great flat-planning and pace – to its well-engineered design and typography that always makes use of the best photography, illustration and infographics. Highlights of this month’s issue (pictured above) include a profile of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan (with portrait by David Bailey!), Alastair Campbell’s interview with Tony Blair, The Drop (their culture section) and even their classified advertising section at the back of the mag which is presented in such an appealing, useful and crafty way that it looks like regular editorial rather than ads. Yes, this is how you do it!

HARPER’S BAZAAR (UK edition) June 2017. Creative Director: Jo Goodby, Design Director: Amy Galvin

Harper’s is always my pick of the women’s mags when it comes to design. I think it’s better looking than Vogue and it always oozes style and sophistication which is down to their delicate use of type and elegant photography. Above is a selection of some of my favourite June layouts.

THE DISH The Sunday Times Food supplement (UK) May 2017. Art Director: Matt Curtis

The Dish is the Sunday Times’ food magazine that comes bundled each month with the rest of their supplements. I like it for it’s positive, buzzy vibe. There’s a strong mix of fonts carefully working in tandem; a flexible underlying grid that allows for quotes, box copy and white space, all to sit comfortably together; bold photos and illustration that always work hard alongside the text; and it uses a delicious bright colour palette of pinks, reds and oranges.

EIGHT BY EIGHT (USA) Issue no. 10. Creative Director: Grace Lee

This New York based quarterly football magazine is a favourite of all the student sports journalists that I teach and it’s easy to see why. Unlike some sports magazines, it’s not at all throwaway – and with its excellent journalism, high-production values and bold ‘in-your-face’ design, it’s more like a book and definitely one to leave lying around on the coffee table. I love it for its super use of illustration – a complete mixture of styles from some top illustrators. Eight by Eight have a number of clever spin-off brand extensions including t-shirts, caps and prints of the illustrations – and if branding is your thing, take a look at their powerful brand statement which perfectly captures the essence of what they’re about.

MIGRANT JOURNAL Issue 1: ‘Across Country’. Art direction: Offshore Studio – Isabel Seifert and Christoph Miler

Take a look at Zurich based design company Offshore Studio’s website for a taster of their sharp and slightly edgy, contemporary editorial design and typography. In September last year they designed and co-edited the first issue of Migrant Journal, a collection of essays on the movement of people, goods and information across the globe. The authoritative, text-book-like design is raised to a higher level with a clever use of spot gold, refined typography and the use of a brilliant custom designed typeface called Migrant Grotesk – a regular sans font given a quirky, edgy and slightly unsettling feel with squared-off strokes on the lowercase ‘g’, ‘y’, ‘j’, ‘t’, ‘r’ and ‘f’ and on the ‘R’, ‘G’ and ‘Y’ capitals.

A feature that is published in both English (black) and French (spot gold)

Close-up of the standfirst which is typeset in Migrant Grotesk and which has quirky squared-off strokes on the descenders

Spot gold is used throughout the magazine as a background colour for infographics and for feature ‘title’ pages. Some diagrams combine 100% cyan with the spot gold, such as the one above illustrating how levees work. 

You can find a good video review of Migrant here by Stack, and MagCulture were even describing it as their magazine ‘of the week… if not the month… if not the year’. Do try and track it down – it looks like issue 2 is now available.

ROOT + BONE (UK) issue No. 13

Root + Bone is a free foodie mag that you can pick up at cafés and bars across London and I grabbed the latest copy at the magCulture shop in Clerkenwell. The design is plain and simple but with tasty dollops of white space and always lots of eye-catching photography and illustration – and to keep costs down it’s printed on cheap newsprint and held together with a couple of staples. It’s a mag I’ve written about before and you can read and see pics of issue 9 here.

