Newspapers, Notebook

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’.