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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…

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.

Wrestling with a broadsheet

Notebook 8 February 2017 | NEWSPAPERS | TEACHING

Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) is one of the few graphic design courses in the UK that offers students the option to specialise in editorial design via their BA degree in ‘Design for Publishing’. Regular readers may remember my review of their excellent degree show last summer. The course has a high success rate for graduates taking up careers in magazine, book and newspaper publishing as well as digital publishing and graphic design.

Each year, 2nd-year students are split into small groups and are set a project where they have to redesign pages 1-3 of the Sunday Times newspaper along with designs for a digital version for phone and ipad. A printed newspaper may be an old medium to work with but the strict design nature of the task means that the students quickly learn all about using grids, typography and type hierarchy as well as visual storytelling, picture editing and simple clear communication.

This year we encouraged the students to also think about how a redesign might be able to attract younger readers. Even the Sunday Times, the UK’s biggest selling quality Sunday paper, is slowly seeing its print readership ebb away – to put it bluntly, older readers are dying off and are not being replaced at the bottom end by a younger readership. The NUA students are an ideal target audience for the Sunday Times, but in this digital age, a printed newspaper is a completely alien medium to a large majority of them. When confronted by the current Sunday Times, just about every student wrestled with the broadsheet format and questioned whether the paper could be smaller in size. Designers Holly Stringer and Susanna Ward took a very logical approach to this problem and sliced the edges off the newspaper until they ended up with a size and shape that felt comfortable to use when held in both hands. Their designs, including their mobile solutions, are shown below.


Students Elena Kidman and Christian Kett also opted for a similar skinnier format – this time broadsheet depth but to the width of The Guardian’s Berliner size (a similar long, thin format is a common size for many newspapers in the USA). Elena and Christian’s solution is below. I like their bold, black and orange branding and their confident handling of typography and use of white space. And like Holly and Susanna’s designs, there’s an excellent synergy between the print and digital, through a simple use of colour and type.


The slimmer broadsheet format was also popular with students Emily Goreham and Matthew Adkin and their design solution is shown below. I love their bold masthead and sharp, modern and more youthful design.


The problem that the Sunday Times has is that they need to attract younger readers but without alienating their existing older readership and this is probably why they have been reluctant to change their format, unlike their sister paper, The Times, who moved from broadsheet to tabloid years ago. Chatting with the students at NUA, many expressed an interest in a much smaller handbag sized newspaper, that could be rolled up and slid inside a jacket pocket. But changing a newspaper’s size may be low down on a news publisher’s agenda – the conundrum they have is that they need to attract younger readers who are used to consuming their news online – and not paying a penny for it. I suspect that many publishers have no answer to this problem, have accepted that print is slowly dying, and are busy focussing on refining and monetising their digital offering as their solution for the Millennial generation. But before news organisations abandon print altogether it’s worth them investing some time and money in improving the design of their papers – design won’t reverse declining newspaper circulations but it might just help slow them down and keep the Grim Reaper waiting at the gate for a bit longer. We know that The Guardian and The Telegraph have both spent time on crafting and fine-tuning the look of their print, and digital offerings and they are both a pleasure to use. In comparison, the Sunday Times with its numerous supplements (Money, Travel, Home, Sport, Culture etc etc), seems to be a confusing mishmash of styles and fonts, and if the NUA students had had a lot more time, it would have been interesting to see how their design thinking could have developed further across the entire paper. (SEE FOOTNOTE BELOW*)

There are three British national newspapers whose design and layout is rooted firmly in the past – and they seem happy to stay that way. I’m thinking of the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun (see example from The Sun pictured below). They all feature the same fonts and the same style of layout that they were using 20 to 30 years ago – and I can never quite fathom out why they haven’t invested just a little bit of time and money in making the design of their newspapers fresher and more relevant for the modern generation – not radical redesigns but a simple change of fonts and less clumsy handling of typography. Maybe next year, we can get the NUA students to tackle pages 1-3 of the Daily Express – now that would be a challenge!

The Sun newspaper: 1989, 2012 and 2017. Apart from a bit more colour, little has changed in 28 years. A question: would a car manufacturer sell new cars that looked and drove like cars from the 1980s? The Daily Express and the Daily Mail suffer with the same problem.

