Jacek Utko: Can design save the newspaper?

Jacek Utko: Can design save the newspaper?

Newspapers are dying for a few reasons. Readers don’t want to pay for yesterday’s news, and advertisers follow them. Your iPhone, your laptop, is much more handy than New York Times on Sunday. And we should save trees in the end. So it’s enough to bury any industry. So, should we rather ask, “Can anything save newspapers?” There are several scenarios for the future newspaper. Some people say it should be free; it should be tabloid, or even smaller: A4; it should be local, run by communities, or niche, for some smaller groups like business — but then it’s not free; it’s very expensive. It should be opinion-driven; less news, more views. And we’d rather read it during breakfast, because later we listen to radio in a car, check your mail at work and in the evening you watch TV. Sounds nice, but this can only buy time. Because in the long run, I think there is no reason, no practical reason for newspapers to survive. So what can we do? (Laughter) Let me tell you my story. 20 years ago, Bonnier, Swedish publisher, started to set newspapers in the former Soviet Bloc. After a few years, they had several newspapers in central and eastern Europe. They were run by an inexperienced staff, with no visual culture, no budgets for visuals — in many places there were not even art directors. I decided to be — to work for them as an art director. Before, I was an architect, and my grandmother asked me once, “What are you doing for a living?” I said, “I’m designing newspapers.” “What? There’s nothing to design there. It’s just boring letters” (Laughter) And she was right. I was very frustrated, until one day. I came to London, and I’ve seen performance by Cirque du Soleil. And I had a revelation. I thought, “These guys took some creepy, run-down entertainment, and put it to the highest possible level of performance art.” I thought “Oh my God, maybe I can do the same with these boring newspapers.” And I did. We started to redesign them, one by one. The front page became our signature. It was my personal intimate channel to talk to the readers. I’m not going to tell you stories about teamwork or cooperation. My approach was very egotistic. I wanted my artistic statement, my interpretation of reality. I wanted to make posters, not newspapers. Not even magazines: posters. We were experimenting with type, with illustration, with photos. And we had fun. Soon it started to bring results. In Poland, our pages were named “Covers of the Year” three times in a row. Other examples you can see here are from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and central European countries. But it’s not only about the front page. The secret is that we were treating the whole newspaper as one piece, as one composition — like music. And music has a rhythm, has ups and downs. And design is responsible for this experience. Flipping through pages is readers experience, and I’m responsible for this experience. We treated two pages, both spreads, as a one page, because that’s how readers perceive it. You can see some Russian pages here which got many awards on biggest infographic competition in Spain. But the real award came from Society for Newspaper Design. Just a year after redesigning this newspaper in Poland, they name it the World’s Best-Designed Newspaper. And two years later, the same award came to Estonia. Isn’t amazing? What really makes it amazing: that the circulation of these newspapers were growing too. Just some examples: in Russia, plus 11 after one year, plus 29 after three years of the redesign. Same in Poland: plus 13, up to 35 percent raise of circulation after three years. You can see on a graph, after years of stagnation, the paper started to grow, just after redesign. But the real hit was in Bulgaria. And that is really amazing. Did design do this? Design was just a part of the process. And the process we made was not about changing the look, it was about improving the product completely. I took an architectural rule about function and form and translated it into newspaper content and design. And I put strategy at the top of it. So first you ask a big question: why we do it? What is the goal? Then we adjust the content accordingly. And then, usually after two months, we start designing. My bosses, in the beginning, were very surprised. Why am I asking all of these business questions, instead of just showing them pages? But soon they realized that this is the new role of designer: to be in this process from the very beginning to the very end. So what is the lesson behind it? The first lesson is about that design can change not just your product. It can change your workflow — actually, it can change everything in your company; it can turn your company upside down. It can even change you. And who’s responsible? Designers. Give power to designers. (Applause) But the second is even more important. You can live in a small poor country, like me. You can work for a small company, in a boring branch. You can have no budgets, no people — but still can put your work to the highest possible level. And everybody can do it. You just need inspiration, vision and determination. And you need to remember that to be good is not enough. Thank you.

59 thoughts on “Jacek Utko: Can design save the newspaper?

  1. Modern newspaper must make a statement about those who read it, and in that way, he's approach is correct – design will help send that message. But ultimately, it is the function of the pages that will drive sales. And if they do nothing more than carry yesterday's news in print, a giant FAIL will be their last headline.

