Newspapers, Notebook

Mirror’s design stands out amongst other red-tops

Notebook: 25 August 2015

Let’s face it, the design of the ‘red-top’ newspapers (Daily Mirror, The Sun and Daily Star) isn’t good – they’re old fashioned looking and a bit of an assault on the eyes. Given that their circulations continue to fall each year because the younger generation simply don’t read newspapers anymore, isn’t it worth them at least trying to slow down their decline in sales by improving the designs of their publications? In fairness to the Daily Mirror, they did have a bit of a design tweak two years ago and if you scratch the surface you can see a designer’s hand at work – the Mirror does look fresher.

The Sun has changed little in 16 years – I’ve just dug out an old solar eclipse copy from 1999 and apart from lots more colour, the 2015 edition looks pretty much identical. There’s still the same tired sans-serif headline font (Futura Bold Condensed?) shouting at you in CAPS and still the same clumsy typographic detailing such as underlining and drop shadows on headlines and worst of all, the justified text is still difficult to read with tight line space and large white gaps between words. I have a feeling that if you compared today’s Sun to an issue from even further back, say 30-40 years ago, then still very little would have changed. Now, would a car manufacturer sell new cars that looked and drove like cars from the 1980s? I don’t think so.


The Sun still looks pretty much as it did 16 years ago. 1999 back cover on the left and 2015 on the right

The Star looks very much like The Sun although the quality of the print is better in The Star and the unjustified text in places is a welcome relief. As mentioned, the Daily Mirror has had a fairly recent design refresh and it definitely looks the best of the three. Here’s a link to an article by Roy Greenslade in The Guardian from 2013 on its new look. The Mirror‘s editor Lloyd Embley described his paper as ‘the intelligent tabloid’ and the cleaner more considered design helps to back this up. The sports pages of a newspaper are always a good place to go to, to check out how good/bad a design is, and in The Mirror there is lots of well crafted typography on show with carefully detailed panels and box copy, and a tasteful palette of colours – it’s not just been thrown together. The print quality of the Mirror is so much better than The Sun and the crisper text font (Kepler?) is much easier to read. The ‘new’ headline font in the Mirror is Interstate which has been around for a while and I think was probably first used in The Telegraph Saturday supplements 25 odd years ago, but the Mirror uses a good mix of weights and there’s certainly a lot less headlines in CAPS which all helps make the pages more appealing and certainly a lot fresher. So the Daily Mirror has made that step into the 21st century. Now The Sun and The Star need to do likewise (although I suspect that they’re concentrating their resources on their online offerings). Good design won’t reverse declining newspaper circulations but it might just help slow them down.