Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet 2008 is a publication that's been dropping through letter boxes over the last few days.
Russell and I thought it would be interesting to take some stuff from the internet and print it in a newspaper format. Words as well as pictures. Like a Daily Me, but slower. When we discovered that most newspaper printers will let you do a short run on their press (this was exactly the same spec as the News Of The World) we decided to have some fun.
We only printed 1,000 and they're all individually hand numbered.
In this post I'd like to elaborate on the design of it and explain some things I learned during the process.
From the outset there were two things I wanted to avoid.
Firstly I wanted to avoid a pastiche of a newspaper, complete with a crossword and a weather section. I hate stuff like that.
Secondly I wanted to avoid looking it like a newspaper that a designer had been let loose on. Graphics every-fucking-where. Something you might see from a bad brand. There's one out at the moment from Lush that betrays the format. Horrible and ugly.
Not our newspaper, no, no, no.
But I wanted to make use of the familiarity of the newspaper format and the vernacular.
It's notoriously hard to design something from a complete blank canvas. No house style, no corporate fonts, no brand colours, nothing. So I tried to make life easy for myself wherever possible. We call this reducing the enemies. To me this is what good design is about, reducing the enemies.
The brief was to be able to read it in bed without glasses on. So I wanted the type to biggish and nice and clear. No Ray Gun typography around here. You remember, readable.
I looked around for typographic styles I liked. In the ideal world it would be law that all books have to state what font they're set in on the inside cover. In reality this doesn't happen much. Much less than you imagine. Even design books don't say very often. I settled on Plantin because that's what Monocle use. 9 on 11. Simple, classic and reliable.
I chose a 5 column grid becuase that seems to be the grid used by most good looking European newspapers these days. Although I was tempted by Hayman and Scher's 6 column Khaleej Times.
I wanted one type style across the whole paper for body copy, but I wanted to have some fun with the headlines. On most of these I've tried to add a little typographic humour or cute reference (which is kind of why I chose Monocle's Plantin for the body copy).
For example the headline for Mad Men: Pitch Perfect is set in Futura because that was one of the only fonts around at the time the series was set. (Remember the furore last year when it was pointed out that most of the fonts used in the programme wouldn't have existed at the time?). I set the headline for Matt Jones' article in the Dopplr font, and so on.
The cover is set in Gotham, because that was the font used throughout the Obama campaign and obviously the font of last year. It's in 96pt becuase that was the super size the NYT used when Obama got elected. It folds over to be read as two halves because Russell was speaking at a Guardian conference and I thought it would look cool if he held up the Written On The Internet 2008 half.
I very quickly realised how important ads are to a newspaper. And not just for monetary reasons. They usefully fill all those awkward little spaces where there's no text. Without them the document feels dull and lifeless. Unpunctuated like a copy of Ulysses. Too much text. A lot of the posts had pictures, but where they didn't we used pictures from Flickr or just white space. Again I wanted it to be like a newspaper, without pastiching a newspaper.
Similarly the bit at the top looked very naked without a running header. The printer requires each page to have a folio so I added a keyline and some of our favourite Tweets from the year. It felt better with that furniture.
This Tweet is a quote taken from Michael Bierut's book. It sits above his article.
We didn't edit any posts at all. So they're full of typos and a lot of the columns end in strange places. This is an odd phenomenon. In a real publication the Sub Editor would shout for a few less (or more) words to make it fit just right. No sub editing here. But as Jeremy points out "The result is a tidy but raw blog-like feel that deals with presentation in a very matter-of-fact manner." That's more eloquent than I could have put it, but that's exactly what I was going for.
Given the chance to design something however you want, you've got to have a little fun haven't you? So I made a small list of things I'd like to see. Some great big dirty Helvetica is always a winner.
I wondered what Emigre's Mrs Eaves would feel like in a more humble, less designery scenario. Looks great if you ask me.
All those Mars Phoenix Twitters were crying out to be printed. I added a few little extras in here that no-one has spotted yet.
A great big full bleed picture. Unfortunately you can't do full bleed, but this is good enough. I wanted this to be like a pull out poster.
And I wanted some nice 100/100 red. We took everyone's content without asking, which we were terribly worried about. We put a big disclaimer in there (and sorry again if you're reading this and you're angry with us) and we tried to make sure authors got copies before anyone else (again sorry if you haven't got one yet, drop me a line and I'll chase that up.) But we obviously needed a way a crediting people. So I designed this little device. This isn't the stuff of design legend, but it took a while to get right and it sort of holds the whole thing together. I deliberately only used two colours (reducing the enemies again) so the red added some much needed vibrancy.
The baseline grid. Oh yes, the baseline grid. Let's be honest this is the sort of thing you know you need to know about. And you do know about, you know, sort of. But. Do you really know about it? Of course you do if you work on a magazine or a newspaper, but when was the last time you used one?
