Here in the confused and confusing crisis that is contemporary life, we all seem to crave the same thing: openness. From our politicians to our newspapers, there’s an increasing sense of desire to be kept in the loop with everything and everyone at all times. Tried of being lied to and put off the scent by spin doctors and editorial directors with their hands in the pockets of big business, we ask for, and desperately want, transparency.
To that end, American finance publication The Wall Street Journal has recently decided to launch a new online platform which gives readers an insight into the design decisions that go on day in, day out, at the paper.
Che Douglas, head of design at the Journal, tells It’s Nice That that there were three primary reasons as to why the WSJ decided to allow readers a glimpse into the newsroom. It wanted to educate the audience about why design-led decisions had been decided upon; there was a desire to attract new talent to bring on board; and a noble aim to instil a sense of purpose amongst the design teams.
Giving the reader a chance to examine everything from how the design teams approach raising the quality of their mobile advertising offerings to analyses of how they create a visual language for online video content, WSJ Design was born of Che’s desire to raise the profile of design at the publication both internally and externally.
“When readers are getting their news I don’t think they are thinking about the design, nor should they,” Che says when we ask if he feels general readers are more design-savvy than ever before. “However, they do recognise more interface patterns than they used to but it is still our job to make the experience intuitive, easy and accessible to as many readers as possible.”
He goes on to state that, the “best” design is stuff that “just works,” and that “the meaning of labels, for instance, shouldn’t be open to interpretation between different cultures, ages and socio-economic groups.”
Che feels that it is almost “impossible” to overestimate the importance the role of design plays in how readers consume news in the digital sphere, given that while the two have always been “inseparable,” they now have to be “joined at the hip”, constantly.
“The digital news landscape is infinitely more complex than I’m sure anyone could have ever imagined and designers play a critical role in helping translate and present all the nuances of news in clear and easily understandable formats,” says the man from the WSJ. “The designers will always be the ones to speak on behalf of the user and I don’t know how you can ever overestimate the importance of that.”
Most of us want truth spoken to power, and accordingly, most of us want to see the newspapers and magazines and websites we use to gain a glimpse of understanding into what the world is, how it works, and why it works the way it does, treat us, the reader, with the respect that comes from being open and clear. We ask Che if he thinks that allowing readers insight into how publications are created played a role in this.
“Yes, 100% – the people bringing journalism to the world and sharing the how, why and what behind that work is very educational – giving people a better understanding of how we are trying to tell stories and best represent journalism in its purest form,” Che says. “This kind of transparency is incredibly important to me and adds another dimension to the customer relationship – ultimately building more trust with our readers.”