Had things been different, the first person I would've talked to about the Guardian redesign would have been my Dad.
He was a loyal Guardian reader for many years; a text-book leftie, vegetarian, art lecturer and genuine old-school guy. He had acres of cuttings spanning decades, all fastidiously organised; chronologically and by subject in a long-suffering filing cabinet. The Guardian was a family institution long before I started to ruin Dad's pristine copy at breakfast every morning with my grubby infant hands.
Needless to say, I've watched the Berliner developments with fascination and, sigh, Dad's not around any more. So I'll tell you what I would've told him.
I have a niggling preoccupation for golden sections but even so, the position of the masthead is quite canny. It's low enough down the page to register that almost subconscious reassurance that the one-third law provides, but beautifully segments the top half of the page when folded on the news stand. No coincidence of course, but there's a stability and confidence to it.
In my humble opinion, the Guardian has always been the most modern looking newspaper and the masthead has a lot to do with that.
David Hillman's masthead was extremely influential and dynamic in its way and really didn't seem dated, which is obviously the mark of a really decent bit of design. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be changed and, as readers' editor Ian Mayes said, revamping the design without changing the masthead would be like 'doing the long jump and hesitating at the launch pad'.
The centrefold is a delight. It has become the first part I turn to, although it will take something really spectacular to beat Tuesday's photo of Marc Quinn working on his Alison Lapper sculpture in Tuscany. It's a stunning image; Alison's gleaming and unapologetic marble form glowing as her belly is sanded - almost luminous against the rugged dusty metal of his outdoor workshop. Nice.
A photo centrefold is not a groundbreaking idea but it works really well, exploiting full colour printing (something we take for granted online) and doing justice to the paper's photographers.
That was my first reaction: "Look! It's a diddy G2!" and regretfully miniaturisation does often have that affect on people for whatever hormonal reason.
I wasn't sure about the G2 size at first, but it's grown on me in the past few days and there's something about the size that makes the content seem more digestible.
I don't like the new TV guide. All it says to me is that it was a bitch of a job squeezing that lot on two pages and it's really hard to scan.
I've let the design settle with me for a few days and I've noticed some more subtle influences.
theguardian - we barely notice words run against each other anymore. This device was quite unusual a decade ago but domain names have now seeped into our collective consciousness. So is it subliminally plugging the website?
And again - is it a coincidence that the new Berliner size is the same width as standard computer screens?
Love the colour headlines, love the teasers on the front page. I had thought in the past that the Indy's one-story front covers really stood out, but tasters really are much more inviting.
Wasn't sure about the 'Daily Simon Jenkins' on Wednesday although I'm glad that the format is being played with. Really refreshing to see subtle experiments with the design, like keeping a relationship fresh by going out somewhere different every Thursday night...
The size should really only be an issue of practicality, although the broadsheet thing is obviously wrapped up in the tiresome British obsession with class. As someone commented on the Guardian's editors' blog, on the way back from the newsagent it nestled in my arms like a puppy.
Overall, it's bold, modern and youthful - like the new readers the Guardian hopes to attract. I think it will work, for now.
And in the long run?
That's the £80 million question of course. All I know is that I've bought the Guardian every day this week and I don't normally buy newspapers at all, at least on weekdays.
The obvious conclusion about the evolution of printed news is that it will have to exploit what the internet cannot; large glossy pictures, features, relaxed serendipitous hammock reading that just isn't the same on the snatchy, bossy internet. And the Berliner Guardian certainly fulfills some of those criteria, particularly because you can't underestimate how hard it is to read a broadsheet on a hammock.
It comes down to whether the Guardian's glass is half full or half empty. However, many redesigns there are, newspaper readership is going to shrink to the point of pointlessness. That's something that the traditional newspaper craftspeople will understandably mourn, but this change is inevitable and relentless and has to be embraced.
Is it seen as an opportunity or a threat? Let's be honest, the Guardian is doing a cracking job on the internet. More than 11 million users internationally. How can that be a bad thing? If you book them, they will come.
I just can't wait for the site to be redesigned to match the new feel of the newspaper. Now that really will be interesting...
Comments? Email me.
