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Clothing the paper: on the state of newspaper design, redesigns, and art directors’ perspectives in contemporary quality and popular newspapers

Lamberg, J. J. J. (2016) Clothing the paper: on the state of newspaper design, redesigns, and art directors’ perspectives in contemporary quality and popular newspapers. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

This thesis contributes to understanding contemporary newspaper design and redesigns in quality and popular newspapers with a focus on art directors’ perspective. A triangulated multi-method investigation of newspapers in the United Kingdom and Finland produces several original contributions to knowledge. As little data exists on contemporary newspaper design in these countries, a content analysis of newspapers captures a snapshot of its current state. This reveals design elements that function as genre markers and cross-national differences in their use. Quality papers use a more rule-governed design employing a narrow range of expression, while the populars employ a wider range of expression. Existing literature, largely ignoring popular papers, provides little knowledge about how art directors see their work and how redesigns are conducted. I investigate these issues through qualitative in-depth interviews with art directors. They reveal several differences between the genres. Quality papers implement large scale redesigns with intervals of several years. Popular papers perform small gradual changes, evolving almost constantly. In both genres, art directors rely largely on their professional intuition in making design decisions. They might use metaphorical newspaper personalities, possibly as energysaving devices similar to genre. They see several roles for newspaper design, including journalism and enhancing usability. They acknowledge a connection between design and branding, but no evidence is found that newspaper design has been taken over by branding. Art directors are shown to be the true gatekeepers of redesigns, as executives leading the process usually entrust them with final decisions. I present a naturalistic reconceptualisation of newspaper design, taking steps towards a conceptual framework for the currently pre-paradigmatic field. I propose using the concept of visual energy for summarising the effect of design features, which can be used to describe the relative positions of newspapers and their genres.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Goodwyn, A., Dyson, M., Black, A. and Waller, R.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Arts and Communication Design
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Typography & Graphic Communication
ID Code:65941
Date on Title Page:2015

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