Let us welcome Darren Long onboard as SND’s new regional director for Asia – South Pacific, which is a large region with a huge diversity and cultural differences. For this position, there is no better than Darren Long who has already spent 22 years living abroad and working with a mix of professionals worldwide in his design department.
His life time experience and international background will help SND build a stronger hold on diversity in all aspects. The diversity that we embrace and makes SND special and different from other societies and organizations.
Long talks about his experiences living abroad and about the success behind South China Morning Post (SCMP) working at the design department.
SCMP Graphic by: Marcelo Duhalde, Adolfo Arranz and Marco Hernandez in collaboration with: Darren Long
How did you first encounter SND?
I came across a hardback of the Best of News Design in the Hong Kong office of Time (Asia) Magazine in 2003. I have been reading it for inspiration and to keep up with global trends ever since.
How did you end up in Hong Kong?
I wanted to see something of the world before knuckling down to a master’s degree. After about 18 months travelling around India and Southeast Asia, I landed in Hong Kong with a sketchbook of my travels, which I touted around town. That was 1992. I was lucky enough to get a break from a news magazine called Asiaweek where I got a job as an illustrator/designer. Once I got a taste of the newsroom, there was never going back to art school.
How long have you worked in Hong Kong and what is your experience of working in a foreign country?
After my first six years in Hong Kong, I moved to Kuala Lumpur for a couple of years. I returned to London in 1999, but jumped at the chance to come back to Hong Kong in 2003, where I’ve been ever since. After living and working outside my native country for 22 plus years, I still find things that challenge my preconceptions every day. For me, that is the best aspect of living overseas.
South China Morning Post (SCMP) has a strong visual approach, is there any success secret story in your design department?
The graphics department operates like a Kiwi rugby team, oozing with individual talent but where the collective comes first. When a Spaniard, Cantonese, American, Brit, Chilean and Costa Rican sit down to discuss the news, you get such a varied set of experiences, it is a lot easier to create something unique. We are also very fortunate to have the trust of enlightened editors who gave us a lot of freedom and space – both online and in print – with which to experiment. I hope we have repaid the risk they have taken.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role at Region 19 (Region 19 – Asia, South-Pacific)?
Helping spread the word about good design and using SND as a platform to improve how infographics are understood. The term is misused a lot, particularly in our region where thematic infographics using comparative data visualisations are far rarer than charts designed around a map. There’s a lot more to an infographic than sticking an illustration and a few flags next to some numbers.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
As an illustration student I went on an exchange programme to the Rietveld Akadmie in Amsterdam. A lecturer told me it was impossible to use illustration as a way to travel and live abroad. That was all the incentive I needed to get to Hong Kong.
Who was your mentor or source of inspiration?
My late father-in-law, Gopi Gopalan. He was an encyclopedia of Asian politics and journalist’s bylines. Originally from Kerala, Gopi was a journalist and an editor who plied his trade in Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong. He was able to see the positive in any setback, personal or professional. He had a playful outlook and never expressed a cynical thought, which in our industry is surely unique.
What is one design tool you couldn’t live without and why?
A pencil and paper. Design is all about ideas, everything else is icing on the cake.
What skill do you recommend news designers pick up in 2017?
Anything that will get their work seen on a mobile phone. Print design still has a place but if you want to maximize how many people see your work, the phone is the best platform.
If you weren’t an art director / visual journalist what do you think your career path would have been?
I would like to have been a psychologist. Although if rugby had been a professional sport when I came of age, that would have been my dream. Given I’m far too short and many kilos too light, rugby’s late entry to the professional sphere probably saved me a lot of heartache.
Darren Long; with25 years’ experience, Long leads South China Morning Post’s award-winning graphics and illustration department. He has launched and rejuvenated dozens of newsstand, custom and trade publications in Hong Kong, Malaysia and London. His own magazine design and illustrations have won awards on three continents.
Contact: Darren Long