*FOOTNOTE  Since writing this post, The Sunday Times has been redesigned! Its new look first issue was published on 3 April 2017. The new design was done by editorial design gurus Mark Porter and Simon Esterson in collaboration with the design team at The Sunday Times, plus with a little help from myself on the redesign of the listings pages in the Culture supplement. You can read about the new look here.

More here on the design and life (and death) of The Independent print newspaper.

More here on the design of the ‘red-top’ newspapers.

And more here on how the newspapers handled their Muhammad Ali and David Bowie tribute editions.

Good online article here on ‘How newspapers lost the Millennials‘ by Alan D Mutter (‘Newsosaur’) 2014

Nick Paul is a visiting lecturer on the BA ‘Design for Publishing‘ course at Norwich University of the Arts (NUA). Nick also teaches editorial design to graphic design and journalism students at Leicester De Montfort Uni and the Universities of Bedfordshire and Derbyshire






A tale of two albums


A tale of two albums

In June 1979 I graduated from my graphic design course at Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry and took a flight to New York with my college mate John. We were on our way to work for three months at a summer camp in Massachusetts and our job would be to mow the lawns of the sports pitches, clean the toilets and showers and carry out any minor repairs on the camp.

We were joined by two American students from Boston and we all shared a cabin together. John and myself were both big Clash fans and we were determined to convert out American buddies from Country Rock to Punk Rock. We had no music cassettes and even the Sony Walkman was a year or so away from making its first appearance and so we listened in vain to the local radio stations hoping to grab a snatch of the music we loved.

We were given one day off a week and at the first opportunity, John and myself hitch-hiked down highway 90 into Boston and there, in a music store I picked up a copy of the Clash’s first album (titled simply The Clash) which had been released two years earlier in the UK. But unbeknown to me, this was the US version that had just been released in July 1979, and which came with bonus tracks including the brilliant Complete Control and White Man in Hammersmith Palais, both of which never appeared on any of the Clash’s UK album releases. Result!

Back at the summer camp our American buddies Sean and Bob had rustled up an old record player and speakers from somewhere, and fuelled by illicit alcohol which we’d sneaked on to the camp, we bunged the vinyl on the deck, turned up the volume and Sean and Bob looked on in astonishment as John and myself pogoed with absolute joy around the cabin. A few plays in and the yanks were converted and joined us jumping around the hut like maniacs to Complete Control, Janie Jones, White Riot and, of course, I’m so bored with the USA

Late August and camp was finished for the season. John and myself bought a one month Greyhound Bus pass and headed west to explore the rest of the US. We had very little money, slept on the buses and seemed to survive on a diet of peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I had my precious Clash album stuffed in my bag and it travelled with us for 4,000 miles as we made our way across and around the USA – Kansas City, Denver, Yellowstone, Seattle, San Francisco, LA, El Paso, New Orleans, Miami, Washington and eventually back to New York and on to London.

I still have the album, dog-eared from its travels – and when my children were younger we’d occasionally dig it out and pogo around the kitchen together. The cover photo of the band: Paul Simonon, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones (drummer Topper Headon was still to join the group) was shot near the Roundhouse in London’s Camden Town by photographer Kate Simon. The back cover features a picture of the Notting Hill Carnival riots from 1976 which Strummer and Simonon attended and which influenced their songwriting. The inner sleeve photos were by Pennie Smith.


Arriving back in the UK in late September 1979 I was penniless and in search of my first design job and my time was spent hitch-hiking between my parent’s house in Leicester, my friend Dick’s flat in Coventry and job interviews in London.

In the spring and summer of 79, The Clash had been in and out of the studio recording their third album which was released in December that year. London Calling marked a musical change in direction with its reggae influenced tracks and it was to become heralded as the band’s masterpiece. The now, so familiar cover, features a striking black and white photo of bass player Paul Simonon smashing his guitar on stage in New York, evidently angry at the wide distance between the band and the audience. The picture was captured by Pennie Smith who was the Clash’s on tour photographer and the shot has since been voted the greatest rock and roll photo of all time by Q magazine. The cover design was by the NME cartoonist Ray Lowry (Guardian obituary here) and the green and pink lettering deliberately payed a blatant tribute to Elvis Presley’s first album. Musically, it’s a brilliant LP and in 2003 it was ranked number 8 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time.


