Turning to type and quality – The Independent’s new design
This month The Independent launched its redesign to the public. As a type designer at one of the leading typeface providers, I feel I’ve got enough authority to say: this is a wonderful result.
The newspaper market is changing and the industry as a whole is facing challenging times. The Independent has taken a radical approach rather than just making evolutionary improvements to its publication, which is a clear and confident statement.
I’m a great admirer of quality. But what defines design quality in a consumer-facing enterprise environment? In essence, it needs to deal with making two ends meet that are in permanent change. It is like a docking manoeuvre in space without having the full knowledge of the physics behind it. It takes a great amount of synchronising, firstly within the company between top level management, the marketing and the design departments, and secondly between the company and its audience, prospective customers and spectators.
The quality of The Independent’s new design doesn’t just stem from abandoning its former clunky masthead, leaving more space on the page, but from the most powerful change – the type selection.
Having Henrik Kubel design a bespoke typeface family finally gave them full control over the newspaper’s impression. It may sound irrational saying that it’s sometimes difficult to find exactly what you need in a pool of more than 100.000 available typefaces, but when you are looking for something specific that combines technical quality with a special design, the pool quickly becomes a tiny pond.
When looking at the result, people might think that it’s just as easy as putting together a few contemporary features. It could just simply be an extremely streamlined masthead that looks like it’s stencilled with some large swash letters and fancy ligatures. In reality, however, there are a vast amount of subtle micro-typographic details that give this design its distinct tone of voice.
If you have a look at the open lower loop of the lower case g in the word ‘baggage’ below that is shared throughout the typeface family, you will see what I mean.
It is not only the layout with its versatile 12-column grid or its use of the thin columns for captions and quotes, it’s especially the type design with its secret power of creating a unique atmosphere that leads the way in the redesign. I especially like the sans serif headline faces – their modern but solid look fit perfectly into the revamped Independent.
The serif typefaces contrast this solidity with a sense of playfulness and creativity. Only the Italics feel a bit too slanted to me, especially the bold italic seems slightly unstable.
But this is just a nifty detail in a print redesign that has to be seen as a success overall. The radical redesign brings the Indie back to its roots by creating more of a broadsheet impression.
The only drawback for me is the online site www.independent.co.uk, which still looks too much like the old Independent. I would wish to see more of the regained modernity and airiness of the printed version. At Monotype, we see so many designs going digital that it is essential to put in the effort when transferring a print design to the digital version, and that would’ve made the relaunch absolutely perfect.
Henning Krause, director of Creative Professional font production at Monotype