Design can lead print fight: INFORM speaker

Jacek Utko

News media needs to be more innovative in its design to attract and retain print and digital subscribers while appealing to young people, according to award-winning designer Jacek Utko, who will speak at the INFORM News Media Summit on Wednesday, September 6.

As newspapers increasingly rely on subscription-generated revenue, Mr Utko believes the solution is to invest back into print. By revamping the design of newspapers to include more imagery and graphics, publishers will widen the appeal of their products.

“Newspapers are basically using this 19th century headline, photo, text, everywhere. It is not very innovative,” Mr Utko said.

“”The role of print right now is to lead us in transition from print subscription to digital subscription. We have to keep the subscribers happy for several more years to be able to make the transition into digital subscriptions.”

Mr Utko is a four-time winner of the Society for Newspaper Design’s award for World’s Best Designed Newspaper, with two of the winning titles also receiving European Newspaper of the Year awards. Beginning his career in architecture, he progressed into design before becoming art director in the newsrooms of Bonnier Business Press. A collection of his award winning work can be seen here.

His comments on newspapers beg the question: what type of design is best for print? There is no simple answer.

“What is going to win? I don’t know? Maybe a mix is good,” he said.

“After many, many years of trying different things when it comes to design and content, I kind of know now what the modern newspaper should look like. What the mix of the modern and old, traditional papers should be.”

Traditional black and white-designed newsprint appeals to readers due to the nostalgic feeling it gives. The authoritative nature of the design makes it something that wants to be trusted and purchased. Alternatively, a magazine style allows newspapers to better compete for reader attention and better engage with visual storytelling and infographics.

“You have to make this interesting mix of content and design, that has this sort of traditional, conservative flavour because it is easier to make them pay for this,” Mr Utko said.

Mr Utko will be speaking at the INFORM News Media Summit at the International Convention Centre in Sydney on Wednesday, September 6. Entry to the summit, including his session titled “Can design save news media?”, is free to all NewsMediaWorks members, with non-member tickets costing $199. Registration is essential for all attendees.

For more information on the event, click here.

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