I almost re-taught myself how to use a baseline grid. I certainly re-read all about it and it pretty much saved my life.
"Last night a Baseline Grid saved my life". Seriously, it's so important and so useful for a project like this. All that is obvious but I wanted to restate it.
One last thing. When you print one of these you have to go and see it being printed. For all us sufferers of the Design Disease, that's like manna from heaven. Watch.
Newspaper Machines from russelldavies on Vimeo.
Good eh? There are loads more pictures in this Flickr set. There's lots more I could say. But you're probably all bored now, so you'll have to catch me in the pub.
People seem to like it. It's appearing all over Flickr. Lots of nice people have described it as beautiful which is more praise than I could have hoped for. I particularly like Jim Coudal's "whip smart and beautiful". I'm very pleased with that.
I should also thank Alex who helped us with a few speads.
So, the Really Interesting Group is the new thing I'm a partner in.
It's an experimental organisational structure, aptly described by Matt from Channel 4 as doing "projects for fun, money, or both". I say experimental as we're trying to make the structure different from a typical creative start up limited company, but that's for another time.
If you'd like to know more before then, drop me an email or pick up the phone. And if you'd like a copy of the newspaper pop over here and send us your details.
* Title borrowed from Moleitau.
Blimey, you did quite a lot didn't you? You should have said, I could probably have done quite a lot of that in powerpoint.
Posted by: russell | Jan 14, 2009 at 18:28
So here's the big question: How much did it cost? Definitely curious! Let us know!
Posted by: M.J. Parker | Jan 14, 2009 at 18:35
passion. that´s what i see and most value of this.
Posted by: facu | Jan 14, 2009 at 19:08
Fantastic. Just the sort of thing I could imagine you'd come up with.
Posted by: AndrewK | Jan 14, 2009 at 19:58
The internet made better by the paper, and now the paper made better by the internet.
Posted by: Paul H. Colman | Jan 14, 2009 at 20:27
I noticed the Clarendon thing. That was a nice touch. Thank you. I am definitely not angry.
Posted by: Anne | Jan 14, 2009 at 21:15
just sent my details off to get one sent to me. Can't wait to take a leisurely stroll through your paper
Posted by: Jesse | Jan 14, 2009 at 21:35
Great post Ben.
Posted by: dan | Jan 14, 2009 at 22:42
Which came first, the idea or the collection of the content in your memories or somewhere else?
Posted by: John | Jan 15, 2009 at 10:31
This is brilliant, how can I get one?
Is it for sale somewhere?
Posted by: Laurent Domenech | Jan 15, 2009 at 11:05
Lovely stuff. I do like a nice bit of newsprint.
Looking forward to getting one of these in the post. The integration of print & the internet is an interesting area, definitely under-used.
Posted by: Ryan | Jan 15, 2009 at 12:14
Really interesting indeed. And good point about baseline grids!
Posted by: Hannah | Jan 15, 2009 at 14:20
Great stuff – can't wait for Mr Postman to deliver mine!
Posted by: Daniel | Jan 15, 2009 at 14:33
I'm not either...really.
Posted by: Richard | Jan 15, 2009 at 16:27
I loved the post.
I have a simple question, and sorry for my ignorance, but what exactly he meant with a "100/100 red"?
Posted by: Marcos | Jan 16, 2009 at 07:24
your baseline grid is ok (maybe a bit widely leaded for a newspaper) but wheres your cap-height grid?
and adverts are the ENEMY of newspapers. you should see what we could do without the crappy things (on which our entire business model is precariously balanced on, so unlikely we'll see the back of them), which brings us to the cols.. which are broadly based on the demands of advertisers rather than the desires of designers.. as almost all newspapers are tabloid now, ad agencies only need to supply one size of ad that can be slotted into most newspapers. they charge their clients per ad, so if they have to resize, the client gets another bill. when we did the berliner it took A YEAR to convince our commercial department and then for them to convince advetisers that a new ad size wouldnt be such a bad thing. hence our more slow and more elegant (we think) 5 col grid. My guess the pentagram 6 col would be solely based on ads. i could be wrong tho..
have i bored you yet?
good work though, nice to see people fucking with the format
and 100/100 is 100% magenta, 100% yellow that makes red marcos.
Posted by: richard | Jan 16, 2009 at 11:03
Oh feck all gone. Really liked the look but I did want to smell the ink too.
An likelyhood of a reprint?
Posted by: DeepSpin (Dave Spathaky) | Jan 16, 2009 at 12:07
love it. I'd take that over the london lite any day ;-)
Posted by: dan burgess | Jan 16, 2009 at 17:42
I have no idea how much this cost, but in my experience it's not crazily expensive to do print runs of a certain volume.
