Layout tip Tagesspiegel with statements by eight creatives from Europe
The Tagesspiegel has recently changed from the Nordic format to the tabloid format. It is a repositioning in terms of design and content. That’s why I invited seven art directors and creative directors and a media consultant to give their first impressions of the redesign. The colleagues come from Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Germany.
Facts about the Tagesspiegel
The paid circulation of the Tagesspiegel is 98,013 copies (IVW 3/2022). Of these, 44,471 copies are e-paper. The high e-paper share is good because it saves costs for printing and distribution. In comparison IVW 3/2002 to 3/2022 the Tagesspiegel has lost 33 per cent circulation. Other titles in Berlin have lost more than 70 per cent in the same period.
The e-paper strategy is also continued in the tabloid format: If you want to subscribe to the new Tagesspiegel, you can choose between e-paper every day or e-paper and printed newspaper on weekends. 34.99 euros a month is a fair price, because other regional newspapers cost considerably more by subscription. The e-paper also enables effortless distribution throughout Germany. The positioning as a national newspaper is therefore easily possible in terms of distribution.
The slogan: 40 pages from the world and 40 pages from the cosmopolitan city of Berlin
When switching to the tabloid format, newspapers generally become much thinner. The Tagesspiegel takes a different approach, offering 40 pages of national news and 40 pages of Berlin. These 80 pages correspond to 40 pages in the Nordic format and are ambitious. Comparable regional newspapers but also national newspapers have considerably fewer pages in broadsheet format: 24 to 28 pages, some 32 pages. The national newspaper Die Welt has had 16 pages for some time.
The Tagesspiegel could be successful where both newspaper sections could be interesting for readers: in Berlin and the surrounding area. In more distant regions, the Berlin section is uninteresting because there is no relationship to the city and its districts.
Update: In the radio interview with Jörg Wagner in the rbb media magazine of 3.12.2022, Lorenz Maroldt, editor-in-chief of the Tagesspiegel, said that changes to the perimeter are planned for the future: The national section would be thicker for national distribution and the local section thinner.
You can find the interview in this German-language Podcast from rbb Medienmagazin.
Advice for readers: Be patient!
A big redesign means big problems, a small redesign means small problems for the readers. The redesign of the Tagesspiegel is very big. That’s why I advise readers: Be patient, get used to the numerous changes and find the old familiar sections in the new layout. After about two weeks, take a look at the old newspaper. You will realise how old-fashioned the design and uncomfortable the format was.
All in all: congratulations!
The change to the tabloid format was an urgently needed step to attract new readers. The art directors I asked for statements on the design of the new format are very positive. The only criticism is a certain uniformity with the same article lengths and identical image sizes. But they only had the first new issue. A lot can happen in the future.
Front page from 28 and 29 November 2022
Comparison: last old, first new issue
In the comparison you can see that the break is not as extreme as one might assume. The Tagesspiegel was a serious-looking, text-heavy newspaper. This impression also remains in the tabloid format.
- + Newspaper head: The reduction to Tagesspiegel is good because it saves space. In the original, the motto was in a red band under a globe. This historicising element can be reinstalled in ten to twenty years. In the new design, the head appears distinctive and clear.
- + Headline: Good combination of headline and picture. This design is now common in many other daily newspapers in Germany.
- +- Teaser at the top: They are a bit too small. The pictures on the far left and right are also very small. Nevertheless, the teasers here have a purpose: they signal a variety of topics.
- +- Text lead: The first part of the headline is bold, the second normal. This design is also continued online. Successful cross-media typography. In the basic text, the generous column spacing is striking. The size of the basic font was not changed in the course of the redesign.
- – Notes on inside pages: They are very small and will not play a role in retail sales. The column is narrower than the others. This sliding column is used inside to break up the articles.
- + Advertisement: It is well placed here and also corresponds to the previous advertisement placement. It does not disturb the overall picture. An advertisement for a butcher’s shop, carpet dealer or funeral institute would be annoying. These should be avoided at all costs, because such advertisements contradict the claim of being a serious national newspaper
- – date, price etc.: These details are too close to the text, complains Martin Huisman, art director of Het Nieuwsblad, Belgium.
Start of the Berlin local section from 29 November 2022
This double page is in the Berlin section and marks the start of the local section.
- + Page title: It is larger than on the normal pages and makes it clear to the reader that something new is starting here.
- + Lead: The double page is actually almost exclusively dedicated to one topic, namely the demonstrators of “Last Generation”. The lead has this theme, the commentary on the left and the interview on the right of the page as well. Good structure that avoids long texts with monotonous grey areas. Image sizes are too small for a departmental front page.
