Can Design Save Newspapers?

- - The Future

Jacek Utko is an extraordinary Polish newspaper designer whose redesigns for papers in Eastern Europe not only win awards, but increase circulation by up to 100%. Can good design save the newspaper? It just might.

Thanks, Luke.

There Are 24 Comments On This Article.

  1. imagine opening the NY Times and finding such a drastic redesign. it would definitely get attention. The old gray lady would be transformed into the young, hip chick.

    • @Tim,

      Actually, the NYT just did a makeover of the International Herald Tribune (which they own). The new version is tabloid size, meaning photographs (via NYT)are about a third of the previous size and the print is like the back of an insurance policy. However, it did get my attention – I’m canceling my subscription. Hopefully, the NYT takes better care of the old gray lady.

  2. Amen…..this is a great mind at work, i wish there would be more ppl like him in this business.

  3. Problem is that the suits at the top won’t have it. They’d rather steer the ship into the iceberg than give someone else the wheel.

  4. Yes, design & content can save newspaper. They should focus on providing less noise and more depth, more research, better design, better and bigger pictures, better & bigger ads. News content on the internet is about getting the news out fast, but many times the information is not completely accurate, or corrrect. Newspaper should be about providing the most accurate news and reporting possible.

  5. Erica Chadwick

    Newspapers will be save by better journalism. Journalism that exposes truths. Design might help, but in the end, people want newspapers for news information.

  6. I want to add that I don’t think a very large run everyday print edition will exists in the future. It’s more economical to distribute daily content digitally.

  7. Bravo! Jacek Utko gets it. And he’s trying to spread the word. Excellent.

    Push this attitude with that kind of design in a free, online, easy to access format, and ladies and gentlemen, there is the future of editorial profit, staring us in the face as an infant.


  8. Good design is a good thing.

    However, in this day and age, the very idea of a newspaper seems downright Victorian as a means of information distribution, regardless of the visual sensibility. I mean, you buy it, read a few pages or a few sections and then you discard it (not enough people in this country recycle).

    Is it a bad thing that an industry which consumes millions of trees a day is declining in favor of a more ecologically format?

    So maybe it’s not such a great thing for newspapers to increase their distribution…

  9. Can design save newspapers?


    At least as we know them today. There are plenty of well designed papers in the US. The Oregonian comes to mind. But it is truly is a battle of form vs function. Studies show that just about nobody under 30 cracks open a newspaper in this country. We have way more instantaneous news delivery vehicles available to us here in the States. On our phones, on our PDAs, on our computer, at the gas pump, in the airport, in our car, etc, etc. In addition, our daily lives don’t allow for the time and space it takes to peruse the morning paper. In it’s physical format.

    Once we arrive at our places of work, things are different. We have some time while we drink our coffee and prepare for our first meeting or make our first call. But it doesn’t do much for one’s career path to been seen gently drifting through the business or sports section of a double truck layout. Enter the cyber format of the newspaper. Something we can turn to easily when we have a minute or two. And can revisit throughout the day. I agree that design can and will promote readership. And thus it is online where these design freedoms need to be exercised. Give me an online daily that looks as cool as the examples presented and I’ll read it more than CNN, CNBC, FOX or The New York Times online versions. And the same goes for magazines. Give me an online version worth reading.

    Let’s see some art direction, people.

  10. Saving the newspapers business in the USA is going to be very hard at this point in time. I was very lucky to work as a photographer and then in 1992 as the 1st Digital Photo Editor at the last of the great new newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, in San Juan Puerto Rico. Founded in 1970, END was the brain child of its Cuban editor Carlos Castaneda and the Ferre family, the richest family on the island. Castaneda an editor who had just left Time Inc’s, deceased “Life en Espanol” to move to San Juan and remake the very old looking and political party rag El Dia. After only five years of Castaneda’s editing, and Ferre’s money, END became the media powerhouse in the Caribbean. It now takes in a large part of the advertizing dollar on the island. This is all because Castaneda came up with a whole new idea in newspapers. He called ours a “Daily News Magazine” built in the tabloid format. Having come from Life en Espanol, he designed the paper to be very heavy on Photos and political cartoons with text to go with the photos an graphics. Not the other way around as is most newspapers. Now this was a revolution in thinking back then, that made END a billion dollar company in less than 20 years. He was also the original designer of the El Nuevo Herald in Miami in the 70’s, saving the Miami Herald from an early death. He then moved up down South America redesigning the major newspapers of that continent turning most of them into important successful media outlets using his Daily News Magazine format. The only problem in the USA is that all the newspapers here are run by word editors. Most of them have no idea how to make today’s newspapers relevant to their local readership. Design of the right content is everything in today’s dwindling market. Back then in 1971 Carlos told our Editorial and Photo Staff (I was a founding member of the photo staff, lucky me) of his plans to make END the number one media outlet in Puerto Rico. Even though there were 6 local well entrenched newspapers at the time, he said our real focus was to compete with the 6 TV stations daily news shows. We were all taken back by this approach. This was a new way of thinking. So he designed a newspaper that could take on the moving pictures of TV, using the photo staff to make it happen. Photographers had tons of photos published daily. We had a center Spread of Photos daily. He used one large photo on front and back pages to sell it on street corners much like the NY daily News and Post. Some years later, we were paid a visit by folks from Gannet who picked up a few ideas from END, like color and big photos and they launched the new national newspaper USA today. I am sad to report that my mentor Carlos died last year, so he cannot help out his beloved newspapers industry. But if you want to save your US newspapers from all going under in the next few years, Think, Photos, Graphics and design to sell your paper. But It might be too late for word Editors to save to newspaper industry.

  11. While I agree about the role of design in newspapers, as well as all aspects of life, I question how well his model would actually work in U.S.
    I used to work at the Rocky and honestly our approach was not too far from what Mr. Utko espoused. Maybe some of the design wasn’t as elegant, but designers were an integral part of telling the story from the beginning. I attended so many meetings my ears bled, and I wasn’t a designer per se. In the last redesign— facilitated by Roger Black—we eliminated jumps, made great efforts to book the paper in a complete way, designed a lot of false doubles and looked to make the cover as dynamic as possible. We thought ”magazine.”
    I think the U.S. readership is way different than the European countries in several different ways and one aspect I wondered about was demographics. I did some quick checking of the countries in the CIA Factbook — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Bulgaria and found that internet users accounted for 50 percent or less of the total population (except Estonia) compared to more than 65 percent in U.S. Also median ages were equal to or older than U.S. and that they all had negative population growth compared to U.S. having positive population growth.

  12. Peter McNicholl

    Hey all, What was the name of the Bulgarian paper?

    Im using this talk as a reference in an assignment im doing for uni