  2. As long as their is a toilet at my work, as long as there are urinals – newspapers will be needed and enjoyed during our time of excretion!

  3. The key is that he looked at say a wall street journal with all its repetitive columns, and where others saw excellence he decided "no, this is just good. I can do better"

  4. Newspaper + designs = magazines.
    This is stupid imo, especially the first part. Opinion driven tabloids wtf?

  5. News papers will die, every day my local news paper's front cover is about my girfriend's mom made a neclace (TWICE ON FRONT PAGE FOR THIS) my dad's friend went diving off some rocks (ON THE FRONT PAGE) My friend climbs a rock wall at a gym ON THE FUCKING FRONT PAGE. That's why news papers will DIE

  6. The abstract ideas in this video are much more practical in industries that are growing, rather than shrinking.

  7. THINK GREEN SAVE TREES FOR NEWSPAPERS Who need these Monster houses 90% TAX 1st house over 2 million dollars and 2nd House over 1/2 million dollars and every house after

  8. Blah, designers are the bane to the pressroom.

    I would go as far to say, designers will hurt the industry even more. Driving up the production cost for news material in a recession.

    Fact is, the printing industry is dieing because a new form of information vehicle is making it obsolete.

    Ask any press operator what agrivates them most. Designers will be the answer.

  9. I hope not, because I have never been hired decently or in any sustainable capacity by America's newspapers ever, in the last 26 years. The problem with newspapers is that this media vector has been subsumed, like so much else, into America's corporatized, governmentized, celebritified mass culture. So much for an informed pubic and our republic form of democratic, representative government. It is a Coup d'Etat, and people are upset about it, with good reason. If I were covering events: RESULTS.

  10. I was born and raised around the printing industry. There is a reason it's called PRINTING and not designing.

    Designers are a dime a dozen, a good press operator on the other hand are a rare breed.

    Nothing like having a designer do a press check and try to tell you how to run a press. I can't count the times I have made designers look like idiots in front of the customer.

    Why don't you explain to the people here on youtube how designers have wrecked havoc in the printing industry?

  11. BTW, I dare you to go out to the pressroom and tell all the operators to get over themselves.

    You would get laughed out of the industry.

  12. I am not a designer nor have I worked in a pressroom.

    I'm just a person who LOVES to read my daily newspaper (& never never seeks news off the internet). I am also a person who believes that there's two sides to every issue.

    You seem to generalize & stereotype all designers, yet I'm not making a broad judgment of the pressroom industry & those who work in it based upon your defensiveness, crass generalizations, & demeanor.

    All that said, I love & prefer newspaper to internet.

  13. Perhaps there are are an abundance of poor designers that reflect badly upon the good ones. It is a more recent growing industry .

    The newspaper industry has a longer history and it seems that the best emerged over time and those of quality remain.

    Hopefully, JSErwine, you can keep this in mind as you think of the design industry … There are a bunch of bad ones, but those of quality will stand out and remain.

    Surely, for you to be in the industry so long, you must be of quality

  14. I would agree there are some good designers, and I don't realy blame the designers themselves.

    I put most the blame on the design schools. It's as if these graduates don't understand limitations.

  15. If you let the designers point the direction of the newspapers, you will be paying $7.00 for your daily.

    Trust me, you want to keep your local paper as simple as possible.

  16. It's not that I hate the people that are designers, hell I work with them every day. Even have a beer or two with them from time to time.

    I think alot of the dislike between designers and printers, is the fact that it's like two artist creating on the same canvas.

  17. I saw a news article here recently about this new plastic that can be used to display print. Just plug it in, download the data, roll it up and take it with you. Just like a newspaper.

  18. How in the fuck am I supposed to find the comics in that mess? Readers might not like it if they can't find Dilbert.

  19. We are still at least 10 years out from digital ink jet being cost effective on a large scale.

    The shop I work at we have an HP Indigo that we use for short run 4-color work. It produces a nice looking image with good color consistancy.

    The drawback is cost with digital Ink jet. There is no savings in long runs because of their slow run speed and supply costs.

    The modern day sheet fead printing press can easily produce 10-12 thousand sheets per hour. Roll fead even faster.

  20. Newspapers are dying, nobody wants biased journalism, and the net has open up a world in this aspect, sure, theres biased news here on the net, but its a little harder to manipulate. Here in Argentina the media is so manipulated that makes me sick, i've never buy newspapers because they are the same people who runs my country. No thanks.

