In our Wednesday blog we reviewed Javier Errea’s new book, which is officially launched Dec. 18. The book has been difficult to put down and many ideas are swimming in my head as I read the 170 blog entries that Javier included in his book. I decided to have a chat with Javier about the book, design and journalism.
El diario o la vida
Una defensa a tiros de los periodicos y del periodismo
Newspapers or death
Bullets to the rescue of newspapers and journalism
In our Wednesday blog we reviewed Javier Errea’s new book, which is officially launched Dec. 18. I have had a chat with Javier about some key issues he discusses in the book.
Javier, here is what you write:
Clean design, which is the same as saying simple design, is that which does not hide behind fireworks. When the raw material is of good quality, the only thing that we readers ask for is that newspapers don’t spice it too much.
Do you think that we have less clean and simple design today? Especially with digital news design, are we spicing things too much on those screens?
I would not venture to say that there is only one dominant style of design or that we dirty things too much. I often say that the world, life itself, are not so clean nor organized like some newspapers make you think. Not just printed ones, but digital newspapers as well. The excessive use of modules as news is packaged is pretty as design itself, but it does not reflect the pulse of real life. I love those newspapers that are clean and organized. Who doesn’t? But I also defend, and with great passion, those more wacky newspapers, the ones that sweat, those who don’t mind appearing less elegant and that are not on a search for design awards. There are many newspapers, printed and online, that one knows with certainty will never win any awards.But, they are authentic! Yet, I also notice a disturbing and worrisome influence of double direction among printed and online newspaper that, in my view, takes away from the newspaper’s natural journalistic function. With more frequency, I find dailies whose front pages are nothing more than a mosaic of headlines, where it is difficult to find journalistic hierarchy. They are front pages better thought for tablets that for leisure reading.
In the same manner, on screens, for desktop as for tablets, we begin to see the trend for a style that was started by The Guardian, encapsulated, totally rectangular, plain, if I may add. It is so orderly that it lacks soul. Everything seems the same. So, I defend a model that is radically different, less organized, I would not say more vertical, but definitely with better hierarchy. I must understand what is important and what is not.
A newspaper, in whichever platform, cannot be a catalog for the user to pick; A newspaper is a road with good signage in which the journalist sets priorities and tells the reader or user what is important, and what not, where to start reading, etc. Anyway, clean design means design that is not the protagonist, humble design and transparent, serving the information it packages.
You mention that innovation is a tired word because of its use. You add that it is a word that has lost even its prestige. Every firm, every government, every procedure are now innovative, or said to be so.
Do you prefer the word disruption?
I know that this may be subject to debate, or maybe even sound old fashioned. The word innovation always puts me on the defensive. I feel that the word is overused and arrogant at the same time. We journalists devote too much energy to justify ourselves. We try desperately to tag ourselves as innovators, as if by doing this we would guarantee our readers’ loyalty, when it is exactly the opposite: true innovation should always come via the message. That which surprises, that which gets to the heart, that which is important to understand the world, that which makes us more human. Is there more innovation than that?
Everything else are means to an end, tools. I studied journalism because I was passionate about telling the world stories. I did not study engineering nor computer technology. All of this contributes to distribute the message, but it is not the message. This viewpoint can be applied to all phases of life. We hear that one is innovative or there is no future, that innovation has to be in the heart of everything we do. I say that we are wrong and that the secret is being authentic, that we are authentic in whatever we do.
That is the best innovation, the best revolution that one can imagine. From there, then, let’s utilize those things that are within reach, but without losing our focus. The media have lost their focus.
What inspired you to write this book and how could you not succumb to the temptation of including illustrations of your great work?
It all started like a sort of joke in the studio. My former classmates and I decided to share among ourselves and with anyone interested that which we saw and that interested us. Quickly, my own interest aimed in the direction of defending journalism as I perceive it. I re encountered writing, which is my favorite thing, what I like the most in the world. Even more than design.
I have always considered myself a journalist. I never studied design, and that which I have learned about design has been by looking and by copying much, and always as a vehicle to tell better stories that I was dealing with.
During these five years, writing these blogs has been like therapy for me, a way to escape, a relief, a pleasure. I have been able to touch upon themes that set me on fire and make me mad, to share experiences of so many trips and people and places, to defend a profession that so many attack and that is one of the most fascinating in the world.
After a while, I realized that my blood was followed by very diverse type of people and that it developed a good following among the journalistic community. I started getting messages of people that I would have never imagined. And some friends who are writers and hard to please, and heavy critics, suggested that there was interesting material to publish.
So last summer a devoted time to the book. It’s been four months of reading, re reading, writing, rewriting, correcting, sharing, until I had 178 entries, 300 pages with more than 800 people mentioned, dozens of media companies.
And, yes, it was clear to me from the start that the words would be protagonists, that in this book there was no room for illustrations.