- + Sliding column: It adds white space to the page and creates space for additions, quotes and small facts, here’s a figure: “8 minutes late the special vehicle arrived due to the traffic jam, according to the fire brigade.”
- + Structure in the text: Intermediate lines are double-spaced and well placed. Craftsmanship done quite right.
- +- Comments: They are single-column and placed on the extreme left or right of a page. They are uniformly designed with heading, italic heading, author picture and author name. Left-justified typesetting for the basic text would still have been possible. Within this concept, however, it would probably have been too vivid.
- + Interview: The italic headline marks this alternative text form. Question and answer are well distinguishable. The picture accompanying the article does not have good image editing. Also, the blocked vehicles could have been shown.
- + Messages: They occur on almost every page and are always on the outside. This signals a variety of topics that occur in this paper.
Meinungen zum Tagesspiegel im Tabloid-Format von acht Art-Directoren und Medienberatern
Marianne Bahl, Bahl Visuel Strategi, Copenhagen, DK
Marianne Bahl advises newspapers on visual strategy in print and online. She was, among other things, art director of the Copenhagen-based business newspaper Børsen, which is published in tabloid format. She is also one of the five directors of SND (Society for News Design, USA) She writes:
What a joy it is to experience the new design of Tagesspiegel. The navigation is clear, and the reader is easily guided through the newspaper e.g., due to the spacebands and the thematization of the top bar.
The journalistic strategy and concept has been reinforced. The use of many small journalistic elements invites the reader such as pull quotes, sub-headings, and fact boxes.
The new logotype has a strong expression and the font emphasises a more modern visual identity with a variety of typefaces.
We all know the devil is in the detail and here it appears in the consistency of the byline pictures, the column line count and the exact spaceband. The improvement of variation in photo perspectives is clear although the visual expression could rise even higher if more focused and sometimes larger images were prioritized. All in all, it is a pleasure to see such a thorough and bold design.
Prof. Joachim Blum, Editorial Consulting, D
Joachim Blum is an internationally active media consultant. He has been advising newspapers on digital transformation for many years. His clients include: The Telegraph, Calcutta, India, Il Secolo XIX, Italy, Times of Oman.
The long overdue step to the small tabloid offers only advantages: We finally have a handy and clear magazine format instead of the leaden Nordic Giant format. We have fewer lead deserts, but attractive pages where you no longer have to search. We have more pages that suggest a thicker product with more content.
Martin Huisman, Art-Director, Het Nieuwsblad, B
Martin Huisman was art director at De Morgen, a national newspaper in Belgium, and has now been with Het Nieuwsblad, a tabloid daily newspaper, for many years.
Amazing that the Nordic size still left its footprint in Berlin, last but not least they went to tabloid. At first sight the general feel doesn’t feel like a radical break with the former design. I like it that they didn’t try to cramp the big size into the tabloid.
There is an elaborate use of white space throughout the paper, accented by the generous gutters between the columns. I like how the gutters are being used for various functions. The typography looks fresher, although also more generic. Same is reflected in the new logo, stripped from the little (probably digital unfriendly) globe. Personally I like those details that give a logo an old fashioned tweak, but at the same time a less generic feeling. Anyway the front looks fresh. I don’t understand why they glued the barcode and prices almost against the text-grid.
The influence of the digital age is also seen in the use of the headlines where the hierarchy is typically digital in same size fonts in bold and roman. It adds to the very clear layout of the design, it also appears to lead to more headlines with question marks.
Overall I think the templates are very well executed. Navigation is also good. But don’t expect any more visual highlights when you keep turning the pages, even when you get to the Berlin-section, it all looks more or less the same. 80 pages is a lot to cover, I wonder if they can keep that up with the exponentially rising prices of paper.
Hans-Peter Janisch, Newspaper Designer, D
Hans-Peter Janisch has worked for newspapers in Slovenia, Kazakhstan, Austria, Luxembourg and Germany, among others. One of his latest works is the Fuldaer Zeitung, which relies very heavily on visual journalism.
There are really only two reasons to switch to tabloid format.
1. one is to save paper.
Given today’s paper prices, this is a perfectly understandable reason. However, when the number of pages is doubled, this is apparently not desired. The small tabloid then turns into a small book. Others have done the same. With the reader reaction “When am I going to read this?”
2. one wants to appeal to a younger readership with the small format.
