Ich bin ein Berliner no longer. The Guardian’s new look is sadly more evolution than revolution.

by Martin Farrar-Smith

Starting today The Guardian newspaper will have a new look on its website, app and newspaper — the latter switching to a smaller, more standard tabloid format. Our Branding + Design Director, Martin Farrar-Smith takes a look at the new format and shares his thoughts.

Is print dead?

Its website & app are, undoubtedly, going to be The Guardian’s focus going forward (we all know that most media is being consumed online), but I really want to focus on the print edition as I think this speaks volumes about the state of print and the positioning of The Guardian brand itself. For me, The Guardian as always been the ‘different’ choice. When I lived at home this was the paper I would proudly buy and drop heavily onto my parent’s kitchen table — covering my Dad’s copy of the Daily Express or Mail or whatever national was having a Royal pull out special.

As a brand, it sat nicely as my newspaper of choice next to Channel 4 and Dead Kennedys records which were my visual and aural pleasures, respectively. I absolutely adored the Berliner format just because there was nothing else like it out there in the UK mainstream media. It was smaller than the broadsheets making it easier to navigate but slightly larger than those tabloids everyone else buys. It was odd, it was quirky, it was my paper.

So the decision to move to the standard tabloid size is fairly disappointing and feels like a bit of a surrender to the market. I really wanted them to be pushing the standard of what a newspaper can be and feel like but, instead, they seem to have just fallen into line with the rest of them. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity. The masthead is a bit of a bone of contention too as (and I don’t want to be a reminds-me-of-er but…) it’s gone a bit Evening Standard, hasn’t it? I’m all for chunky serifs, but this, again, feels like fitting in rather than standing out.

The Guardian’s new front page.

The new-look G2 supplement

New-look Journal supplement

The new Sport pull out brings a splash of bright colour to the mix

Design-wise (and masthead aside), the more i’ve seen the more i’m warming to the actual editorial design and layout. The Journal and G2 sections look great and i’m loving the flashes of colour they’re bringing into it all.

The online experience.

Switching to the web and the app, my love slightly dissipates. There’s something that’s happened between the print and the screen versions that just hasn’t translated. The headlines feel way too heavy (I wasn’t a fan of the Twitter update and i’m not a massive fan of this) and throughout the app there seems to be a lot of inconsistencies — almost as if it’s a halfway house between new and old. Maybe that’s on purpose to help the UX feel new but familiar, but i’m not so sure. Again, it feels like a missed opportunity.

New Guardian website

Guardian native app

It’s very early days, I know, so it’ll be interesting to see how the brand rolls out and evolves going forward. One thing i’ve noticed is the Twitter avatar is remarkably different to the masthead. The G is stencilled (a bit like Commercial Type’s other font Dala Floda) but the masthead isn’t and I can’t figure out why they’ve done that (or at least mentioned it).

The new G avatar has a totally different style to that in the new masthead

An evolution not a revolution.

Ultimately what I expect from The Guardian is revolution, not evolution, so this new look (albeit with some nice touches) just hasn’t hit the right notes for me (yet). This was a brand that was really pushing things not that long ago. From the amazing Three Little Pigs ad to the first days of the Berliner format, The Guardian was the one that stood head and shoulders above the rest.

(Sound on 🔉) What does the future look like? On Monday we’re revealing a new-look Guardian to bring you hopeful ideas and fresh alternatives. Stay tuned. pic.twitter.com/TNGuM84u6E
— The Guardian (@guardian) January 12, 2018

The teaser that was released the week before this launch showed that there was a literal blank canvas upon which we’d see a new look Guardian and, although I had no idea what today was to bring, I think deep down I was expecting something a bit more radical. Something with a bit more to say. Something much more Guardian.

What do you think to the new layout and design? Let us know on Twitter @manifestldn.

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