Designer Jonathan Duncan has led the new redesign of the Waltham Forest Echo and here explains how local history has helped shape it
Any design approach that seeks to meaningfully engage with an area, community or place should be committed to revisiting its past, to read into what is, and what was, present, and how the local people shaped it.
Neglecting this stage of a design process would result in an imposition, a projection of what one assumes of many, which would misguide the process and ensure the results are poorer for it.
Above Vestry House Museum, like an attic for the collected memory of the area, is stored the local archives that initiated the research that later informed the design of the newspaper. While a family studied 18th century maps to recover a picture of a distant relative’s life, we researched Waltham Forest’s newspaper past and present, accelerating through decades of time on microfilms, and learning the historical symbolism of Waltham Forest’s coat of arms.
Research which has been distilled for the modern day and is echoed in the newspaper’s mark as well as the layout.
The fundamental conflicts that had to be navigated during the process of redesign was to avoid the newspaper feeling ‘corporate’, while also ensuring that none of the visual references were in any way muddled or suggestive of the endemic transformation that gentrification is having on most boroughs in London.
The design and layout has hence been conducted with a confident sense of simplicity, preserving only what is functional, and nothing more. This simplicity has been imbued by the Royal Institute of Blind People’s guidance on design and typography for people with low vision or sight difficulties.
These considerations preoccupied the design decisions and led to the clear typographic hierarchy that soberly distinguishes between the various elements on the page, while using typefaces that have been specifically designed for editorial use to maximise readability.
The ‘white space’ of the pages – thought of not just as the paper the newspaper is printed on – has been left quiet where possible, and has instead been used to bring an overall sense of lightness to the pages and transparency to the articles.
The headline typeface, ‘Doves Type’, is a digital recreation of a typeface reclaimed from the riverbed of the Thames. The metal type, as was used in the day, was committed to the river off Hammersmith Bridge between the dates of August 1916 and January 1917, by T.J. Cobden Sanderson following the collapse of his relationship with his business partner and co-owner of Doves Press, Emery Walker.
Both men were part of a group of artists and craftsmen that gathered around William Morris – who was famously born in Walthamstow – and are considered to have been significant contributors to the Arts and Crafts Movement. Using some 150 pieces of the original metal type, designer Robert Green has resurrected that typeface, considered by some to be forever lost.
It has been our attempt to redesign the newspaper with a neutral, open and approachable stance that has given a suitable form to the writing within the newspaper, written by the community, for the community.
If you find that you are unable to read the newspaper fluently, articles will later be made available online where they can be read at your preferred type size, or through a diction programme.
Please send any comments you have on the new design to @tobe_averb on Twitter, or email [email protected]