THE CALIFORNIA SUNDAY MAGAZINE (USA) April 2017. Art Director: Leo Jung

I’ve saved the best till last – this is a beautiful magazine. It is simple and understated but its delicate typography, white space and striking (and sometimes haunting) photography give it a powerful presence. It’s a bi-monthly independent publication distributed with the LA Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Close-up of the front cover showing the delicate but powerful typography

Two-page article on ‘Archiving the internet’. Note the deft touches: a small headline, the gully of white space at the top of the 2nd coloumn and the inter-column rule that pops out at the bottom of the page to pick up the page tab

Part of a four-page picture-heavy feature on migrant farm workers in Twin Falls, Idaho

Powerful portrait photography from a 16-page long-form feature on healthy fast-food restaurant Locol, set up by a top chef in the tough Watts district of LA

Another long-form article – this one on Argentina’s ‘missing babies’ and their grandmothers’ search for them. Note the horizontal rules in the right hand column to denote those that ‘disappeared’. This device is repeated throughout the feature

Part of a picture essay on ‘Dirty Birds’ – America’s national symbol, the bald eagle scavenging for food in an Alaskan fishing port

‘Letter from a drowned canyon’ – the headline (above) and quote (below) become ‘submerged in water’ with a simple use of black then grey type

If you want to see more of this wonderful mag, it’s available for purchase from the magCulture shop or take a look at TCSM’s website. And you can read an excellent review of the April issue by magCulture. Here’s my review of the August 2016 issue.

Finally, a quick mention for The Gourmand magazine. I see that their latest issue no. 9 has just been published. It’s a bi-annual magazine for food lovers and it’s been around now for at least five years but it still looks just as good and has the same impact as it did in 2012 when it first appeared. It makes use of a couple of old fashioned fonts: the serif Cheltenham with its longer ascenders and short x-height, and the sans Grotesque with its clumsy characters, both of which give it a curious retro feel. Intriguing photography and its combination of uncoated and super high-gloss papers all add to its ability to shine out alongside many other indie mags. Here are some cracking pages from the latest issue.


Oldies but goodies

Notebook: 28 April | MAGAZINES

The office is a mess. I have too many old magazines and newspapers cluttering up the shelves and I really ought to throw some of them away to make space for all the new stuff. Trouble is, they’re all great mags, despite their age. Here’s five that I’ve just unearthed and dusted down…

ELLE DECOR 1990 (US edition). Art Director: Jean-Marie Hatier

American Elle Decor still looks as stylish as it did 27 years ago – luscious pictures, tight grid, white space, carefully crafted headlines and unusually narrow columns. Delicious! I think the headline and text font are both Baskerville Old Style.

LUFTHANSA BORDBUCH 1995 (Germany) The Lufthansa in-flight customer magazine. Design/layout Alberto Garcia-Izquierdo and Rolf Kuhl

The Lufthansa magazine was cool and pared back with excellent photography and dollops of white space. The same features appeared twice – first in German and then in English, but with different pictures. Headlines and text are set in Helvetica. I believe that the magazine is still in production and that it looks very much like it did 22 years ago.

ECONY 1999 (Germany). Art Director: Mike Meiré

Econy was a short-lived but influential German business magazine that ran from 1998-1999. It had a brutal typographic simplicity that combined Univers with a stark mechanical serif text font (Times New Roman?) and consequently this allowed the pictures to do most of the talking. Art Director Meiré commissioned fashion, music and art photographers for the business portraits and office and factory interiors, and this gave the magazine a real edge. A decade earlier in the 1980s, the UK business magazine Management Today had had a similar approach with its unconventional, in-your-face business portraiture, but Econy’s pictures had a much cooler aesthetic and they set a style that is still evident in many publications today.


Mike Meiré went on to design the beautiful and even cooler brand eins, economics magazine, and in 2007 he redesigned 032c as a deliberately ‘ugly’ looking culture magazine with distorted typography and brash colours and which you can read more about here in Creative Review magazine. (And if you’re into anti-design, you may enjoy my RCA degree show poster that I produced in 1992.)

