Globe redesign: Leaner, sleeker, and better dressed

The Globe has dubbed its new
look the “most significant redesign” in the paper’s history. Here are
some first impressions from journalists and long-time readers.

Paul Benedetti:

Leaner, sleeker and better dressed.

That’s pretty much the wish-list for everyone facing a mid-life crisis. And so we meet the Globe and Mail this morning, the doyenne of Canadian newspapers, after her “makeover.”

She’s slimmer, about an inch narrower at the waist, but she’s no runway model — cutting at least two inches off her height.
And, like a lot of people who visit a designer, she’s embraced the notion that a “splash of red” improves just about anything.

The designers have also gone for the “layered look” –- one section on glossy paper, the next on regular newsprint, with the front section and Globe Life getting the A-grade paper and Business, Sports and Auto, still printed on what seems to be regular newsprint.

Like a lot of design makeovers, the first impression is a bit jarring, but that usually passes. In a week or so, we’ll be used to the new look.
But it feels a bit busy. Perhaps a bit too many subheads in red, a few too many red bars and arrows with not quite enough white space on the new, smaller pages.

The photography is sharper on the glossy stock and the color promised by John Stackhouse “on every page” certainly adds a lot of zip to the morning reading experience.

Like the Economist, from which the designers seemed to have taken some inspiration, the new Globe is easier to handle and packed with stories. I’m not sure about the editorial across the top of the front page, oddly titled “Consider this”, or the porthole photograph with it, but the double-truck in-depth story under the title Folio, which Stackhouse promises will appear “most days of the week”, is a welcome investment in deeper, more serious reporting. The editor calls it a “Hollywood-free zone,”  and thank god for that.

Of course, the redesign extends to the web, where the new look is similar, but with better use of white space. I’m not sure what this year’s fall fashion colors are, but the Globe designers wisely stuck to red, black, grey and white – the very best colors for web design. As promised, the new site is easier to navigate, with a nice deck of “Must reads” placed below the main story of the day. Interesting that Markets and Business now come before News – no doubt a response to surveys about what Globe readers read first.

Overall, a bold move. Specific design issues aside, it’s good to know that in a media world in flux, the Globe has reinvigorated, redesigned and renewed itself. Not a bad answer to a mid-life crisis.

Paul Benedetti is the Program Coordinator for the Master of Arts in Journalism Program at the University of Western Ontario. He continues to write for newspapers, magazines and online. He has never re-designed a newspaper in his life.

Alan Bass:

I have to admit, redesigns of newspapers I read regularly always make me feel a bit uncomfortable at first. It takes time to adjust. Today’s new design gives the paper a light and airy feel, but light and airy was never what I wanted from the Globe. I’m skeptical about the new formatted material, like the {consider this} on the front page. The danger with highly formatted newspapers is that they end up being driven by the needs of the format instead of their journalism. On the up side, I don’t see much of a difference in the focus or the style of the reporting, which is a relief. And the website looks good, which, I have to say, is probably more important in the long run. The Globe’s ringing endorsement of the future of print is charming, but deluded.

Alan Bass is J-Source’s Ideas editor and a former reporter for United Press, Canadian Press and The London Free Press. He currently teaches journalism at Thompson Rivers University.

Stephen Strauss

The new Globe is a paradox’s own paradox. On one hand I am much taken with the risk that the paper has made in trying to reinvent its printed persona. In the not too distant future this will either be viewed as an act of counter-intuitive genius or the Olympus of delusions. If the latter is true the redesign may well be something business schools will teach students under the heading of “look at the crazy things old businesses do when they are about to be clubbed to death by technological change.”

One fears the latter for several reasons. The first is that while the paper is very much more colourful visually, most of what is deeply attractive about that colourization resides in the appeal of the ads. Simply put the writing has not been equally colourized. There is not some deeper, wiser, funnier, surprising cast to the stories. The good writers, Doug Saunders and Konrad Yakabuski for example, are still good and most everyone else is still fair to middling. Their stories remain tyrannized by their beige-turns-to-grey journalism school predictable beginnings, middles and ends.
But perhaps most important the paper still looks and feels and smells like a newspaper. What hasn’t happened here is the Champagne gigginess which new versions of iPads and ebooks and laptops and the like generate. You don’t have to tell people what is exciting about them a la Stackhouse’s explanatory piece, because they are exciting. They are different. The redesigned Globe isn’t surrounded by a nimbus of OMGs and !!!!’s because it’s still a flat, serial and completely predictable newspaper.

Which brings me to my final reflection. The comments on website about the redesign there were massively negative. Some of this undoubtedly has to do with the crankiness of many when asked to change any habit, but part has to do with the fact that the Globe hasn’t solved the basic problem newspapers face on the internet. This is: How do you lay out a screen full of information in a way which isn’t two-dimensional? News on the internet isn’t serial; it isn’t flat paged, rather it is both deep and disconnected. So the design question becomes: How do you make people swim between news stories and rather than feel they are being forced to turn back and forth between virtual pages. I would suggest the Globe’s web-based layout hasn’t solved that problem, because if it had its on-line readers would be joyfully reflecting on how great it was to finally experience a totality of news which didn’t presume the linearity of the printed page.

Stephen Strauss worked for the Globe over a 25-year period as a science writer, columnist and editorial writer. He now writes for a number of places including and Nature Biotechnology. As well he has been lecturing at journalism schools on the topic: Is there a future for you in journalism. During his time at the Globe he saw any number of redesigns but never a fundamental reconfiguration.

Stay tuned to this page for more first impressions, and let us know what you think of the new Globe in the comment section below.