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New Identity for The Guardian

We take a look at the new size, masthead, and online presence of The Guardian news outlet, renowned for it’s popularity with creatives.

February 5, 2018

Here we’re looking at the new size, masthead, and online presence of the paper renowned for it’s popularity with creatives.

As a regular Guardian reader; including the app, website and printed newspaper, I was really excited to see the new direction for the ‘future’ news outlet after watching their teaser video. I personally don’t mind the move to a tabloid size – yes, there are certain connotations associated with the size, but on the whole the format is more practical, and quite frankly if it is going to save millions that could secure The Guardian’s longevity, it has my support.

This being said the new identity revealed on 15 January 2018 has proved a difficult one for me to digest and unlike Armin’s article for Brand New, I have been less forgiving as I’ve noticed I am developing a love/hate relationship with it, and here’s why.

Over the past decade our wholehearted move into the digital age has left the Guardian’s single-line logo, released back in 2005 (along with the move to the revolutionary Berliner mid-size layout and full colour print), behind with it’s awkward long, narrow layout. The new stacked logo is definitely a step in the right direction to combat this, it has diversified its usability across formats, which will only help with future-proofing it.

However the new logo identity has, at the moment, left me with sense of a lot to be desired. I understand using a traditional serif and tight kerning as a nod to traditions of print and the past reiterating the Guardian’s longstanding history, but re-introducing ‘black’ as the dominate brand colour is a mistake for me.

Since 2015 the ‘rebirth’ trend has been thrown upon us with brands reverting back to their traditional values and updating identities with fresh contemporary takes on the ‘good old days’. With companies like Great Western Railway, The Co-op and Natwest all jumping on board it seems The Guardian has followed a trend rather than setting it’s own this time. This is a shame as The Guardian has previously been renowned for setting trends and being different, such as it being steeped in colour unlike its competitors. Now with its ‘black serif’ you cannot help but compare it with other less ‘edgy’ publications such as The Times, The Evening Standard and The Independent who’s dry reporting style leaves me with a sense of disappointment. The Guardian reporters have always being famed for going further to expose stories and scandals, and this move towards tradition and the design by David Hillman (1988) softens this.

The new mainly black and white identity might not be immediately noticeably comparable online with it’s competitors but the printed publication will inevitably blend into the backgrounds on newsstands. Maybe this move is to cut down print costs you might say? But the paper is still being printed in full colour, and the publication need not worry about colour online so why the step away from it?

In the age of ‘fake news’ maybe it is necessary for The Guardian to re-established itself in the online news market as a traditional news outlet to its next generation of news readers – ones that perhaps have never bought a newspaper and had the print rub off on their fingertips? Although I posit that this is not really necessary as The Guardian’s article quality and supreme journalism should still make up for this.

Looking at The Guardian’s new online presence, I have mixed emotions about the new design, even whilst writing this article my options have changed. It would appear that the new direction is focusing on the app, as this is the most seamless (next to the frustrating website, it is a dream to look at).

Let’s start with the good (the app), consider the filler (desktop version) and finish with the tolerable (mobile view).

The app has been updated to work seamlessly across new the latest devices with the new iPhone X the clear winner. It’s transitions are smooth, it uses space well with natural margins and reasonable padding, even the multiple hairlines under the nav have purpose here. So why has this been over looked on the website version? In comparison the website seems like a bad sandwich filler, simply there to get you through until dinner. The first thing I’ve noticed is the lack of white space in the header. The header is over-crowded with the logo butting up to the edge, the ‘support The Guardian’ button looks out of place, and then there is the disconnected navigation menu. Yes it has use of colour but this does not cascade down to it’s child menu (for example: news – UK / World / Business / Football / UK politics / Environment / Education / Science / Tech / Global development / Cities / Obituaries) leaving it disconnected. In addition the child menu links seem unnecessarily closely tracked together. A few small changes like extra 15px top and bottom margins on the logo, and changing the background shape of the support button and moving it to right of the search icon, integrated having a dropdown search could involved the UI of the site. The mobile view could be compared to a cake’s ‘soggy bottom’ – not ideal but still usable. The most infuriating thing on this version is the menu icon almost touching the logo – what happened to minimum clear space?

Overall I see positive steps into the future for The Guardian, however I am not convinced that this latest identity has been successfully implemented across their outlets. It does appear that in the office at least I have the strong opinion on the new identity with the rest of the team pretty indifferent about the update. This, however, is arguably what makes dynamic design team – someone finding a passion critiquing the design to take a concept to the next level as a group.