WIRE 1989. (UK) Design by Paul Elliman and Lucy Ward

Music magazine Wire is still going strong although I’m guilty of not having looked at a copy for a long, long time. The issue I have dates way back to 1989 (pre-mac, I think…) when it was a specialist Jazz music mag. What set it apart from magazines like The Face was its delicate and elegant typography which gave the magazine a literary/journal type feel, together with its use of white space plus of course, lots of very stylish black and white pics of jazz musicians. The fonts were Garamond with odd splashes of Gill Bold. Further reading: Eye mag profile of designer Paul Elliman (1997), and ‘The Elegant and stylish jazz covers of Wire magazine’ by Robert Newman

ANYWAY 2006/7 (Austria). Creative Director: Alexander Geringer

I’ve had this copy of Anyway magazine kicking around for 10 years or so but this is the first time I’ve picked it up and looked at it properly – and the more I look at it, the more I find to like about it. It was/is a stylish travel mag produced in Vienna by Ahead Media who publish other lifestyle magazines and who were evidently the very first publisher of Wallpaper magazine. It doesn’t shout at you – it’s just finely crafted like all the magazines unearthed here, with thoughtful considered typography (elegant serif contrasting with the all caps, dot font used for captions), cool white space and very attractive pictures.

OK. I’m not throwing any of these away. I need to build more shelves.

Photos taken by design student Eve who is on work experience with us. Eve’s favourite of the five mags is Wire for its black and white pics and simple design.  

Coming up in next post: Newies but goodies – my latest purchases from the MagCulture shop

magCulture Meets Real Review

Notebook: 6 April 2017 | MAGAZINES

magCulture Meets are a monthly series of informal talks by magazine makers and designers at the magCulture shop in St John Street, Clerkenwell, London and their most recent event was a session with the editor and designer of the award-winning Real Review architecture based magazine.

The talk coincided with the release of the third issue of the magazine and, just like issues one and two, it comes packaged in its distinctive cellophane wrapper and is branded with a red face illustration by the brilliant Nishant Choksi and a large, black, ‘brutalist’ ‘R’. But it’s Real Review’s tall, thin, double-folded format that really sets it apart – it is saddle-stitched and then folded again vertically so that it fits comfortably in the hand. The reader can then chose to read one slim page at a time or unfold the magazine further to reveal additional long-form content.

Editor Jack Self (from The Real Foundation) and designer Rory McGrath (from design agency OK-RM) explain how the magazine has been designed to feel disposable and not at all precious – they didn’t want it to be a beautiful publication that ended up sitting on a coffee-table unread. They deliberately chose a very thin, almost throwaway glossy paper in contrast to the thick uncoated stocks favoured by many independent magazines. (For paper geeks like myself, the stock is called Thin Star 50gsm and is a paper normally reserved for use by magazines with huge print-runs such as newspaper supplements. Consequently it is only available as large rolls for web printing – and so Self and McGrath have to have the paper guillotined down beforehand into sheets for printing on the short-run, sheet-fed press used for printing Real Review.) The thin paper can quickly become dog-eared especially when the reader unfolds and refolds the pages, but this is precisely the look and feel that Jack Self is after. The crackly cellophane wrapper was designed to protect the magazine prior to purchase and then to be tossed aside once the mag had been unwrapped but it has inadvertently become part of Real Review‘s essential uniqueness and identity, and many readers, including myself, like to delicately insert the mag back into its wrapper (taking care not to get it caught on the sticky seal!) once it has been read.

Real Review is not a traditional architecture magazine but instead, it has a basis in architecture and the environment, and explores how design shapes society. The latest issue has an assortment of intriguing reviews including: The building where we keep the world – a look at an anonymous town in Oregon that is home to row-upon-row of server stacks that house all of Google, Facebook and Apple’s cloud data; Café society which compares London’s 17th century coffee houses with today’s coffee bars; and Androgynous peripherals – a feature about travel adapters that touches on the development of an ‘androgynous’ docking system for Appollo and Soyuz space craft in the 1970s that avoided using ‘male’ and ‘female’ connectors – and hence any inference of the US being ‘penetrated’ by the Soviets, or vice versa!

The layout and typography of Real Review is simple and functional. Each review is set in either a larger point size across a one-column grid or in a smaller point size as the one-column grid splits into two columns. In places, the two columns break down further into four columns, and hidden at the back of the magazine, almost like a hidden, bonus track on an LP waiting to be discovered, there is one feature set in a tiny point size across the very narrow four-column grid. Generous portions of white space are placed here and there to add breathing spaces and structure.

