Saturday, 21 April 2012

A lecture from Jon Hill

I found this lecture very inspiring, despite it probably having more relevance to graphic design.

Jon Hill is the design editor of the times, and he came in to discuss with the design students why working for a newspaper may be worthwhile in the future...

His career has changed throughout the years; ranging from work as a junior designer to being the design editor of the times. It sounds like a daunting job to be able to achieve, from our perspective, but it shows how big things can happen when you take all the opportunities you can.

He discussed how becoming as a junior designer (at Atelier Works) consisted mostly of basic office tasks; making tea for other staff, mounting work etc. However, his hard work paid off when he got the apprenticeship there. Later, as a senior designer at Esterson Associates he had the freedom to do more varied design work, working on various books and newspaper projects.

After starting a family he was self-employed and worked from the attic at his home in Wilmslow. His experience working in London meant that he still had a lot of business from the connections he had made, but he was able to work alone from home instead.

But the most dramatic career change came when he accepted a job as the design editor of the times, changing his work environment from a little personal space to a huge corporate building. Around 2006 Hill was involved when Neville Brody wanted to re-design the Times for its new, more compact size. It was then that the font 'Times Modern' was designed for it, pictures were changed to colour, and more consideration went into the layout for the double page spreads- it became a little more daring (e.g. images were sometimes used within text, to highlight the information, 'a bit like a magazine').

Hill described how the hierarchal structure of the newspaper was a bit like a government. As the design editor, he is quite high up, near to the top, with the editor James Harding. However, the structure changed so that more employees were encouraged to merge together and explore different disciplines together.

He showed us an example of an unusual layout, to show how the design of stories had become so much more of an important element. In this case, the Chilean miners story was presented as a large double page diagram. The curved line around the edge was drawn to be the actual size of the pods the miners were in, making an interactive feature if the reader were to put the newspaper on the floor and see for themselves.

Hill was also very enthusiastic about special issues of the newspaper supplement magazine, such as the Obama election story, the death of Michael Jackson and Prince Wiliam's wedding to Kate Middeton. With these stories the designers have the excuse to be particularly extravagant and go 'overboard' with their work. He also mentioned their monthly science magazine, 'Eureka', which the graphics are also particularly important in, to make the content accessible and fun for the general public. They make it as 'consumable as possible'.

In light of the constant digital advancements happening so rapidly recently, Newspaper circulation is on the decline. The Times have kept up-to-date with this. Hill told us how his office were shown some of the first ever editions of the IPad. It was all very strict and top secret. The Times had to be designed to fit the new IPad app, for the readers who would want to access it this way. Although the Times would now be available as a newspaper, website and IPad app (as animated, interactive articles), it was still the 'same ingredients' for all three platforms. They just work hard to stay as modern and relevant as they can.

Hill's final words of advice were: take every opportunity for experience as you can- it may lead onto your career. And in response to how illustrators were commissioned, he stressed that they look for people based on their appropriateness for the story, and their ability to generate ideas. As editorial work is usually the best way to get into the industry, hopefully I can do what the professionals advise and try my best to pick up opportunities that come my way in the near future!

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