Francesco Franchi on Designing News

“This is a most interesting and ambitious time for a designer to be working in the newspaper market.”

That’s how Il Art Director Francesco Franchi  began his discussion with a full-house Friday afternoon.

Franchi infographics

Franchi, author of Designing News: Changing the World of Editorial Design and Information Graphics, is notable for his art direction as well as his infographic approach to design. He shared a look at the award-winning lifestyle and current events magazine Il and some strategies he proposes for newsrooms and designers to address the future.

Il cover-189   il cover 2


Il is a monthly supplement to leading Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24. He said at its inception, sources of inspiration were looking backward at notable magazine designs of the past, especially when considering the typography and that it originally grew out of a desire to extend the target of the newspaper to a younger audience. Franchi described the modules that comprise Il, highlighting the various opportunities for experimentation, modulation within sections, and the ways in which different design approaches (including illustration, infographics and photo essays) are combined for a comprehensive narrative. His team even develops animations for Instagram to introduce the cover story and content of upcoming issues.

Franchi languages

In discussing his work at Il, Franchi highlighted some key ideas:

  • Embracing a more horizontal workflow and valuing the relationship between the editor and art director.
  • Start with a good journalistic idea.
  • “Writing is no longer enough” — it’s important to combine different languages to engage the reader.
  • Working in a spectrum from utilitarian to arty — as designers, it’s necessary to entertain but also inform the reader.
  • Infographics and illustrations are useful when there is representation and critical interpretation of the data.

Designing News

“It is not that newspapers are dying, but that we can rethink and survive.”

Franchi  shared a brief overview of his research and analysis that comprised his book, Designing News. The book highlights case studies across platforms and publications of all sizes, including The Guardian, New York Times and Monocle. Topics include transformation in the world of information, defying the convention of marketing and the role of design in developing branding solutions for newspapers.

What’s Next?

According to Franchi, the future lies in the intersection of editorial design and user experience — he sees news designers as editorial experience designers. We need to “view the digital technologies as a great opportunity for new business and requalify paper as a convenient form of display.”