From Feargal Mc Kay, 19:37 15 September 2005
Re: your comment that the Guardian's new logo - theguardian - neatly plugs the website.
The oddity is, the Guardian's website is www.guardian.co.uk - no 'the'. Try www.theguardian.com or www.theguardian.co.uk in your browser and you won't get their site. The BBC ran into a problem like this when they rebranded their sites as BBC Interactive, or BBCi as the site's logo put it. This diluted the domain brand name - www.bbc.co.uk - that they'd so sucessfully developed. Are the Guardian about to do the same? Fortunately, the Guardian do actually own www.theguardian.co.uk. It's just that they haven't turned it on. So they do seem to understand the need to have one main domain name. But quite a few people have pointed out how the new masthead looks like a domain name. Could it be that the designers don't fully understand the web, even though they've produced a boxy-looking design that could almost be a webpage?
I was surprised that the website logo hasn't changed - it's still Guardian Unlimited. I can undertand them not taking on a full-on redesign of the sites (though they are getting in need of it at this stage - it's been pretty much the same design for seven years). But I did think they would do a quick logo change. It is pretty much as simple as just changing a couple of graphic files. At the moment, it looks like theguardian (newspaper) is developing one way, and Guardian Unlimited (the website) isn't quite keeping up. For a paper whose web-presence is so well integrated into the print product, this seems odd.
In general, I do like the new Guardian design. Alas for me, I am buying an issue printed in Northern Ireland, and the printer there can only handle 24 pages of colour, half of which are given over to the sports section. So that lovely two page colour photospread so many are praising is actually in black and white for a substantial number of Guardian readers. We also have a problem with the 'diddy G2' - which is missing 4 pages (including the TV column, which is, for some reason, still trailed) and not stapled. The Guardian don't have a date for when this issue will be resolved. And while they responded promptly to the 'bring back Doonesbury' campaign, this issue they would seem to prefer to sweep under the carpet.
From Jemima Kiss, 21:24 15 September 2005
I too looked up theguardian.co.uk and was very surprised to see they own the domain, but don't appear to have directed it to guardian.co.uk. Rather odd.
I've been reading the complaints about the black and white overseas versions and missing pages in G2, but all I can say is that I really hope they sort those out. I guess they'd need to get their presses there updated too, assuming copies in NI aren't printed in Manchester and flown over, so maybe that won't happen for a while...
As for the website, yep - I do agree it needs updating. But to be fair, it's a good, strong design and hasn't really dated. It's pretty functional. They will redesign soon enough, I'm sure.
From Feargal Mc Kay, 22:24 15 September
Re: the gruan's site - i actually love their site. It's what sites should be - functional, and not design-conscious fussy. But in little areas (eg the top nav) it's creaking a bit. A lot has been added to the site over the last seven years, and there's a bit of discontinuity within the primary navigation. What I mean is, you're getting sections of the site that aren't as integrated into the main site as they should be (for example, the blogs - the only link back to the main site from them is the logo, but they should also be able to pull in the standard top navigation). Apps, this is all probably boring, but I work in web...
The not re-directing the parked domain issue - that's probably a marketing decision. The domain is a brand, having too many variants off the main domain dilutes the brand. (The sub-domains (books.guardian.co.uk etc) don't count in this regard, it's just to do with the main domain. Different marketing people will give you different answers to this problem (I've been there with it, I know the answers). But it is more a marketing issue than a tech/webhead issue.
The NI issue. I don't know how much this is just down to capacity (with sales almost doubling, i expect the uk plants are full out), and whether the portadown company doing the printing only have a short term contract until sales in the uk itself settle down. or this could be going to be a permanent issue for many readers north and west of manchester, which makes the full-colour promise very hollow. i *would* like to see a full-colour guardian. i guess i'll just have to buy a cheap ryanair seat and go to london for a weekend - if i can get a ryanair seat cheaper than a copy of the paper, i might just do that too :) i'd really love to get a full response from the gruan on this, but they're just giving out a standard reply, which doesn't really answer the long-term question. they do have a sizeable readership in ireland, north and south of the border, but they don't seem to be willing to address the issue.
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