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.

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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.