April 3, 2009

Redesigning the Way We Read

Many of you know that my main bread and butter comes from the magazine publishing industry. In the last few months this industry has been hit really hard.

Whether it's because publishers and magazines became fat, lazy and overindulgent or because readers are just not seeing the value in the products they offer any more, one thing that is indisputable is that design plays a major role in why someone picks up something to read, and why they continue to read what they've picked up.

Many people predict the convergence and growth of technology to be the death knell of the traditional print medium in all its forms: newspaper, magazine, book, and that soon we'll all be reading from our iPhones, BlackBerrys or something like Amazon's Kindle.

I'd like to think not. I'd like to think that there will always be a need for the traditional printed word and that economic hardships are only forcing publishers everywhere to re-examine how magazines, and for that matter newspapers, present themselves.

Okay, so what's the connection to photography?

This. A Ted Talk by Polish newspaper designer, Jacek Utko, whose redesigns for Eastern European newspapers have garnered those publications numerous accolades and increased subscriptions by as much as 100%. WOW! Those are circulation increases most publishers would commit manslaughter for.

The first thing I notice is that Utko's designs are graphically intensive. Double trucks of bold graphically intriguing photos, graphic representations of statistics, visual communication that replaces hundreds and thousands of words.

It's not that writing, magazines, publishing, design or photography for that matter is dead or dying it is that we are not adapting to what our world has become. A world of visual consumers.

The age of Life and Time magazines may have passed, but I firmly believe that their spirit has not. This, as you can clearly see from Utko's work and impressive results, are what people are craving: a way to tangibly connect with what is going on in the world around them, and a visual connection is much stronger than a written connection.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and it is time that a picture took the place of a thousand words in our mass printed publications.

More soon...

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