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Designing News: a new book about transformation

TAKEAWAY: Francesco Franchi’s Designing News is a complete and well-illustrated dissection of the state of the world of information circa 2013. Why everyone working in media today should read it!

This is the weekend edition of TheMarioBlog and will be updated as needed. The next blog post is Monday, Nov. 4

Update 2: Friday, Nov. 2, Tampa, FL, 05:56

TAKEAWAY: Francesco Franchi’s Designing News is a complete and well-illustrated dissection of the state of the world of information circa 2013. Why everyone working in media today should read it!

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It is not easy to write a book about news, the news industry and all the transformations and reshufflings that our media industry is undergoing. Changes occur rapidly. New ways and habits for obtaining information change almost as quickly as the seasons, or perhaps faster.

Only this week, I have been discussing the need to update my own digital book The iPad Design Lab: Storytelling in the Age of the Tablet, merely one year in the market. This, of course, is exciting and challenging. (And the subject of another blog post for another day!).

So I applaud a new entry into the library of news and news design books. Francesco Franchi’s Designing News is a complete and up to the minute (well, almost!) dissection of the state of the world of information circa 2013. Francesco is Art director, Il Sole 24 ORE in Italy. I also respect very much that a busy art director had the time to devote to the researching and writing of this 240-page hardbound book, which abounds in illustrations, charts and rather lengthy texts.

Designing News is divided into three main buckets of content:

Transformations in the World of Information, Redesign and Rethink. Subheads guide the reader to topics that are timely and could be controversial for some: Making Sense of a Digital World, Change or Die, Redesign as Rethinking.

Perhaps one of the highlights of Designing News is the use of case studies, among which the best are those for Feuilleton, Reuters, and The Guardian.

I found the author’s references to historical landmarks of the past 20 years for our industry to be a helpful addition as he takes us from “the end of twentieth century ideology” to the “advent of twenty-first century technology, in all its forms and dimensions.”

Franchi delivers on his promise as his book is a complete “media quartet” review of the various platforms. He does not emphasize one platform over the other. In fact, print lovers will enjoy the Redesign/Rethinking portions of the book, with illustrations that could make one think he is flipping through the pages of those famous SND publications. This book is a celebration of print, and one can’t help but conclude that many innovative approaches are taking place in the design of printed newspapers and magazines.

Franchi admires The Guardian, but he also includes such design innovators as Portugal’s “I”, The Independent (London), New York Magazine and Monocle, and the examples shown shine.

Change or Die

Designing News is not all about a rosy and exciting present and future. In the aptly titled Change or Die segment, Franchi asks the question: Newspapers in crisis?

For a few pages, he presents a bit of media necrology here with sample illustrations from some already gone print publications as Newsweek magazine and Deutsch Financial Times. His visit to the print cemetery is brief, then he picks up a sunny step:

It is not that newspapers are dying, but that one way of making newspapers is coming to an end.

The good news, says Franchi, is that we are reaching readers via Twitter and the other social networks. The result is “the greatest growth in the number of print copies sold in decent decades” for publications like the Spectator, a historic conservative American magazine.

Franchi turns to his own backyard, Italy, and reports that new niche products such as the Milan Review and Studio have been created recently, with much success. The Milan Review is a literary magazine,” Franchi writes, “ has no physical editorial offices or warehouses…”


Designing News is not just about design and that is another reason this book is such a valuable tool for the teaching of journalism, both in formal classrooms, as well as in newsroom seminars and workshops. The author understands clearly that today’s design discussion must be part of a larger landscape.

Franchi writes about the realities of producing content in a multi platform world and dives into the reasons, as when he writes:

The age we live in seems to be the test bench not for individual thought but for collective thought. Media capable of effectively reflecting this transformation have perhaps not yet been invented.

This book is a good guide to imagine what that media might be like, while learning to transform ourselves in the present to make sense of the digital world in which we work.

Designing News will be required reading for my Columbia University students this spring. It should also be must read for everyone who works with the media today.

Coming in TheMarioBlog:

Be on the lookout this week for my 3-questions interview with Designing News author, Francesco Franchi

Of related interest:

Of special interest this weekend:

Cover Trail: Obama’s Failure

This is a fun progressive graphic of how this week’s cover came to be!

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