All studies say: Young readers love small formats. Large newspapers often seem antiquated to them. The small format is more handy, more urban, more mobile. Quite simply younger. But if you do that, the content and presentation should also be tailored to a younger readership. There is a lack of progressive image layout, strong illustration, a lack of alternative narrative forms. Visual storytelling comes up short in the whole product. The Tagesspiegel is not a special-interest newspaper like the Handelsblatt, so the presentation of content should not be limited to text and images in order to appeal to a much more diverse audience. These days, you don’t attract new readers to the paper with small pictures and a sliding column that you’ve seen a hundred times before.
There is no doubt that the redesign of the Tagesspiegel is a solid piece of work.
But a redesign of a crisis-ridden medium should be much more innovative in 2022.
Dimitris Nikas, Art-Director Naftemporiki, GR
Dimitris Nikas has many years of experience at numerous Greek daily newspapers. Among others, he was art director of the newspapers Ta Nea and H Kathimerini.
The front page of old version was interesting at the top and flat and boring from the middle of the space and down. The logo was a bit overloaded, but it had an enthusiastic flair. The new version’s front page is minimalistic. I like it. The logo could be a little smaller (90%).
Inside pages are really more interesting. The use of the 4+1/2 grid is elegant and useful. The news and articles are well organised. The effort of the designers to avoid the “tabloid” look is noticeable. The Index at pages 2-3 is important at least for the first weeks so as to help the readers with the new (and many) pages.
The analogy picture-to-text is very well calculated. The pictures are in general appealing.The photos of the writers should have the same size and cropping, but I believe it is going to fixed it in the short future.
– The Wirtschaft page with the map and charts is elegant and impressive for an every-day issue.
– In a bars chart (Berlin page 1) the title and text is smaller than the normal body text. That gives the impression that the infographic is less important.
Supplementary boxes, break ups.
They could be more vivid, but on the there hand they keep a relaxing level.
Excellent link to the online newspaper.
Maybe it is difficult for the reader to understand the plethora of sizes at the big starting letters of the articles (5,4,3,or zero lines). It has to do with the size of the corresponding title.
The basic titles typeface is elegant. Could be more interesting and modern.
Redesign and reader.
Readers accept a radical redesign only if the new product is more useful and reasonably done. To me (not knowing the German reading habits) the new product looks better and works better. I also salut the minimising of the long texts, it is a daily after all!
The new Tagesspiegel is a really new newspaper. Modern? Rather not. But no one can take a risk ‘scaring’ the readers with something which goes even more far from what they could accept.
If this redesign proves to be successful, the next one should be more daring.
80 pages a day
I don’t know if this is cost-efficient, but surely it needs more people at all departments, for text and design.
Anna Thurfjell, Anna Thurfjell Design, Copenhagen, DK
Anna Thurfjell has worked as creative director at Svenska Dagbladet for twelve years. She has redesigned a number of newspapers in Scandinavia in print and digital. Her latest project is the redesign of 78 titles of the media group Mediatalo Keskisuomalainen, Finland.
I’m really impressed by the project ambition: The Tagesspiegel managed a clear rethink in both format and restructure of content. It’s a content, audience, and identity-driven redesign. — Bravo!
However when browsing trough the new tabloid sized newspaper I somehow lack pace and a bit more contrast. It’s clear where I am, but isn’t it a bit too monotonous? I notice many stories of the same size and visuals of the same size. I wish more prioritisation and contrast in page stories and more variation in visual formats.
A key page design element is the smaller column for facts, number and quotes. The pages really benefit from the air the smaller column gives.
The information graphics is modern and clear which add to the storytelling. I also see intelligent illustrations for a thoughtful readership; like the illustration on the Berlin section front: and page B 40. The man with the axe evidently lost his head on the inside page — that is a good play with the new leisure sport trend that reached Berlin; Ax throwing.
I approve to the new choice of typeface: ‘Abril’, designed by Type together, it’s a distinct typeface that creates a much better readability and even a warmer voice than what the previous typeface could manage in the old newspaper design. However I believe that the body text could have gotten a bit more love and attention.
Still this is a great improvement. The Tagesspiegel last but not least made a thourough work on the overall visual brand identity and title-piece. The redraw of the logos are crisp and improved to adapt to modern current tehnology for print and digital devices.
Congratulations to your fine work.
Alie Veenhuizen, Art-Director Leeuwarder Courant und Dagblad van het Noorden, NL
Alie Veenhuizen has many years of experience as an art director. Among other things, she was responsible for the conversion of the Leeuwarder Courant from full format to tabloid format. The newspaper was European Newspaper of the Year in 2012.
Although I am a fan of theNordic format, because of its distinctive character and because everyone is already switching to tabloid, the restyling is well done.
My first impression is good, more use of white, and the use of quotes and infoboxes works well. The use of white space at the top of the page is very nice. The fonts are also well chosen and easy to read.