The magazine has no online presence. If you click on their website you’re confronted by that big, bold, beautiful ‘R’, a brief description of the mag, the option to simply Buy or Contact, and nothing moreso stories appear in print only and remain untracked and so they have no way of knowing which stories are read more than others. But Jack Self is not bothered by this and he has described it as liberating.

Having explored every part of my copy of issue 3 of the Real Review, it has taken on that dog-eared, lived-in look with the red ink chipping away on the back cover and the edges of pages starting to tear. I like it like this. I insert it gingerly back into its cellophane wrapper and place it on my shelf next to its beautiful brother and sister.

magCulture Meets talks take place regularly and you can visit the magCulture website for details of forthcoming events. The talks are sponsored by Park, the independent magazine printer and by the Canopy Beer Company, a microbrewery based in Herne Hill, South London – their Brockwell IPA is a delicious fruity, hoppy beer and I can vouch that it is a perfect accompaniment to a magCultue Meets event, especially on a gloriously sunny evening in early April!

For my review of issue 1 of the Real Review click here




New look Sunday Times: packing a punch but with style

Notebook: 3 April 2017 | NEWSPAPERS

The Sunday Times newspaper has just undergone a much-needed redesign (with a little help from myself on the design of the Culture section). The rather dated looking old paper with its clunky typography and mish-mash of styles has been replaced with a fresher and coherent design that is a pleasure to read.

Editorial design gurus, Mark Porter and Simon Esterson worked alongside art director Russel Herneman and his team over a nine-month period to craft the new look and to test and bed-in the new designs. Porter and Esterson have collaborated before on major newspaper projects including The Guardian (pre Mark Porter’s Berliner-sized redesign of 2005), Publico (Lisbon), Avui (Barcelona) and NZZamSonntag (Zurich).

Their starting point was to replace the existing headline serif font ‘Sunday Times Modern’ and the awkward looking sans-serif ‘Solido’ with a new set of elegant and robust fonts that would work well through all the different sections of the newspaper. To quote the 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 a newspaper can be subtly changed and improved without the reader really being aware of it. Porter and Esterson turned to Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes of Commercial Type to supply the fonts and the tried-and-tested serif headline, ‘Publico’ (along with its sister text font), and the sans-serif ‘Graphik’, were chosen. (Publico had originally been designed as an option for The Guardian’s redesign but was then used by Porter and Esterson in their redesign of Público, Lisbon’s daily newspaper. Publico is also used by the London Evening Standard.) Different combinations of those two fonts are used throughout all sections of The Sunday Times to give each section its own identity – so for instance, the news pages use Publico Bold, whereas the comment and opinion pages use a more thoughtful and lighter version of Publico, and the Sport section uses the bold and chunky condensed version of Graphik.

The new front page design is probably the least changed element of the redesign and as Simon Esterson 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”. Once you turn the pages the new design becomes more apparent but 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 Graphik headlines in all caps 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 – and is easier to navigate.

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 Porter and Esterson 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.

There’s one part of The Sunday Times package that remains unchanged and that is their Style magazine. Style have hired Suzanne Sykes (Marie Claire, Grazia, Elle) as creative director and she’ll be tackling its redesign in the next few months. The Sunday Times Magazine itself was redesigned by Porter, Esterson and Matt Curtis back in early 2016.

Design consultants: Esterson Associates and Mark Porter Associates

Sunday Times art director: Russel Herneman

Project designers: Heather Elliott, James Hunter 

Designers: Martin Barry, Phil Robinson, Hayley Dalrymple, Jeff Potter, Harry Hepburn, Danny Kiln, Julia Durman, Mike Cathro, Steve Burgess, Vaun Richards

The Sunday Times Graphics & Imaging teams

Specialist design consultant: Nick Paul 

Earlier this year I taught a group of Norwich University of the Arts, Design for Publishing students all about newspaper design – and their task was to design pages 1-3 of The Sunday Times! If you’d like to read more about how they got on follow this link to ‘Wrestling with a broadsheet’.


