Missy Wilson: Can you pinpoint a moment or period of time when you first realized you wanted to do visual journalism?
Jon Hill: I studied Graphic Design at university and started my career as what I would describe as a general designer. You know, logos, exhibitions, brochures and annual reports. I then worked with Simon Esterson who is an editorial design specialist. Working with Simon on newspaper and magazine redesigns was the point when my career focussed on visual journalism and since I’ve been working at the Times that interest has expanded further to take in visual journalism on screen as well as print.
MW: You direct both print and digital design at The Times. How do you make sure there’s a single identity across all platforms?
JH: The common thread through all of our output is our type. The headline typeface of The Times is Times Modern which has 7 principal weights used in a variety of ways. This consistent use of type helps unify everything we do, from using the Ultra Light weights in our features pages, to the more delicate Magazine weights for our Saturday magazine all the way through to the news pages which use the more muscular bold weights. There is no visual style guide as such and I like to think about an approach or spirit of Times design rather than a set of hard rules. This gives designers freedom to be expressive… so long as the type looks good!
MW: How did you first become interested in digital design?
JH: I’ll talk about this more at the conference, but in short, designing a paywall website and then an app for the iPad quickly introduced me to the opportunities and limitations of digital design. It’s been a fascinating 5 years or so.
MW: Can you describe The Times Olympic coverage process in three words?
JH: Our greatest test.
MW: Eureka earned gold in SND’s World’s Best. What was your favorite design? And what will you miss most about the magazine?
JH: I don’t have a favourite design in particular, but I loved the fun, joy and attention to detail the guys gave the project. You can tell with every layout they were having a great time and were relishing the challenge of explaining the very complex material. I’ll miss walking pass the Eureka desk seeing them setting up crazy photoshoots like the time they painted ping pong balls and photographed them to explain nuclear fusion.
MW: What can we be expecting to hear about during your SNDLOU talk?
JH: I’m still fine tuning the talk, but expect tales of walking into a room to find two iPads chained to a desk before iPads had even been seen in the UK and told ‘you’ve got a month to get an app onto this thing’; being the first in the UK to design a paywall website; making a responsive app that was so advanced the software was granted a patent and of course piles of examples from our Eureka and Olympics design work…
MW: What are you looking forward to most about the conference and Louisville?
JH: I’m looking forward to hearing more about the US newspaper design scene. It seems like much more of a community over there, probably because of the regional nature of the industry. In the UK the market is so cut-throat and competitive because we’re all rivals on a national scale. (Note there is no SND region for the UK, possibly for that very reason). I’m also looking forward to LOTS of eating and drinking…