It is clear that they use templates. That’s okay, that makes the pages tight and neatly, but also a bit boring. There could be a little more variation in the pages, a little more free design. Some pages look a bit full and gray with too much text. Make a choice: Occasionally create a whole page with a beautiful design or choose for a nice photopage or infographic.
The use of photos is not sparkling everywhere and the photo’s are sometimes too small. A little more use of infographics to explain something is an option as well.
Whether there is a gap in the market for another national newspaper, I find it difficult to answer. I don’t know how readers react to it.
I think I would continue to focus on regional, that’s where the stories are and you can distinguish with own stories and also in your photography. And maybe the reader will identify more with a regional newspaper.
Personally I think 80 pages is a lot to read and I doubt whether that is effective and cost-saving. Although the number of ads will make up a lot.
Professor Eberhard Wolf, Art-Director Luxemburger Wort, LUX
Professor Eberhard Wolf was, among other things, art director of the Süddeutsche Zeitung. In 2020, the daily newspaper Contacto from Luxembourg, which he designed, was the main prize winner at the European Newspaper Award. The Luxemburger Wort and Contacto are published in tabloid format.
When Norbert Küpper asked me to write an assessment of the redesign of the Berliner Tagesspiegel, I marched to the nearest train station to buy a copy of the newspaper. Contrary to my pessimistic assessment, I was able to buy one of three issues at the station kiosk in deepest Lower Saxony – cheers to distribution. So the newspaper of the capital is also reaching the provinces.
I was equally impressed by the thoroughly professional layout. Proportions, fonts, column width – everything fits and looks serious. One thing the design is not, however, is modern or experimental. Newspaper concepts in other European countries are more daring.
This applies above all to the use of pictures and illustrations. The picture sizes are all within a strikingly uniform framework. I miss a visual thrill in the current issue.
Modern newspapers today work more with illustrations or infographics. These are almost non-existent in the first issue after the redesign.
The visual calmness is perhaps due to the strikingly uniform design of the pages. For the most part, the pages are built according to the same pattern – a three-column main article with a sliding column and a column on the outside with one or more news items. The text volumes also appear standardised. The whole thing looks very much like a consistent model page concept. Compared to the Handelsblatt, however, the Tagesspiegel seems clearer and more inviting to read.
Personally, I like the concept of a pull-out local section. If you get rid of the Berlin pages, however, there is little left of the Tagesspiegel. The remaining national section is, in my opinion, insufficient for a nationwide claim. The visual appearance seems provincial. There is a lack of grandeur in terms of content and design.
The real revolution, however, is the reduction to tabloid format. Here, there was and is an eternal debate in the industry about whether the reader can be expected to accept a smaller format. As a dedicated user of public transport and someone who likes to look at his partner at the breakfast table, I am a self-confessed supporter of the tabloid. Beyond the German borders, this is no longer a discussion either, because the smaller newspaper formats are standard in surrounding countries. Perhaps it is a very German view to judge the importance of one’s newspaper by its format.
It cannot be ruled out that loyal subscribers to the Tagesspiegel will be frightened by the new format. In the long run, however, I see more advantages in the tabloid format, also from the point of view of sustainability. From an ergonomic point of view, the stitching of the two parts of the newspaper is also to be welcomed.
Despite all the positive criticism, however, there is one double-page spread that can be considered sub-optimally designed: pages 2 and 3. It is not only due to the large corner field display on the right-hand side that the table of contents appears confusing. The individual content blocks on the left are hardly noticeable. Perhaps the respective pointed mark should have been placed closer to the respective title line, likewise the “stamp collection” in the middle of page 2 could do with a little more pointing. The cartoon looks like a foreign body in the context of the content.
Overall, the relaunch of the Tagesspiegel is well done. However, I would like to see a little more courage and determination with regard to a more modern and pointed visual language.
Contents page 2 and 3
With 80 pages, a table of contents can be useful. The small photos with tears are interesting eye-catchers. The portrait pictures with the quotations are also interesting for the reader. It is questionable whether this double-page spread is heavily used. Art director Eberhard Wolf criticises the pages as being too fragmented.
Articles usually go over one page. These two politics pages are quite typical. The use of the sliding column is very good here.
Spread in the centre of the newspaper
Other newspapers in Europe have a big picture of the day here. The Tagesspiegel has the big interview. The art directors criticise that the picture is too small. Overall, this double-page spread signals seriousness through the text-image ratio. The use of the sliding column is also well done here.
Comparison online print
The typography of the headlines with the change from bold to normal is done in online and print. Good cross-media typography.
This layout tip was published on 2 December 2022, updated on 5 December 2022, English version on 8 December 2022.