  21. but big companies [especially ISPs] are working to undermine net neutrality. net neutrality is one of the most important things to keep. the free spread of information [even though three quarters of the world has never even made a phone call] is paramount in promoting human rights and ending violations, bringing violators to justice.

  22. its not the design will save the paper – its the interest stories and beautiful picture stories from different people walk of life

  23. the newspaper would look better but the content of the news materials provided by the journalists would be the same old biased story and heavily controlled by their editors

    so what i gathered from it is this : wow nice looking newspaper, but lousy content

    Designers can make it look nice all they want, but the quality of the things you read remains, and of course production cost sky rockets, I wonder who they sell these newspapers to

  24. I cannot completely agree with you. The data/content on the internet have still much lower quality than that of the newspaper/magazines. Besides, some people DO care abour aeshtethics as well as for their own eyes – it's still much more healthy to use paper than look at the PC screen for longer periods of time.

    Lord Kelvin in 1904 said that radio has no future. It was false then, and it's false presently, though we have new inventions like TV or the Internet.

  25. I agree with you totally, there are some many more interesting and useful ways of getting your news.

  26. Newspapers and TV are getting obsolete and can, and should, be replaced by interactive, user friendly, objective, informational, non-biased, and free Web content.

  27. @BGSH

    People like Apple products because they are created with the user in mind. Everything is intuitive. Apple's design in terms of aesthetics is simplistic, rather than overcrowded with meaningless graphic junk. They are trying incredibly hard at Windows to even attempt to keep up with Apple. To even say that Apple products aren't useful or compatible is just ridiculous/borderline hilarious.

  28. The physical newspaper is a dying dinosaur. Online news is the wave of the future (present), although sites are having trouble monetizing it effectively

  29. 1. Was the goal of the speech to inform or persuade the audience?Jacek Utko's goal was to inform the audience of newspaper design.
    2. Did the speaker communicate the thesis in a manner appropriate for the topic and audience?Jacek communicated his thesis in a way that the audience could understand. Can design save the newspaper?
    3. How did the speaker demonstrate s/he was credible and skilled?Utko gave past experiences as examples throughout his speech.
    4. In what ways was the speech intellectually stimulating?Utko has won several awards for his newspaper redesigns. He gives examples throughout his speech, by showing some designs through a visual PowerPoint/slideshow he has created.
    5. In what ways was the speech creative?I love that Utko placed imagery in his slideshow. I believe that visuals can always help an audience to better understand what the topic is about, and helps them retain more information about that particular subject.
    6. How does the speech convince the audience that the topic is relevant?Utko is an award-winning designer. Newspapers are not as popular now as they were a couple years ago, and Utko makes a point of having better design choices/visuals in newspapers to help it stay fresh, up to date and interesting to read.
    7. How was emphasis used in the speech?Utko made a slideshow and showed his points throughout it to engrave the things that were the most important into the audience's mind.
    8. Was the speech well organized? Did the organization hinder or help the message?I believe his speech was very well organized. It was easy to follow along as he spoke, and it definitely helped his message.
    9. How were visual aids used? Which were most effective? Least?A slideshow was used, and he placed images as well as bullet points throughout it. I believe the images were the most effective.
    10. Were the main points well made?The main points were very well made.
    11. Describe and evaluate the introduction.Utko made a point that newspapers were dying for two reasons: Readers do not want to pay for it, and advertisers follow them. This immediately caught my attention since I am familiar with how newspapers are not as popular as they were decades ago.
    12. Describe and evaluate the conclusion.Utko summarizes his speech by giving two lessons to his audience: Design can change not only the product, but everything pertaining to the product and even you! The second lesson was: If you put forth your best effort, whether or not you work for a huge company/live in a poor country/have no budget, then you can make a difference.
    13. Describe and evaluate the speaker’s voice tone, inflection, and volume.Jacek Utko has an accent (he is from Poland), he used a mic so the audience could hear him easily, and he seemed genuinely passionate in his topic. It also shows by his work!
    14. Describe and evaluate the speaker’s eye contact and gestures.Utko mostly paced on the stage, a trait I honestly find a little distracting, and he used small gestures with his hands while he was talking.
    15. How was the overall quality and effectiveness?The quality of the video was great (it was a conference) and Utko definitely made an effective impact on me, so I'm assuming his audience was impressed as well!

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