The New York Times has all the answers to any question you could ever ask about the upcoming royal wedding on 19 May. In an extremely extensive FAQ, The New York Times style section covers everything from will there be cake, the engagement ring, how Prince Harry and Meghan Markle met, but also the significance and cultural implications of the event itself. The art direction of the article, created by revered designer Tracy Ma, marks her first editorial project in her new role as visual editor at the newspaper’s style supplement.
Tracy’s unique design outlook – one that picks out the details of popular culture and applies them to designs which resonate – is ideal for an article that is a general talking point across the globe, but of course, one that divides opinion massively. In turn, Tracy’s art direction “adds to the spectacle for the sake of spectacle,” aspect of a royal wedding, representing the “kind of frenzy” which surrounds it. “Not in a cynical way, but kind of like ‘all of the critters in all the land gather for this moment’,” the designer laughs.
The initial idea for the article developed out of a team discussion on how The New York Times style section would cover the royal wedding. “For this instance, the idea came from design,” Tracy begins to explain. “From the get-go we wanted a very, very long exhaustive FAQ. In the kick-off meeting all the editors in the room, including myself, had all sorts of questions we threw out there, almost to sort of entertain one another. It was kind of just catchy fun, almost like the game of playing catch, literally throwing out a question and going off one another with even more bizarre questions. I think that gave birth to the idea of answering literally every single question about the royal wedding. From there I mocked up the design, shared it around and we assigned writers.” In covering such a wider range of questions on the subject, the design and editorial angle of the piece displays how The New York Times Style team are “definitely aware of what people are thinking and saying,” Tracy points out.
Tracy’s art direction plays and builds upon the performative aspect of a royal wedding, but in a very sweet way it shows the romance too. When you click on certain questions the answers appear with specially designed gifs or “doodads” as Tracy puts it. Each doodad has a different role, question 11 asking “Is Donald Trump invited to the wedding?” will turn your screen into a lightning storm if you click on it, the first question portrays Harry and Megan in a glittering gif surrounded by butterflies, corgis, and a United Kingdom flag, and in the corner of the screen is a pixelated squirrel which runs all the way back to top when clicked on. To create such detailed and apt interpretations Tracy worked with “Umi Syam, a coder and a very talented designer,” she says. “I think it really helped that I wasn’t alone in coming up with doodads and chuckling to myself. There was this sort of egging on where would just riff on what if, what if, what if?”
Playing with editorial content from a design point of view in this way shows Tracy making her mark in her new role at the publication, having joined the team in January. Question 27 draws particular attention to the design input, placed at a point where a user would have experienced many of the Tracy and Umi’s doodads it asks: “Would it be at all possible to surf this website without such cutting-edge art direction?” The question’s answer options are either no, which will means their creations will continue down the rest of the questions or “okay maybe” which deletes them all, but with one exploding doodad to sign off. “I just wanted to poke fun at myself for adding all these doodads,” Tracy explains of this hilarious design add-on. “I think I just wanted to be a little self aware in the situation and also poke fun at some of our readers who dislike doodads and give them an opportunity to remove them….It gave myself a chuckle, so I put it in.”
The 61st question in the FAQ states “Oi! I have a question that wasn’t answered here!” giving readers the opportunity to add their own input which the The New York Times style section team will then go through, adding to the list further. These could continue some of the sillier toned questions, or more detailed analytical queries such as the cost of the event. This is a question the publication has already researched into, displaying the mammoth cost but with a slight humour, translating the cost of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding into how many crumpets, pints of lager, or tuition fees at Oxford University the budget could have bought. The more serious implications and discussions that surround a royal wedding is an aspect Tracy hopes the publication will “investigate further as we get closer to the date”.
You can explore the full FAQ here, with the option to add your own queries too.
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