Pentagram partner Luke Hayman has led the graphic redesign of US daily newspaper the Philadelphia Inquirer, with a strong focus on more dynamic use of typography.
Having been in-print since 1829, the paper is a well-established news source across the city. The brief from the Philadelphia Inquirer team asked Pentagram to create easy-to-navigate page templates that would “streamline production” and “reflect the city itself”, according to Hayman.
Against a backdrop of global newspaper sales declining in general, Hayman believes that US newspapers in particular have suffered from being “too static and conservative”. He explains that this is why the new layout design and application of the bespoke typefaces is “not too slick” and aligns with “the heritage and dynamism” of the Philadelphia.
The recut font, Philadelphia Inquirer Clarendon, was designed by A2-TYPE type designer Henrick Kubel and is based on a Clarendon slab font that was used by the newspaper from the 1860s to the 1920s. Hayman says that the new font appears “bolder on the page” and that using different weights means that attention can be drawn to certain stories, moving them up or down the “hierarchy”.
Compared to the “flatness” of the old version of the newspaper, where the same font in the same weight was used everywhere, Hayman says that the new version comes across “more lively, crisp and clear”. He adds that this, and the “more controlled use of white space”, improves overall page navigation.
The Philadelphia Inquirer logo has been tweaked so that the letter “d” is once again tipped to the left. Between 1879 and 2019 the d was “crooked and had this quirk to it”, says Hayman.
A 2019 rebrand saw it taken out to make it look “more contemporary” but, in Hayman’s opinion, this design choice “cleaned it up too much”. According to Hayman, it was not part of Pentagram’s brief to change the logo, but the slight change meant keeping with the “not perfectly logical and systemised” look and feel that the studio and the client desired.
Hayman says that the studio always drew back to “not ignoring where the brand had come from” and made a conscious effort to “move it forward” while also considering its “brand equity”. He adds, “Brands that aren’t broken should just evolve, not completely reinvent themselves for the sake of it.”
When Pentagram presented its early design ideas, there was a more “traditional” version and a “bolder” version with more use of coloured panels, according to Hayman. He says that, from this, the studio and the client found a “middle ground” to settle on for the way forward.
Each section in the newspaper now has its own distinct colour, which features across the banner of the page and on the page headlines. Hayman says that the design team “followed conventions that seem logical”, such as “making the business section blue, and choosing a warm colour for the food section”.
Choosing a colour for the sports section proved more difficult, Hayman explains, as it was crucial to “represent Philadelphia’s local sports teams”. Serving as another navigation device, the using of colour aims to “makes it clear when a new section starts” opposed to the previous version which was “much less obvious”, says Hayman.
A key part of the brief was to “streamline production” which Hayman says presented some “technical restraints”. He explains how working on the Philadelphia Inquirer was “different to a lot of other graphic design projects” as it needed to be extremely functional and practical, so as to not slow down the printing process.
He adds, “If we came up with a beautiful design that everyone loved but it took longer to produce then it would be a failure,” meaning that Pentagram had to avoid “overdesigning things” to keep with the brief.
The newspaper’s website had already undergone a redesign before Pentagram was involved and the new typography rolls out across it with some structural tweaks made. Hayman says that using the custom fonts consistently across both platforms means that people will start to “subconsciously recognise it without even seeing the logo” due to its “little bit of uniqueness”.