Straight from the pitch
Thank you all for the huge response to the new Hindustan Times. It’s been overwhelming.Really.
But it’s time now to also listen to the guys who pulled it off, after months and months of hard work. I requested my colleagues Group Creative Director Anup Gupta and Natioanal Art Editor Ashutosh Sapru to write for us all a piece on the new design.
And here it is.
Ever since the launch of the revamped Hindustan Times (HT) a lot has been said on many websites, blogs and other forums. While most of it was adulatory, some were critical and some were pure speculative. Though the speculative ones are far and few between it seems the discerning HT reader is keen to know about the making of the new design. We hope by the end of this piece you would have clicked on the next link knowing well that we at HT are always thinking of you – The Reader – ALWAYS!
It is never easy to redesign a publication, more so when the publication in question is Hindustan Times, a paper with an 85-year-old history. But then these are just the kind of challenges that designers the world over wait for, for years. So when the opportunity came it had to be grabbed with both hands, which I did even faster when I got to know Dr Garcia from Garcia-Media was going to lead the design charge.
The experience was truly exceptional and a product of international quality (even though I say so!) emerged a few months later.
The brief from Rajeev Verma, Hindustan Times CEO, was simple – “We need a product that should be young, vibrant and contemporary to look at (not compromising on the gravitas) and be unparalleled in content.” Quite clearly this meant that HT Media, the company, was willing to reinvent the paper. But this was the easy part; the tough part was to figure out HOW!
So what were we up against? A quick look around and we realized that we had to break some barriers and swim upstream, a tough task under any circumstances but doable.
There were some clear issues that needed to be addressed.
IDENTITY: Since Michael Keegan’s design in 2001, the newspaper seemed to have lost the plot. The identity had been compromised such an extent that readers, while admitting to an improved content, clearly had trouble associating it with the publication.
USABILITY: A quiet revolution has also taken place since 2001. Many more mediums of delivery, television, Internet and mobiles had emerged. The reader, now, more often than not got to the newspaper in the morning knowing from one or more of these mediums what to expect in the newspaper.
He/she, therefore, came to the paper to affirm and most of all to find out how an event impacted his/her wellbeing.
TIME SPENDS: Successive readership surveys have revealed a drop in time spends on newspapers due to the rise in the television and Internet time spends. More often than not a reader would ‘process’ the paper clearly identifying stories of importance to be read in the morning or even at a later point of time (usually in the evening) during the day.
So the challenges were:
a) To build a unique brand identity. In the process even reducing the age of the product to bring about freshness in the look and feel.
b) To introduce multiple points of contact with the reader giving them the ability to reach out for help and advice. To give him/her a better understanding of a situation and telling him clearly that HT stands right behind him and his family.
c) Help him cut to the chase and get to the content of his/her choice quickly.
To address these issues from the design perspective multiple steps were taken during the process of designing the newspaper.
From the brand identity standpoint the changes were reflected right from the selection of the all-lowercase two-tone nameplate. This was a conscious decision. The attempt was to capture the informal attitude of the youth with the all-lowercase and the two-tone approach yet maintain the gravitas the publication stood for, and it did. To heighten the experience and strengthen the branding of the product a completely new font set was introduced. These fonts had just been released and had not been used in many publications around the world. These and many other devices (highlighting of the key words in a headline etc) helped in the attempt to make the look of the product unique and memorable.
Quite clearly to produce a design that worked we had to understand the issues at hand and find a solution that appealed to the sensibilities of the reader, current as well as prospective. There was no shortcut to it. We had to generate options, show to a select audience, take their feedback, go back to the drawing board and work the changes take fresh prints and start the process all over again. I will admit this was not easy at all. At the end of months of hard work we seemed to be getting somewhere.
So what did we do? Listening to what our readers had said earlier about usability and keeping in mind the reduced time-spend, we did many things:
a) We improved the navigation. Right from the front page we clearly informed our readers of the important stories in the edition through the panel above the nameplate – the candy bar (we spent nearly 10 days developing the candy bar) pointing to key stories across the edition, with pointers,
b) devised a clear hierarchy for stories on the page through the headlines,
c) made a clear distinction of pace between the news and the feature pages,
d) introduced more info boxes for the reader on the run,
e) allowed readers opportunities to interact with the editorial team (have you noticed the talk to us, get hep and why should you care links at the end of stories?),
f) evened out the colour palette and have consciously restricted ourselves to using two colours predominantly across the product, a cool pastel blue contrasted with a warm deep shade of orange. The full compliment of the nine colours on the new palette has been reserved only for graphics,
g) Introduced a much more involved style of presenting stories through informative graphics.
All of these and many more elements were tweeked constantly till we achieved a certain level of satisfaction on the product. But we were not really satisfied and decided to extend the concept to a weekend product that would begin unraveling on a Saturday and get extended into Sunday.
Sections that were earlier appearing on these days were recast and rechristened into a short 4-page section DO! on a Saturday and a more elaborate 7-page THINK! on a Sunday.
In all our efforts we were constantly pushed to our limits with completely out of the box concepts like the India This Week, a listing of 10 events to watch out in the week. It is also a perfect example of the coming together of content and design, and I could go on with many more things. But I guess it is best if you find them out yourselves.
I sincerely hope we keep getting the feedback that we have since we have launched, it had been very encouraging and humbling at the same time. We at the Hindustan Times will listen to you and your needs.
Do write back and happy reading!!
Anup and Ashutosh