In February 1980 London called for me. I bundled my clothes and Clash albums into Dad’s car and I took up my first design job at the book publisher Mitchell Beasley based in Soho  – and the Clash’s iconic third album became the soundtrack to my fledgling career as a young designer in London.




Remember Eat Soup?

Notebook: 20 January 2016 | MAGAZINES

I’ve been teaching journalism students about magazine publishing – reader profile, branding, content, editorial design, advertising, distribution and so on. They had to come up with a brand idea that could be rolled out across a magazine, website and social media. One group decided on a student mag that would focus on eating and drinking on a budget. After a brain-storming session to pick a name for their publication, they came up with the snappy title of Bread and Water which seemed to perfectly match the jokey, tongue-in-cheek style of their content. It immediately made me think of Eat Soup magazine. Anybody remember that one? Launched in 1996 off the back of IPC’s Loaded magazine, Eat Soup was a food, drink and travel magazine aimed at a typical ‘men-behaving-badly’ type male reader. It carried the brilliant tag line, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful” and it had the same pioneering, swashbuckling, crash-bang-wallop style of its sister title Loaded with busy and energetic layouts. Contributors included Will Self, Keith Floyd, Tom Conran and Len Deighton.

Eat Soup was the brainchild of the editor David Lancaster who approached IPC with the name and idea. He had previously worked on MotorCycle International and Top Gear in the early/mid 90s with Jeremy Clarkson and Quentin Willson. The Art Director was Loaded’s Stephen Read. The magazine was initially bi-monthly but IPC, keen to build on the success of Loaded, soon turned it into a monthly publication but this was probably its undoing – doubling print and content costs and forcing it to run before it could walk – it needed time to grow. Sadly the magazine lasted for little over a year before IPC pulled the plug – they were unable to sell enough copies and struggled to attract advertisers.

David Lancaster left IPC to work at The Times and he later co-founded Restaurant magazine. He now teaches at Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design. Stephen Read went on to help launch the alternative and award-winning GolfPunk magazine in 2004. He now works as a photographer and film maker.

Eat Soup is still fondly remembered by many people in the media, and by chefs. It rode a lively wave of vibrant UK magazine publishing launches in the late 1990s, unearthing lots of gastronomical delights and home-grown cooking talent along the way, despite its short life.


Illustrator Melvyn Evans

Notebook: 15 January 2017 | ILLUSTRATION

One of my favourite illustrator/artists is Melvyn Evans. He works with a variety of media, from traditional linocuts through to digital illustration using Adobe Illustrator, to produce a range of beautiful artwork much of which is inspired by the British landscape. What all Melvyn’s work has in common is his exquisite use of colour – sometimes solemn grey/brown tones such as the linocut Le Morte d’Arthur (based on tales of King Arthur, exhibited at RA summer show in 2014 and shown below), or brighter jewel-like colours that glow warmly against their earthy coloured neighbours as in The Wisdom for Hen Keepers (top) or Melvyn’s London scene (below).

Some time ago I commissioned Melvyn to produce a map for a travel feature on Western Sweden for Saab magazine. His charming style, with echoes of 1950s children’s book illustration, reflected the mood of the article. (below)

And more recently Melvyn produced an illustration for me – contrasting clickbait content with long form content – for a brochure for the content marketing agency Orwell. (Orwell [of whom I am a partner] provide influential content for intelligent organisations such as white papers, research documents, high-level speech writing, client magazines and other types of corporate publication. You can read more about Orwell here).

Melvyn Evans trained originally as a marine engineer but then went on to study at Exeter College of Art, Goldsmiths and then the RCA. His latest project has been to produce book cover illustrations for A Sussex Alphabet and A South Downs Alphabet by Eleanor Farjeon. Many of Melvyn’s wonderful lino prints are available for sale and you can contact him via his website.