Reimagining Excélsior

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Excélsior burst onto the design scene with a stunning 2006 redesign that made a big impression with its inventive use of color, templating and individualized section styling. Its pages immediately took off at the SND Best of News Design competition, culminating in a World’s Best-Designed distinction in 2011.

But times change, and recently Excélsior’s director of innovation, Alexandro Medrano, reached out to fill me in on their redesign project, launched on April 20. The redesign gives the paper a lighter, more vibrant feel, creates a visual nod to its online and television offerings (you’ll note the hexagon motif carried over to print) and addresses readability issues. In an email, Medrano says, “We took the pulse of our readers and changed to offer a better reading experience and a clever visual change. In recent years, Excélsior has expanded its means of distribution. It has strengthened its online presence, social networking and television. Excélsior, a brand dating back to 1918 was re-launched in 2006 and is today a leader in the field of digital and printed newspapers in Mexico. It has recently launched its news channel, which is rising and will soon be in the top levels of audiences in our country.

“This growth and expansion was so fast that the visual communion between subsidiaries of the brand came about in a disorderly manner. The biggest challenge was to create an identity to the Excélsior brand and for each of the means of the group to retain their own language and personality.”

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Incorporated into this post are several after pages that you can click to enlarge; a more complete slideshow can be viewed here.

A brief video detailing the thought process behind the redesign is on youtube, here.

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Editorial

Was it difficult to undertake a reimaging of a design formula that since 2006 has been so successful?
Medrano: Yes, it was difficult to reinvent the visual resources and publishing it is one thing but what really meant a challenge was to change the mentality of staff in all the areas. First we should recognize that we had completed a cycle and we were now filled with psychic limitations, mental and customs to be in comfort zone. Second, assume that the formula design, however much we improve, would not yield results if we generated a comprehensive change, especially because now we were not alone, but we live with our television and our website. Third, and I think that was the most important, was that our reader was demanding from the product a different behavior. To all this we should understand the new requirements and prepare in many ways. We had several fronts: training, we analyze our strengths and weaknesses, we learned to rethink our own essence. We heard other ways of thinking of art, design, advertising, publishers, printers, innovation, among other disciplines to open our horizons and find new inspiration for everyday work.

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Did the typography change? What are the new typefaces? What is the new and old sizes of the body text?
Previously we used a wide typeface family that consisted of:

a) Whittingham
b) Escrow (body type, 9.5 on 10)
c) Antenna
d) Didot
e) Cocktail
f) Herum Sans
g) Memoriam
h) Hera Big

We changed to:

a) Breve, in body type (10 on 11), titles, etc.
b) Fort
c) Hera Big
d) Lust
e) Anultra Slab
f) Dox

• In hard news sections we use Breve and Fort.
• In soft news sections we use Hera Big, Dox, Lust and Fort.
• In sports & cars sections we use Anultra, Fort, Breve and Dox.

Body text

How was the project handled?
Since 2007 Excelsior works all of its projects in-house. This project was no exception and the proposal, development and implementation was conducted entirely by the area under my responsibility. The whole process took 15 weeks.

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InsideSports

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What are the hallmarks of the new design?
Our strategic planning group found that the newspaper had very long pieces and very small size of font. For Marco Roman, Deputy Director of Operations and Design this information was very useful, “Realizing the font size and extent of the notes was not compatible with the reader,” Roman says, “gave us a better idea of where we should start. We also noticed that with time, our color palette had deteriorated and had lost the typographic palette coherence.”

Medrano says he “challenged my team to create a new newspaper; a new code of communication, a new experience. Each one of them presented their proposals in reference to the section Money, as it is the most complex in all aspects.”

Practical considerations included a 5 percent reduction in newsprint, which, along with the increased body copy sizing, created a challenge to retain and increase the amount of information. Larger sections of the newspaper were divided into sub-sections and over 40 new areas of content were generated. Color balance and reproduction, and improved photo editing, were also key drivers.

“I think the benefit of all these changes can be seen immediately, if we compare the before and after the first thing you think is that the paper was exchanged for one of better quality, it looks whiter than before,” said Armando Heredia, Production Director.

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And the reception?
The first comments of our readers have been favorable, that commits us to continued improvements as the perception of the newspaper is changing every day. The readers are somehow digesting the change and realizing that many of their demands have been met. I think the readers appreciate that we are in a race to be up to date and improve the reading experience while still being visually explosive.

About Stephen Komives

is Executive Director of the Society for News Design.

5 comments

My two cents: Way too much color decoration and visual ornamentation; too little on good visual storytelling. There’s a consistent lack of creativity through their narratives.
BTW: Everyone in the industry knows well Excelsior isn’t the leading newspaper in Mexico. Reforma and El Universal still being the most respected publications on that country.

Hello Bill Ryan,
I invite you to update your knowledge of the Mexican market and to read daily Excelsior.
The Mexican market is changing and we are hearing the voices of the new readers, which ignored our competition (SND). Excelsior competes for second place in sales.
Our brand has nearly 100 million monthly news impacts seen by our readers through the newspaper, television and Internet, our network recently hit the internet that was a leadered for many years by El Universal.
In fact, Excelsior is the company’s fastest growing media in Mexico in the last 10 years.
What you see as ornamentation and lot of color in our daily is the reflect of our culture. Excelsior have been awarded on multiple occasions by our design and information since 2006, is the leading awards won over the past 15 years in Latin America.

Hi,
I agree with Mr Alexandro Medrano; i have good friends and really great designers in the U.S. who actually agree with the mexican newspapers as colorful and really vivid design, which i understand as a compliment rather than a critique.

And for the Reforma Group and Excelsior, yeah, they are good options too, but not necessary the best and only option in Mexico. I see everyday how the mexican designers are achieving and experimenting new ways to tell a story, not only in newspaper but magazines and other media.

Something we really need to understand is the audience you are designing/writing to; in order to build the best product, you need to know whom you are selling to.

My opinion,
Luis.

Bill:
While I appreciate you commenting on the article, I want to point out that in the interview, Mr. Medrano states that Excelsior is “a leader,” not “the leader.” There’s an important distinction.
I purposely did not mention other media companies in the piece (nor did Alexandro in the interview); all media companies have their own ambitions and economic realities and there are many ways to define “leader” and “best,” etc. The last thing I want to do is throw out shallow comparisons.
Lack of creativity hasn’t been an issue at Excelsior – in the past 9 years it has earned 218 awards from SND including numerous medals. I’ll be excited to see how the redesign evolves and how readers take to it.

Excelsior is doing a wonderful job by bringing more vibrant visual elements in newspaper design. We really need to find creative ways to serve our readers.
Yes, Mexican culture is rich in colors and food and the product should reflect the culture and community, that should not be seen with “critical eye”. Thanks

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