Sometimes the aims are subtle

A behind-the-scenes look at a Danish redesign

Kristeligt Dagblad is a small daily paper in Copenhagen, and its readers love it: according to a 2015 survey, 96% of subscribers say they are “happy” or “very happy” with the newspaper. The average KD reader spends 57 minutes every day on the paper (the U.S. average: 14 minutes). And it’s growing: since 1993, daily circulation has risen from 14,000 to 27,000 and readership to 116,000.

Ole Munk
Ole Munk

So when Ole Munk was called in to redesign and help launch several new pages, he wanted to tread lightly: “The degree of change is small and that is on purpose,” he says. “Contrary to the majority of newspapers in our part of the world, Kristeligt Dagblad is going very well and a delicate part of this assignment has been to modernize the look while retaining the overall look and feel of the paper, as surveys repeatedly tell us how much readers appreciate it.”

Munk’s work is a reminder that not all redesigns require complete teardowns.

The new-look Kristeligt Dagblad (orginally founded in 1896, and sporting the front-page motto: “Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts”) launched Sept. 2, and Munk, one of the longest-tenured SND members in Scandinavia, offered his insights into the process.

Left, a "Before" front page from the KD. Right, an "After" page.
Left, the KD front page on Sept. 1. Right, the redesigned front page, from Sept. 3. Click image to enlarge

“My own analysis of the previous design (which was my work as well) revealed a couple of weaknesses, the most obvious one being the comprehensive use of dotted lines which gave the paper a light, pleasant look but failed to clarify how the pages were organized. So dividing lines have become thicker, fact boxes bigger, colours brighter, and navigation elements stronger.”

“Several typographical elements shared an equal amount of salience. The overall look was harmonic but sometimes lacked contrast.”

“When the newspaper had moved to new premises in 2011, new stationery had been designed and the new logotype became the newspaper’s nameplate for the sake of consistency. However, it never really worked as a nameplate and we all agreed that we needed something stronger.”

A look at the inside pages, Before (left) and After (right). Click image to enlarge

“A significant point of the design changes is to expose the REALLY important parts of this relaunch which all have to do with content, as it ought to be with every news media initiative. New weekly pages on science and cultural history are among the new features, as well as expanded debate and book review sections.”

“We started out in March with idea meetings, involving the editor-in-chief, Erik Bjerager, our executive editor, Jeppe Duvaa, and myself who provided sketches and suggestions for alternative designs. Some meetings were attended by commercial director Hans-Christian Kock (I believe one of the keys to Kristeligt Dagblad’s success is that this newspaper has managed to retain its small-newspaper spirit even though it has grown considerably. Every member of the now 120+ staff engages in all aspects of the publication, editorial as well as commercial).”

Inside A-section pages, post-redesign. Click image to enlarge

“We introduced a brand new nameplate, based on Duplicate Slab, which has also become the main navigation typeface throughout the paper. Meta Serif continues to be Kristeligt Dagblad’s signature typeface, used for body text as well as headlines, while Fira Sans has replaced TheSans for secondary typography (captions, fact boxes, graphics, etc) and for the headlines of the distinctive and contrastful debate pages.”

New Debate page inside the A-section (left), and a new section front, called Life & Soul. Click image to enlarge

“I contacted Christian Schwartz with whom I have great working relations from previous projects. He came up with his rather new creation, Duplicate Slab, as an alternative which could not only solve our nameplate problem but also provided us with a robust and distinctive navigation typeface that goes excellently with Meta Serif, the newspaper’s signature typeface.”

About Stephen Komives

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

Leave a Reply