Design in 2020 – what will editorial design look like?

As part of our series of design in 2020, Chris Clarke, global deputy creative director of The Guardian, looks at what will happen in editorial design in the next 12 months.

What do you think 2020 will hold for product design?

Primarily, our collective environmental consciousness will drive innovation in sustainable editorial formats — encouraging the industry to think wider about the impact a product has on our environment, and drive necessary, and welcomed scrutiny over the relevance of existing publications.

This will see quality publications deservedly flourish, and intently drive innovation beyond ink on paper, and into the broader landscape that editorial encompases. As a result, I would expect to see more creative story-telling methods where design can challenge pre-existing approaches to events, podcasts and digital experiences. Ultimately embracing an unstable, impatient and on-demand society, and designing fluid editorial journeys that meaningfully touch on numerous platforms.

The innate sensibilities within design equips us with all the tools to think broader about our impact on the earth, and we have a responsibility to ensure anything we put into the world not only adds a measured value but is sustainable. Design is integral in facilitating this journey — and the urgency of our impact on climate will propel designers to look for alternative processes that reduce waste, retain quality but honour the natural imperfections within certain production methods and paper stocks. Favouring sustainability and integrity over fleeting luster.

Secondly, with our unremitting political and social unrest — I would expect to see a further rise in engaged, socially conscious editorial designers — looking to facilitate social change. Editorial designers have a honed ability in distilling complex narratives, and presenting them in a way that is concise, accessible and engaging. With our current circumstances, this skill will be even more critical in 2020, and crucial in assisting clients to integrate a message and communicate it in a way that’s engaging, direct, powerful and fundamentally essential.

Steadily over the last few years we’ve seen a rise in ‘anti-design’ and this will accelerate in 2020 with design that agitates, is experimental and embraces imperfections. 2020 should celebrate a decline in anodyne, quietly functional and reductive editorial design and unite with an unwavering energy that reflects our volatile, chaotic and unstable backdrop.

What is your favourite product design project from 2019 and why?


The largest ongoing example of the above — and a project I felt really resonated with an audience  wider than the design community is Extinction Rebellion’s consistent and appropriate messaging. Strong communication is at the heart of editorial design, and Extinction Rebellion’s ongoing, dynamic, critical and bold graphic language is appropriately reflecting the urgency of our climate crisis.

Specifically within the design landscape — I really enjoyed seeing Richard Turley’s design for the D&AD annual 2019. The annuals irreverent design approach surprised me — but is absolutely appropriate in encapsulating the year in design. It’s witty, playfully intelligent and discordant and it’s subverse, satirical cover ‘Tell me what I need to hear…you are really important’ acts as an indispensable message for designers, to scrutinise the true value of their work as we enter 2020.

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