20 October 2008
Too gaudy for words (Web only)
Independent’s new clothes do nothing to establish a once elegant paper as a vital force
By Rick Poynor
Written exclusively for eyemagazine.com and blog.eyemagazine.com
I always liked the idea of The Independent and there have been a couple of periods, especially after it launched in 1986, when I defected to it from The Guardian. Even so, it has been a long time since I read it regularly, although the campaigning front pages produced since its 2005 redesign by Cases i Associats were eye-catching and occasionally led me to buy it. My main stumbling block is the tabloid page (and that goes for The Times, too). No matter how these two papers might rationalise the switch from broadsheet, the smaller size – also used by the Daily Mail – remains inherently down-market. The Guardian’s brilliantly managed move into new territory with the Berliner format underlined how dowdy, unimaginative and old-fashioned its rivals had become.
New editor Roger Alton’s revamp of the Independent, announced with the strapline ‘New full-colour edition’, made me look again – not because I see colour as a vital inducement but because I wanted to know why the paper thought it was. While colour throughout the news pages might now be the norm, from an editorial perspective colour is helpful only to the extent that it encourages you to read the news, perhaps because it looks more accessible. Beyond this, there is the tricky business of using colour to add some extra layer of interest, drama or explanation to the stories. This requires a high level of design skill combined with journalistic insight. If a picture is not well chosen, not well sized or cropped, not placed sensitively in relation to other pictures and all the page elements that surround it, then it makes no difference whether it is in colour or black or white. In fact, if it’s a colour picture poorly used, this is potentially worse, because it will be even more intrusive and distracting.
I had read some lukewarm reactions to the redesign, but nothing prepared me for quite how tacky the full-colour Independent now looks . . . (continued on blog.eyemagazine.com)