Posting in Cities
Four of the five best designed newspapers, selected by the Society for News Design, serve less than 175,000 readers. Is innovative design possible for a larger audience?
While Americans go through more toilet paper than newsprint these days, there's one thing newspapers have over bathroom tissue: their graphic design and typography.
The non-profit organization Society for News Design recently selected their top five picks for the best-designed newspapers in the world, and two of the five papers were Toronto-based. The winners were:
- National Post (Toronto)
- The Grid (Toronto)
- Excelsior (Mexico City)
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (Frankfurt am Main, Germany)
- Politiken (Copenhagen)
Four of these papers have relatively small circulation: less than 175,000 subscribers, excluding the German paper. And this fact was not lost on the judges; in the words of judge Bob Unger from Bedford, Massachusetts's Standard-Times:
The formula for excellence will always be less about format and typography than about the unreserved commitment to the community of readers that newspapers serve and clarity about the nature and interests of those readers. What is a perfect look for an audience in Beijing or Oslo will not likely be perfect for an audience in Buenos Aires or Charlotte. A newspaper must find the voice that speaks clearly to its unique audience of readers, and the best newspapers will always do so.
Does this mean that creative design for larger papers is doomed? Major US papers tend to look pretty much the same: columns of serif text topped by bolded headlines. But larger papers in many European countries, for example, don't necessarily follow this format, often containing colorful infographics and stories laid out with a bit more art and pizzazz.
"Print innovation is seemingly happening everywhere except in the US. Why do so many American newspapers look so much alike?" asked judge Rhonda Prast from the Missouri School of Journalism.
High-circulation papers may just not have the wiggle room to experiment because any failures could big losses. But I am certainly more likely to buy a paper with compelling design; maybe creative redesign could help boost print circulation.
Photo: Flickr/NS Newsflash
Feb 19, 2012
I for 34 years had both the pleasure and displeasure of working at an Australian Provincial Newspaper. During those years the Central Coast Express changed ownership five times. Because we went from letterpress (hot metal) through early computer/film to pure computer it would be unfair to say our layout and design was ever appreciably good or bad because of the ownership, editorial integrity did however change a lot. As Rupert Murdock and just a few others own most of the "Majors" it is not surprising that there is a similar "style of office" among them. Take heart, the web is changing that for the better, we can now read and contribute to this wonderful medium, the web. I think this massive generational change in our reading habits will be one of the last documented in ink and paper, and moreover that I will live long enough to read it.
I would think it obvious that some attention to design might actually encourage greater readership. US newspapers are going fast--we speculate on when (not if) the Charlotte Observer (we call it affectionately the "Charlotte Pamphlet") will cease publication, leaving us with an even more dismal collection of local newspapers. None of the current crop are remotely interesting from a design perspective. All too bad.