With The Lily, The Washington Post amplifies women’s voices in media

When it comes to news design and innovation, the Washington Post may be the best in the business. Armed with a team dedicated to using new ideas to increase the paper’s audience, they have been able to pull off rare feats. Their most recent? A modern spinoff of The Lily, the first U.S. newspaper for and by women. This new incarnation of the storied publication promises to empower readers with information while showcasing diverse voices. It specifically targets women between the ages of 25 to 35, but The Lily has a fair amount of readers both female and male outside of this range. It lives entirely on social channels which, according to Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director, Amy King “helps foster community and conversation around this content.” It makes sense, given that their audience spends most of the time on social channels.

The Lily has a strong design strategy and a beautifully curated aesthetic far from the stereotypical feminine style. This is backed up with original content as well as repackaged content from its parent brand, the Washington Post. It’s great news because with so much original content coming from the Post every day, young women can feel safe they will not miss out on information catered toward their demographic.

Amy King spoke about The Lily’s design, the topics they cover, the visuals used to drive coverage on these topics and how designers can bring innovation to newsrooms everywhere:

How much did the original design influence the current? Do you feel a responsibility to have elements from the print  form represented in the digital iterations of today?

The Lily worked with different designers to create a modern logo that paid homage to the original publication. They later dropped the flourishes and banners for a more minimalist approach. On the left, their first logo which was later replaced by the final version drawn by Olga Vasik.

I worked with a few illustrators to develop logo concepts for The Lily. I asked each of them to come up with at least one idea that drew inspiration from the original Lily logo. The goal was for the logo to be classic yet modern. There were a few sketches that more closely mimicked original versions of The Lily, utilizing banners and flourishes, but were ultimately too much. The final logo, drawn by Olga Vasik, is timeless. It speaks to the past and the history of The Lily while also looking contemporary. 

The Lily has such a rich history of civic and national duty, from abolition to suffrage. Do you see this newly-launched product as a continuation of such endeavors in 2017?  Which topics will the Lily be focusing on covering today?

Like our predecessors, we do hope to surface stories and provide discussion around issues critical to women’s lives. So far, some of the topics we’ve addressed include sexual assault, gay marriage, abortion, race, child marriage and female genital mutilation.

How are you (and your team) using visuals to drive your stories?

From the beginning, the visual identity of The Lily has been as important as our editorial mission. The Lily exists completely on social platforms so we are competing for attention in endless social feeds. We all see so many stories, images and videos every day. So it was really important that we created a visual identity that stands out. We make sure everything we publish has a custom image that follows our strict branding guidelines. The goal is to make our content instantly recognizable as Lily content. We recognize that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Medium are not just platforms for words, but for visuals, and we have art directors involved in the entire process.

How did you come to the decision to use Medium as a platform for The Lily? What other platforms will you be using to engage with your audience?

We value the community on Medium. There’s a built-in network of users who are already engaging with content and having discussions. The Lily is part of that now. More broadly, whether it’s discussions in the Facebook comments section or highlighting within stories on Medium, The Lily aims to foster interesting debates and discussions about issues and topics relevant to women.

What is your advice for designers that want to bring innovation to their newsrooms?

Come up with an idea, don’t wait for other people to give you one. Write it down, why it matters and why it will benefit your company. Then, design a mockup. Show it to people until you find someone who will listen and help advocate for your idea. Having the skills to create a visual mock of an idea might get you farther than you think. Most people share a document with only words. But as a designer, you can show people what it will look like. This does not have to require much effort but is surprisingly effective.

News designers, take notes. To write down your ideas and to present them with a mock up is solid advice, no matter what your newsroom size and budget may be. The Lily’s team is doing a great job at experimenting with different ways of presenting content, generating conversations around the topics they cover and delivering quality journalism to an under-served group that benefits from it now more than ever. All while providing a space where critical issues relevant to its audience are being raised. Be sure to check out The Lily on Medium and subscribe to their newsletter, Lily Lines.

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