When you enter the offices of Zaman newspaper in Istabul, you’re greeted by large block letters represented the five W’s and one H of journalism, as well as an additional structure: +1T. The T stands for “Tasarim,” or Design, and underscores the fact that this is an organization that sees design as a fundamental building block of its mission.
Fevzi Yazici is the design director at Zaman, the leading newspaper in Turkey. The paper is printed in 10 languages and has been winning SND awards every year since its redesign in 2001. Yazici is also the chief architect of Newspaper Design Days, an inspirational weeklong symposium sponsored by Vodaphone that attracts hundreds of students from all over Turkey. Its goal is to teach design to journalism students, and journalism to design students. Yazici and Zaman art director Selim Şimșiroğlu lead the event. As students were building mockups during an exercise this week I had a chance to sit down with Yazici to get his views:
Tell me about the origins of Design Days nine years ago.
It started with an idea. Journalism students have a missing part – which is design. Art students have missing part, which is journalism. We need to get them together to fix the problem. Designers have to be journalists in this business. That’s our goal. The first year we had 35 students. Then it became 70, 90, and for the last 3-4 years we’ve had more than 300 students. One year we received 2,000 applications.
What’s your SND story?
In my college years (at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University in Istanbul), I was working part-time for Zaman. I was 18-19, I saw The Book at school, and we were reviewing the designs, saying how this is good, we have to do this. Just discussing it with with my fiends, thinking ‘That’s the way we have to go.’
After the redesign in 2001 we wanted to share our work with people outside Turkey. Michael Keegan of the Washington Post suggested we enter the competition. The first year we didn’t send very many pages because we had no idea what to expect. But we collected our best works and sent them in and we received three awards, one of which was a Silver medal. In 2008 we received 42, placed in the top five. It was a big accomplishment for us.
What is the Zaman philosophy toward design?
Simple, strong design, not too much. Compared to U.S. papers we use more color but in Turkey, the newspapers are really colorful. They believe it works. But we believe that to be seen as a quality paper we need strong visuals, and need to give them space to express themselves. We let photographs express themselves. We want to reflect our identity through design.
What about the overall news design landscape in Turkey?
There is a problem. The people who design newspapers in Turkey are not designers. They say they’re journalists, but often they have no idea about typography, photography.
I studied and teach design at a journalism school. I tell students, ‘You might not become a designer. But imagine if you become editor-in-chief. You have to know everything about design, how to distinguish between good and bad. Our top editors have no idea what good design is. They have no idea about modular design. You cannot understand where one story begins and another ends. That’s a big problem. At Zaman, we are lucky to have an editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanli, who knows the importance of design.
When we redesigned Zaman, people in the market said ‘It’s not going to work in Turkey.’ After the redesign proved a success, the same people asked us for help. And we’ve helped. We have loyal readers. That’s not just because of design, it’s because they believe in this newspaper.