Mark Porter, the titan of editorial design who worked as creative director at The Guardian for a decade, has helmed a rebrand for the Irish Independent with senior designer Alan Keer. Interestingly, Mark Porter Associates was not brought on for an editorial overhaul – though its work can be seen in print in headers and icons. The studio was responsible for uniting a cluster of Irish Independent newspapers into one master brand.
The harp has been the symbol of the Irish Independent for over 60 years – more than half of the newspaper’s lifetime. But it is not the only one using the harp’s image. “When you work with an Irish heritage brand you are immediately confronted with two deeply embedded visual cliches, the harp icon and the colour green.” Hundreds of brands use the enduring harp emblem (which dates back over a thousand years), “from the Irish Government to Guinness”, says Mark. MPA had to decide whether to work with these symbols and how to do it
Irish culture would be knitted into every part of the work, from imagery to typographic choices. “So we strengthened our team by bringing in Clare Bell, a typographer, designer and lecturer at Technological University Dublin who has spent many years thinking and writing about Irish visual culture and what ‘Irishness’ means in the context of design,” says Mark. MPA also worked with Signal Type Foundry’s Max Phillips, “a New Yorker who has lived and worked in Dublin for 10 years, and has a deep knowledge and understanding of Irish typography and iconography, both historical and contemporary”.
It was decided that both the harp and the colour green were essential elements. The Irish Independent now features a version of the emblem in three optical sizes – inspired by the long history of concentric circles in Irish art and design, from the neolithic period to Irish design in the 60s and 70s. A greater diversity of green shades have also been incorporated.
Andy Goodman is the illustrator responsible for the lively work found throughout, which toe the line between measured and playful. Animation is from Smorgasbord Studio and the new bespoke typeface is by Max Phillips. It’s called Cláirseach, which means harp, and has roots in traditional Irish script as well as being highly legible across digital and print.
“A strong solution needs a good client and this project would not have been possible without the collaboration of the Irish Independent team,” says Mark. “They were open-minded and adventurous when they needed to be, and backed us all the way in developing an identity that respects history while being unapologetically future-facing.”
GalleryMark Porter Associates: Irish Independent, animation and behaviour by Smorgasbord Studio, illustrations by Andy Goodman (Copyright © Mark Porter Associates, 2023)
Mark Porter Associates: Irish Independent, animation and behaviour by Smorgasbord Studio, illustrations by Andy Goodman (Copyright © Mark Porter Associates, 2023)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.