Ich bin ein Berliner

It’s interesting to see the Guardian’s new look and feel, along with its Germanic size, which was launched on Monday. In the past, broadsheets and tabloids have been able to share printing presses, as the broadsheet (597mm x 375mm) is the same width as the tabloid (375mm x 298mm) is tall. For example, the Telegraph (broadsheet) and the Express (tabloid) used to be printed on the same presses in Westferry.

However, in a market where many of the traditionally broadsheet UK newspapers have downsized to tabloids (with the exception of Sunday editions, the Telegraph and the Financial Times are the only remaining significant broadsheets), the Guardian has bucked the trend by going all European, choosing the Berliner (470mm x 315mm). It’s a size somewhere in between the two, shared by France’s Le Monde and Italy’s La Repubblica, although oddly enough not by Germany’s Berliner Zeitung.

It has an area 32% larger than that of its tabloid competitors, 34% smaller than the broadsheets. (I like the fact that contrastingly, tabloids are only 25% smaller than the Berliner and broadsheets a gargantuan 51% larger. I’ll let you mull that one over.)

Although I’ve not seen it firsthand, I like its radical approach. As well as moving to a new size, it’s changed significant elements of its look and feel, introducing a new typeface (Guardian Egyptian) designed by Christian Schwartz, a revised masthead, a radically new layout and some neat navigational devices. Even subtleties like having right-ragged (nice name for left-aligned) format for commentary as opposed to justified formatting for news are highlighted in this annotated image on Flickr.

Looking at its online sister offering makes me think it needs a drastic overhaul. It’s cluttered, narrow and bitty, with little sense of branding either within pages or across the site. There are about 210 pixels in width dedicated to news articles at the top of their homepage, which strikes me as a heinous crime. Even at the 800 x 600 resolution to which web standards still refer, this allows only 26% of the screen’s horizontal real-estate to news. Take it up to my resolution of 1280 x 800, you’re down to 16%.

We’ll wait to see whether the revised hard-copy format helps to fend off its declining circulation.


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