This week I received an email from a designer I used to work with in a “traditional” newspaper in Brazil. He asked me about my opinion in regards to how the popular press could be so “ugly.”
I want to share my response.
First of all, when we talk about design, what is does it mean to be “ugly”?
Sometimes, inside the same newspaper, the standards of ugliness and beauty are incorporated into the same publication.
This week, an Editor in Chief from a magazine here in Germany, came to my office and invited me to conduct a workshop for his magazine. He was looking through some of the work I have been doing in the last 6 months for the popular paper Bild am Sonntag that I have on the wall of my office, and said, “this is an amazing job, but some of these pages wouldn’t fit with my magazine.”
This was true; and with this phrase in mind, I began answering the designer who had written to me. Newspaper design is more organic than any abstract theoretical process. Each newspaper must have its own identity and personality. Newspapers must fit in with their city, their readers and the communities they serve.
Of course, the work I did for more traditional newspapers I worked for in the past, doesn’t fit with what I currently do when I design, for example, a page for BamS. A visual journalist should be able to speak in different languages for different audiences. (It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t try to change many of the things I see in the popular press in general. But it’s not about being ugly; I’m not making it for me. Sometimes it’s more about making something more readable or simply more conceptual and attractive).
But what calls my attention here in Germany is not the popular press, but some particularly traditional papers. I have the clear impression that few of them are involved in a conflict between “being traditional” and “being attractive.” But the two are not mutually exclusive! One doesn’t cancel out the other. It’s all about thinking one’s readership and rethinking the way one tells stories, making an effort to make it more engaging.
Love your readers. Write good stories. Make the information easily accessible. But don’t forget to make your product attractive.