Independent Days

As you may have heard, the London-based Independent and Independent on Sunday ceased its print publications in March after a 30-year run. This ended an era of print design excellence, highlighted by three straight SND World’s Best-Designed awards, from 2001-03.

The Independent launched in 1986 and its circulation peaked at more than 400,000. It also won dozens of SND AofE’s and medals, debuting in the book with its travel section, art directed by Kevin Bayliss, in the 21st edition.

Circulation declines in recent years caused it to pursue a digital-only strategy. With its passing, I asked a few of the designers there to share their favorite Independent pages.

From Kevin Bayliss, art director:
Victory! Rejoice! – April 5, 2007


“Fifteen Royal Navy personnel had been captured, paraded on TV, and coerced into confessions. It seemed the hostage crisis would last for months. The captives feared execution. Instead, after two weeks, in a bizarre press conference broadcast worldwide, each of the Britons thanked the Iranian President, who then granted their release. Ahmadinejad said it was a gift to the British people, and claimed a diplomatic victory. As did Prime Minister Tony Blair, who emerged to claim a diplomatic victory of his own. The outcome seemed very amusing to most observers, but I can’t imagine many newspapers allowing such a playful treatment to a very serious front page story.”

From Sarah Morley, deputy art director:
Don’t Give Up, Japan! – March 13, 2011

SU13.01.1st (Page 1)

“This is from the Japan earthquake and tsunami. We wanted to do something different as is the Independent tradition. We knew that with a live news story of this type there are many devastating pictures of the event. However we felt that it was important to send out a positive message and offer encouragement and hope to those people who had had their lives destroyed. So this was the message we put on the front of the paper. Not using photography of the destruction but a message of solidarity and hope.
“This cover was seen all over the world. There were lots of charities in Japan who adopted it as a symbol and as their message of hope. There were also TV stations who got in touch from Asia to interview our editor and find out about it as it. This for me was a classic example of what The Independent and The Independent on Sunday did best. Presenting the news in a different way and standing out from the rest of the printed media in the UK.”

From Dan Barber, Head of Creative
Margaret Thatcher Obituary – April 9, 2013


“I love the unflinching realism of this image. It’s by Brian Harris, a photographer whose striking mono images defined the paper in it’s formative years. Most other papers ran a classic portrait of her that made her look stately and safe, I like the way this is more brutal; you can see every fine hair on her face and there seems to be a sense of power and menace seeping from every pore.”

Somebody’s Child – September 3, 2015


“In my time at The Independent, I’ve seen many images that others, thankfully, will never see. Screened from the public because there was is news value to them, such images tend to show only unimaginable horror or obscene violence. After a while, you become slightly numb to it. However, when this image came through, it stopped everyone in their tracks. We debated long and hard as to whether to include it on the front, and how. It seemed to sum up everything in one succinct image, but should we censor it? Should we go with a shot where you can’t see the boy, as other papers did? We decided to run it unedited, full frame. It summarizes everything the paper stood for: taking bold decisions, resetting the agenda. This image refocused everyone’s minds on a crisis that had become widely reported but found little resonance with most people, until they saw this. As a father myself, it brought me close to tears.”

About Stephen Komives

Previously served as Executive Director of the Society for News Design, from 2009–2019.


Leave a Reply