I used to take our student rag to get printed at News International plant in Stratford; it was reasonable-ish.
Posted by: Bobbie | Jan 17, 2009 at 04:57
I'd really love to read more about your «experimental organisational structure» you used to describe your Really Interesting Group thing!
Posted by: Oliver | Jan 17, 2009 at 12:47
Posted by: Hans | Jan 17, 2009 at 13:52
Posted by: Tom | Jan 19, 2009 at 11:05
This is absolutely fantastic. Such a great idea. My only disappointment is that I've only just read this post and seen that they've sold out. I would have loved a copy.
Like others, I'd love to get an idea of how much something like this cost.
Posted by: Neil Martin | Jan 20, 2009 at 00:22
Great idea and really well executed! Well done Ben and Russell - and thanks for my copy...
Posted by: Andy | Jan 20, 2009 at 09:39
Ironically, it looks to me as if a designer HAS been let loose on it, much more so than the Lush piece.
Posted by: Dave | Jan 22, 2009 at 03:10
Did any of the writers get paid for their work (not necessarily by you--just paid for writing by anyone)?
Posted by: Virginia Postrel | Jan 22, 2009 at 04:07
That is so boss. Great idea mate - it looks so good I want to lick it. You guys got plans to do another run - or maybe make it biannual with a mid-year round up. I want to get my paws on a copy.
Posted by: Dirk | Jan 22, 2009 at 23:40
Brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing the process.
Posted by: Christine Prefontaine | Jan 23, 2009 at 05:51
The paper just came in, it's super fantastisch! thanks!!
Posted by: Sjors | Jan 23, 2009 at 13:53
Seems there was none left for me when I ordered 17 days ago? *sniff*
Posted by: Oliver | Jan 28, 2009 at 09:57
How much did this cost to print? Please tell us!!!
Posted by: Ian Harris | Jan 28, 2009 at 10:48
Mine's here. Thrilled. Can't wait to read it.
Posted by: Ben Locker | Jan 29, 2009 at 17:08
Got mine in the mail. Thanks a million.
Hope you don't mind if we sort of, uhm, borrow the concept for a Finnish version. Or let's just say that I was very inspired by it.
Posted by: OlliS | Jan 30, 2009 at 12:44
I just received my copy… thank you so much! can't wait to dive in over the weekend. Ld
Posted by: len | Jan 30, 2009 at 21:27
Received mine today. Thanks a lot. It looks really great.
Posted by: Tony Unruh | Jan 31, 2009 at 19:06
Looks great! No.944 is sitting here in Luxembourg. Thanks a lot for sending it over guys!
Posted by: luxbrand | Feb 02, 2009 at 10:25
Any chance for a PDF version now that the printed edition is sold out?
Posted by: richard | Feb 03, 2009 at 05:11
Thanks for my copy #666 ;) Very nice idea, loved it!
Posted by: gis | Feb 03, 2009 at 09:27
Hey, cool article (and cool project). Could you explain a little further what you mean exactly by "reducing the enemies"? My girlfriend and I are interpreting it differently :)
Posted by: Jurie | Feb 16, 2009 at 19:16
hey how you doing! Nice posting. I enjoyed reading it. I too run a blog on internet and traffic building, and checking
out what others may have written.
Posted by: Traffic Building | Mar 27, 2009 at 04:27
What about the copyright issue?
The stuff on the internet could be just lifted from another source then another then another.
Its a murky area at must.
Posted by: Ewen Siah | Apr 12, 2009 at 09:26
This is great stuff. Very sexy. Just the kind of thing I like to do the most.
Posted by: Matt | May 08, 2009 at 15:30
Really enjoyed the session at TD, many thanks for the'newspaper' - handing it over to my journalism dept at Teesside uni.
Posted by: Warren Harrison | May 18, 2009 at 19:57
Nice stuff, does anyone have a ballpark figure on how much this cost?
Posted by: Tom | Jun 05, 2009 at 18:23
So can you tell me what's the purpose of wasting paper and ink? LOL
Posted by: azala | Jun 17, 2009 at 23:02
This is gonna huge, i just cant belive it that i am standing at a great blog of my life, i am really glad to have my comment here in very decent topic. thanks to webmaster.
Posted by: Acomplia | Jul 23, 2009 at 14:42
nice job guys on this... i started The Printed Blog www.theprintedblog.com in January of last year. we did 16 issues, printed and distributed, in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and LA. after blowing through around 300k, i had to shut the business. you can read about it at blog.theprintedblog.com. as i've done this exact business before, there might be things i can help with... if you'd like to chat, feel free to reach out. kindly... josh, founder and publisher, the printed blog (jkarp at theprintedblog dot com)
Posted by: Jkarp | Mar 16, 2010 at 18:39