Can you imagine working on a design project that millions of people will see every day? As graphic designers we often work on high-profile jobs, seeing our work on billboards, amongst the pages of magazines or on the shelves in shops. But within our careers there’ll perhaps be that one particular moment we find ourselves involved in a once-in-a-lifetime project. For Shillington London Teacher Ben Longden this was his, being part of the team to redesign the online component of one of Britain’s favourite Newspapers, The Guardian.
We spoke to Ben about what it was like to be involved in such a task, his favourite design features of the new look and the all important audience reaction. Read on to discover more about the redesign and what Ben advises for young designers hoping to work in the publishing field.
Image credit: Alex Bruer, Chris Clarke and The Guardian Design Team
Firstly, what’s it like to work for one of the most exciting Newspapers in the United Kingdom—can you tell us a bit about your job and what it entails?
It is very exciting, especially when working on a news event which is live like the Paradise Papers or a General election. My job is a mix of things, split between editorial design, ui design and quite often developing. The best part of my job is working closely with editors and journalists on projects like this and this alongside getting to really think about interesting ways to present things online, thats what I really like, trying to push the design of digital as far as I can.
January marked the launch of The Guardian’s major rebrand, only the 4th major time in history, the newspaper has changed its look. What was it like to be a part such a monumental movement and can you tell us about the design decisions and concept behind the new design?
When Alex Breuer (creative director) and I first started talking about what to do with the digital platforms as part of the redesign, the main thinking was to try and simplify our structure and design language.
We wanted to add additional indicators of section, and introduce our lovely new typeface to increase the readability, and navigability of the website and app.
The website and the paper itself look fantastic, especially the introduction of the italic font and the printed journal section which boasts a lovely pink tone. What is your personal favourite aspect of the new look?
I don’t think I have a favourite bit really. However, what I really enjoy is the fact that we have started to move the level of detail and graphic design that is achievable in digital, it feels like we are now able to spend more time refining the typography and layouts in a much more detailed and considered way than we were able to before, therefore helping the overall design feel more mature.
Let’s talk a bit about the colour palette. The retirement of the familiar blue has perhaps caused the most discord amongst the public but with the punchier shades of red, pink and orange shining through. Do you think it’s only a matter of time before the general public adopt the brighter palette?
I think so, we have developed the palette to feel bolder and more exciting, whilst also trying to add more meaning to the way we use colour.
On that topic, the general public can be a cruel mistress when it comes to reacting to rebrands—especially in today’s insomniac social media age where opinions never sleep. Did you expect such a response and what advice would you give to other designers set to work on such high-profile jobs?
We definitely expected the response, it’s all part of the fun really.
I think if you don’t get a response, then maybe you haven’t done enough—people haven’t noticed.
You want people to love it, but inevitably some people are going to hate it. You have to ignore the noise, it’s quite difficult not to get angry and annoyed, but at the end of the day they haven’t been through the process, you have, eventually it becomes the everyday and everyone starts to love it.
Aside from the rebrand what’s been the most memorable moment of your career so far at The Guardian?
I once went to space…
You teach on the part-time course in London alongside your job at The Guardian, how do you manage to juggle both and do you have any advice on time management for the students?
Well it’s not really work is it! I really enjoy both sides, I get to work on some amazing projects during the day, and then talk about graphic design in the evenings! You do have to be careful with time and sometimes it means I work late so juggling is a good analogy. I think if you like what you are doing, then things will get done. It also helps that I have an amazing team at The Guardian to help, and keep me motivated, not to mention the team at Shillington who are just awesome.
Finally, for those hoping to one day work for The Guardian or in the publishing sector what would you encourage them to include in their portfolios to impress prospective employers?
Tailor the portfolio more towards the job—it sounds obvious, but its really important. Not to say don’t show a variety of work, but definitely show more of the most relevant things.
Don’t have a portfolio full of branding, when applying for a editorial position for instance.
I don’t think it matters where you are sending your work, the same rules apply, think about who you are showing it to, spell check, and make it relevant!
Huge thanks to Ben for taking the time to answer our questions. Follow Ben’s design career on his Instagram feed and read more about the Shillington Teaching Team on our website. Did you enjoy this interview? We have lots of similar interviews in our Resources category, like our interview with Design Studio about their Premier League re-brand.