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A painful road to nowhere

How long is a long story?

How about 6, 211 words?

That is the number of words that Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd required to tell his countrymen that the road to recovery required some bitter tonic to swallow.

His so-called essay was published in full in the Sydney Morning Herald last weekend.

I doubt there will be many Aussies who would really read the text, given that one needs at least 30 to 40 minutes  to plough through it.

And the design didn’t really help.

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Could anything have been done to make it more palatable? Most certainly!

How about a graphic to explain how the world got into its current difficulties? Or another graphic to explain the amount of bailout money governments around the world have put up?

The essay could also have been broken up into several parts which Mr Rudd had actually done. Pity the journalist wasn’t on the same wavelength!

Instead, a huge photo of the Sydney skyline and a couple of cranes working on two buildings was used across the bottom of the two pages with text flowing around the cut-outs. How unimaginative!

But here’s something designers should really do when faced with such a long story, or for that matter, ANY story: Read it through at least twice and try and pick out things you can use for visual effect such as the ideas above.

Brainstorm ideas with the section editor or colleagues and find ways to make the page more accessible to readers.

If you still can’t find ways to make the page interesting, you should find another job!

Newspapers: Be like the new iPhone!

I tried to buy the new 32g iPhone today. But it was sold out at eight stores I visited!

Take note: Eight stores all did not have a single iPhone to sell. And this is nearly three weeks after the new-generation phones were launched in Sydney. Not even the 16 gig one.

Waiting period: At least two more weeks. And no guarantee that you will get one because there is a long waiting list.

If only newspapers could be as popular!

What is it about the iPhone that newspapers don’t have?

Here are just a few things:

a. Usability

b. Well-designed and easy to use

c.  Has everything the user needs or want

d. Feels great

e. Works like a gem

f. Lust factor

Newspapers? All the bad things you can think of.

So if you’re a newspaper editor or publisher, think iPhone.

Holiday Inn and newspaper mastheads

Have you noticed that the Holiday Inn chain of hotels worldwide is undergoing a redesign?

It has unveiled its new logo which is a simple ‘H’. It certainly looks more up to date compared to the old one (see photos below).

Holiday Inn had absolutely no trouble changing its long-standing logo to something completely different.

But the same can’t be said of many newspapers, many of whom agonise over their mastheads when they think of a redesign.The old-school editors and journalists were taught that the masthead is sacrosanct!

Many editors mistakenly believe that the way their masthead looks determines their brand. I’m sorry, but they are flat wrong.

This morning, as I was driving I noticed that there were many Toyotas that did not even have the name Toyota on their backs. One simply said Hilux, and everyone knows that is a Toyota. I saw quite a few variations of the name Toyota too.

Some had Toyota in the equivalent of 9-pt type but the model, such as Camry or Corolla, is much bigger.

Just goes to show that when we think of Toyota we don’t remember exactly how the Toyota logo looks like or the typeface used. We just know Toyota because it IS Toyota.

Ditto with newspapers. It’s NOT how your masthead looks but what kind of paper you are that determines your brand.

I have redesigned many newspapers and at every one of them, I have changed the mastheads, some very drastically.

For example, when I redesigned the world’s biggest vernacular paper, the Malayala Manorama (circulation 1.6 million), I even changed the look of the traditional elephant between the two names.

Result? Not one single reader called to complain. Not one single reader demanded the old masthead back!

Note to editors: Your masthead is the least important thing in your paper. It is your content that matters most. Pay attention to that and readers will love you!

The new Holiday Inn logoold-holiday-inn.gif