Notebook: 13 April 2017 | BRANDING | TYPOGRAPHY

When I’m not designing for Gilburt and Paul, or teaching editorial design, I collaborate with two ex-work colleagues and old friends, the journalists and writers Jonathan Arnold and Gary Mead. We have a partnership called Orwell and our aim is to provide businesses with influential content and design that enhances those businesses’ core philosophies so that they become better known, better understood and better received. And we do this using rigorous thinking, superb writing and carefully crafted design. Our expertise lies in creating a wide range of long form content such as annual reports and other corporate publications, thought leadership brochures and magazines, research documents and white papers.

To find out more about Orwell, take a look at our website.

Here are pages from our Orwell brochure that I designed last year.

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.


George Hardie retrospective. Brighton Uni’, 11 March – 7 April 2017

Above: One of George Hardie’s earliest designs/illustrations produced when he was still a student at the Royal College of Art


As a student in the late 1970s, I became fascinated by the work of the graphic artist George Hardie. I collected tear-sheets of his work, wrote essays about him and even managed to wangle a visit to his studio in Covent Garden. I still love his hard-edged, ideas-based illustrations with their hidden twists. Hardie is a prolific artist and designer and a retrospective exhibition of his work entitled 50 Odd Years is currently showing at the University of Brighton (11 March – 7 April, 2017). The exhibition spans three rooms and is packed full of his work from across the decades – from his early album sleeve designs and drawings for rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Genesis and Pink Floyd, through to later work such as his ‘Magic’ stamps for the Royal Mail in 2005. It’s a fascinating collection and if you’re going to visit, give yourself lots of time to digest all the goodies on display. Unfortunately there is no exhibition catalogue to help detail and explain some of the clever thinking behind his work – but this excellent profile in Eye magazine issue 58 from 2005 helps gives an insight. And there’s a good article here on AIGA about Hardie’s Zeppelin drawing for the band’s first album.

Here’s a post I wrote about George Hardie in 2015 which helps explain my youthful obsession with his work. I’ve updated it with new pictures from the old tear-sheets that I recently unearthed. (Interestingly, none of these examples of his work are on display in the current exhibition, which suggests that the exhibits on show are just a small part of a much greater body of work…)

“As a graphic design student at Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University) we had a terrific tutor called Mike Felmingham who organised a number of talks from visiting illustrators including the cartoonists Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe and the illustrator (and designer) George Hardie. Hardie was, and still is, probably best known for his album cover designs for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin I and Presence but it was a small illustration (pictured below) that he had drawn for a restaurant menu card, that made me such a big fan of his work back in the late 1970s. I was taken in by the Art Deco design and the black, orange and green shapes which at first glance I took to be a Manhattan street scene. Looking more closely, I suddenly realised that the illustration was, in fact, an axonometric projection of four people sitting around a restaurant table – one person holding a menu, another with wine bottle in hand, a person smoking a cigarette (with wisp of smoke that rises through the centre of the drawing) and the fourth with a wine glass. How clever was that!

This illustration was just one of a series of four that Hardie drew for the restaurant and the other three are shown below.


Much of Hardie’s work has this clever or hidden ‘twist’ to it including this illustration below which he drew for a Sunday Times ‘Sacred Cow’ article (in about 1977-78) on Le Corbusier. You’ll see that the modern apartment blocks set amongst the suburban houses are actually figures on their hands and knees worshipping the great architect.

In the late ’70s Hardie worked for NTA studio (Nicholas Thirkell Associates) along with the illustrators Bush Hollyhead, Malcolm Harrison and Bob Lawrie, and and you can read more about this period in a blog written by Mike Dempsey in 2011. Other editorial work from this period includes the Radio Times and Sunday Times magazine covers shown below.


Drawing for a BBC radio broadcast of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Is that Hardie himself, pictured in the bottom left corner? But why three lenses in the spectacles?

George Hardie later went on to teach on the illustration course at Brighton and here’s an article that Brighton Uni published upon his retirement in 2014.”

The 50 Odd Years exhibition runs Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm (closed Sunday) – 11 March – 7 April University of Brighton Gallery, Grand Parade, Brighton BN2 0JY.