What is news design like in India? It’s a land of tens of thousands of newspapers and magazines and readers who love to read. So much so that pages are more likely to feature long stories than large photographs or infographics.
This is an introduction to the news design world in India, as part of SND’s Year-Long Conversation.
- Registered newspapers: 14,508
- Registered English newspapers: 1,406
- Other language newspapers: 13,102
- Top-language newspapers: Hindi, 7,910
- Registered magazines: 82,237
Reading culture: Despite having new platforms available for news reading, there is still a strong preference for print media. One supporting factor is the high literacy level among people and the other is the culture of regular newspaper reading from the Colonial times. So there is a steady, promising increase in readership which makes India a fertile land suitable for new publications.
Design culture: Indian news design stands apart when compared to other continents. Here readers prefer the domination of text over visual display. They prefer to read and know than see and understand. Detailed reports are very important for this politically over-conscious community of readers. So there is very little scope for visual display in a 24-30 page English-language daily. For vernacular news papers, it is 12-24 pages. On a normal day, one would find photographs no larger than 4 to 5 columns photographs on most of the pages in an Indian newspaper (an exception is the case of sports pages). Information graphics are a rare feature, surprisingly unknown to many.
It was in the late 1970’s that the Indian newspaper industry familiarized itself with the science of newspaper design. And after a few decades only stalwart publishing groups could hire foreign design consultants to redesign their newspaper to make their space in the international market.
Big names like Mario Garcia, Ron Reason, Peter Ong and the like, thus, made their entry into the Indian news design world. Later the publishing groups realized that cut, copy and paste of western design is not tasty for Indian readers. This was evident when after expensive relaunching of their newspapers; many were forced to alter design elements due to the pressure from readers.
They want more to read.
Circulation departments would definitely get phone calls threatening to withdraw subscription with the complaint that there is nothing to read if pictures were run 4 to 6 columns on a regular basis. Big pictures are looked at as a waste of space by many still.
Design trends: How to design within limited space while catering to the requirements of readers is the biggest challenge faced by Indian designers. Consultant and SND/Spain director Javier Errea said this in an interview with www.newspaperdesign.ning.com: “I like hearing that people are used to reading in India. Newspapers are a crucial communication channel in India. Newspapers are still a key point within the social debate, the way people are informed, and a main channel to share facts and thoughts. The Indian market is now a privilege. You just have to compare this situation with Western markets. Limited space shouldn’t be a problem for a news designer ever. News designers must be intelligent enough to take advantage of any situation and improve the quality of the product. What does it mean? Many things. News design is not about aesthetics and superb displays; but mainly about the news and make people understand reality better.”
Color is another highlighted aspect of news design this region. Because of the diverse culture India is very vibrant and colorful. This is reflected in every aspect of the country, its growth and people. So we have colors playing a great part in the newspaper industry.
Big headlines are very appealing for Indian eyes. Indian language newspapers always go for a minimum of six column headline in an eight column grid for the main story.
In the newsroom: There is no professional design department for most of the Indian-language newspapers. If they have any, there are maybe two or three designers for the entire set of editions. Some do not have a design stylebook. It is an editor’s world.
But recently many newspapers have realized the importance of design in a newspaper and are trying to reach out AND embrace new trends in news design. It is an encouraging sign.
SND’s entry at this point to the Indian region is very apt and appropriate. It hopes to open a new window of design knowledge and culture for India.
The WAN-IFRA-SND News conference at New Delhi on Jan. 23 is a great step forward.
T.K. Sajeev is also the visual editor of Kerala Kaumudi newspaper and the creator of India’s first newsdesign site www.newspaperdesign.ning.com