The power of simplicity and what it can unlock

Presented by Che Douglas, Head of Digital Design at Dow Jones and Director of Digital Projects at the Wall Street Journal

Che Douglas joined Dow Jones to share his branding expertise with the company and head up the redesign of The Wall Street Journal’s digital platform to create a consistent brand look across all of the digital channels and create a brand new user experience.

From Melbourne to New York

Che owned and operated his own digital branding studio in Australia for nine years when he was convinced by a friend to make the big move to news design in the Big Apple.

The change from a small design studio to a large newsroom was a major transition, which he calls his “discovery phase” and lasted about six months. During his discovery, he learned the day-to-day operations of a newsroom, asked his colleagues plenty of questions, established relationships, conceived his long-term vision for the company, built a design team and reconnected people with the creative process.

Simplicity is an important aspect of his work style and he always believed that the best way to achieve this was to move quickly and have a small, adaptable team. “I thought my studio in Australia was simple,” but moving to the Wall Street Journal where all of the operations are in house with large teams seemed complex and jarring — because it was.

Che felt overwhelmed, but made it his mission to explore and understand the digital landscape and learn what channels the Journal’s content was being shared on.

What did he find out?

The brand was being displayed inconsistently left and right.
“You should be able to cover the masthead and know what news source you’re looking at,” he said. But at the time, that’s not where they were. His vision was to create a consistent visual look across the entire digital landscape.

How do we untangle the complexity?

Define the problem.

“Maybe it’s not about moving quickly, it’s about collaboration,” Che said about a light-bulb moment. You can’t have a consistent look if everyone isn’t on board with it. Che decided to start small: designing the author byline to be simple and consistent. “Designers are always redesigning and over-designing the same elements time and time again,” he said. In the end, you end up with a mess of different designs and different codes. Take 50 elements, make it one element and use it everywhere.

After the small stuff, he moved into the larger rebuild phase: selecting high-visibility pieces such as the homepage modules and recreating them as a single library as well as redesigning and rebuilding all of the WSJ newsletters, color palettes and buttons.

Che introduced design standards that all of the departments can use for that consistent brand look. His team played around with different ideas to find out what was working, what was not and what the final look will be. Keep your eyes peeled for Wall Street Journal’s new consistent and simple look that will be rolling out soon.

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