The Observer, Britain’s oldest Sunday newspaper (founded in 1791), followed its younger stablemate, The Guardian, and did a Berliner last Sunday. It’s an all-singing, all-dancing package, which brightens up a dull day.
The new package is multi-coloured and multi-sectioned.
It had to come sooner rather than later to make use of the spare capacity on Saturdays of The Guardian’s new £60m presses in Manchester and East London. The expense of staying broadsheet would have been unsupportable.
What do you get in the paper for £1.60?
The first impression is one of modernity, colour and youthful appeal. The availability of editorial colour on every page is a boon for any designer or picture editor and, when the advertisers cotton on, should provide an upsurge in advertising revenue.
The background colours are muted and the pastel shades make up most of the new palette. Colour has been used in a way – for example colour folio lines – which would have been unthinkable only a few years ago on a national newspaper. There is strong use of deep red and pink for signposting – a hallmark of Mario Garcia, the international design consultant, who worked on the redesign with Carolyn Roberts, the paper’s new art director, under project leader John Mulholland, the deputy editor.
New typefaces have been used throughout – Mercury Display for headlines; Whitney for sans text and Stainless as the “character” font; the masthead stemmed from Antenna and was specially designed by Cyrus Highsmith of Font Bureau; the body type is Mercury 9.25/10 pt.
Unlike The Guardian, contrasting headline fonts have been used which serve well to break up the articles. The format dictates the number of columns, which is five.
Designers are being encouraged to “go across the fold”
such as pages 6-7, which recreates a “broadsheet” feel in Berliner size.
Apart from the main news section (48 pages), the paper is split into Sport (24 pages), Escape (22 pages), Review (34 pages) and Business & Media (20 pages). But that’s not all. There is also a redesigned Observer Magazine (formerly known as OM), slightly smaller than A4 (80 pages) and a half-Berliner size TV Guide (28 pages). Last Sunday’s package also had the monthly Sport magazine.
The Observer has gone further than The Guardian by using bigger headlines and more typographical breakers.
At times this is contra-indicative as the eye is drawn around the page by this extensive use of colour pointers, sub-heads or crossheads in grey or blue tints, blocks of small vertical rules acting as breakers and more.
On the front page, this is exemplified by the two straplines over the main article on Charles Kennedy’s resignation, a splash headline, two quotes in grey in the middle column and five cross references underneath those. It can take some time to get round to reading the article.
In this first section, the news pages are broken up by features and columnists, which can be confusing, ie, after 11 pages of news, we get a news round-up page followed by an opinion page – Nick Cohen’s Without Prejudice column – but then, it’s back to news again on page 14 and the “A-Z recipe for a healthy life” on page 15, which is not a news story.
The giddy progress continues with further news pages before you reach comment, opinion and then world news with 7 Days (the last word, more or less) over the last seven pages.
In all, across the many sections, there is a cornucopia of dazzling items to dip into. It’s a stunningly good redesign, but only time will tell whether the kaleidoscope detracts from the gravitas and the analysis for which the paper has been so famous for so long.