READING the news is a visual experience.
Good design in print or online will always come second to the information that is being communicated.
But it comes a very close second.
Design is part of the communication process. At its most basic it presents text and graphics in a manner that the mind can absorb without undue effort. At its best it brings an extra dimension to the process: it stimulates, inspires, offers insight, evokes emotion or demands a response.
Classic front pages spring to mind: the Daily Telegraph’s report of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, The Sun’s destruction of Neil Kinnock’s election hopes (Will the last person to leave Britain please turn off the lights) and the Daily Mirror’s ‘sideways’ report of the Brighton bombing (let me know your favourites).
Sadly, as this post by Matt Sanchez observes, design has been very much relegated in importance by the majority of websites. A confusing array of headlines, icons, links and adverts diminish the reading experience.
It is almost as if all the sound principles learned from hundreds of years of publishing history have been tossed aside.
Admittedly, online is a different medium, but the human brain has not changed. In general, we shun clutter and are attracted to order and beauty. The sites that deliver this, in addition to the essential information we seek, will prosper.
Hope lies, I believe, in tablet devices. They are a great leap forward in the delivery of news. They combine portability with the power of typography, photography and the web’s unique interactivity in a way that a desktop PC (or laptop) cannot.
The experience they offer is so rich and exciting that users will be prepared to pay for the content they deliver, something that, so far, has been impossible to achieve with PC-delivered news.
Design is on the brink of a digital renaissance.