You did a degree in Journalism but it was clear right away that your thing was not to write, but to design. At this point, to be a good press designer, do you have to be a journalist or, at least, have knowledge of journalism or is it not necessary?
Being a good graphic designer, as well as being a good journalist, is something that you learn over time, but I consider press design as part of journalism: in it everything depends on how you place things, what you give it to more importance or how you structure the narrative … that is, the way you want to tell a story. This is also journalism and, however, in certain Spanish communication media, it is still considered that design is there, but it is not given the importance it really has. Fortunately, now in journalism schools not only are they beginning to teach writing, but they also teach notions of design.
“Sport is governed by emotions, and that makes that information derive to the merely emotional”
I confess that I know for a fact that in most of the Spanish newspapers we have our tug of war between editors and designers. We (the editors) want to write more and they (the designers) want to make the design look better. Who do you think will win this battle?
The one who has to win the battle is the reader and, for that, it is necessary that the one who wins is the story that is told. I have experienced the situation you mention to me: editors tend to want to write more but, sometimes, they do not realize that the reader loses the thread of what is being told. I tell you this as I also recognize that, sometimes, there are designers who sin to bet because it “looks nice” and, for this, they reduce the text, with which the story remains loose. The reasonable thing is that there is a balance and that both, the editor and the designer, must reach an agreement so that, in any case, the story wins, and that means, I reiterate, that we must always think about the reader. For me, for example, the least thing is that the design looks pretty; the important thing is that the structure makes sense so that the story grows.
There are many journalists who choose this career because we liked to write. Are we an endangered species at this point?
Nerd. Not at all. It happens that, right now, we are at a time when there are many ways to tell a story, and all of them are equally valid. In today’s journalism, sometimes the same tendency is to publish small texts than to publish pages in which everything is text. It all has to do with the way you arrange the text on the page so that it does not become heavy or difficult to read. I love long text-only stories, and I also believe that text continues to be the foundation of a newspaper.
«I believe in the survival of the paper. His reading is more calm, reflective and deep »
What is more important for a reader to be encouraged to read a story: a good headline or a good design?
It depends a lot. Today, almost 80 percent of people read things only on mobile, and there what works the most is a good headline. But best of all, I insist, is that it is a good story. In this sense, I think that, fortunately, we have already left the stage of cheating headlines whose only objective was to get a ‘click’, and we are returning to the journalism of before, which is to try to tell the story already in the headline. Later, whether you keep reading or not, there is a lot to do with design. Now, being what I am, that is, a designer, I think that design, the less it is noticed, the better.
Sometimes it seems that the design of paper newspapers tends to copy trends in audiovisual information, that is, that an image (the image) is worth more than a thousand words. Is this good or bad?
You cannot generalize but, in any case, what you cannot do is transfer the digital model to paper because they are absolutely different things, just as the ways of reading a digital medium through a mobile phone are different from a paper newspaper. There are designers who, as you say, fall for that but, for example, in the United States, newspapers like The New York Times have blocks of text on paper that seem endless. But that’s because what its readers want is to read and, if possible, to read it well: good handwriting, good line spacing, spaces … well, as with books.
One of his specialties is infographics. Can you tell a pandemic like the one we are suffering based on infographics – and here we get into the field of big data – and that the reader is perfectly informed?
I get the impression that yes, that visual information engages very well with the average reader. I like to test my infographics with all kinds of people to make sure they understand each other well, and the truth is that I am quite satisfied. Because, after all, infographers work with codes that are already in society and infographics work very well to explain certain processes and data. In fact, in this pandemic we have seen how infographics have grown because there are things that are explained much better like this, in the same way that there are other things that are better explained with photos or texts. The fundamental thing is to make them understandable, that the information arrives, go.
“Through the infographics it can be perfectly explained what is happening”
Spanish sports newspapers are betting on a line related to what we said before: imitating digital, drastic reduction of texts, proliferation of cutting … Is this relevant to be better informed about sports?
Sports is a delicate subject because it is governed by emotions, and that is why the information often derives from the merely emotional. But it is that sport is like that, almost the most passionate issue that I can think of, and for the record that the sports media have very great columnists and analysts. It is very difficult for me to talk about the daily sports newspapers because I find it very difficult to fill them. If I made a sports newspaper, I would try to tell calmer, more thoughtful stories, with more infographics … that is, to rationalize the information a bit, but I am aware that it would be very difficult for me.
He has been working at The Washington Post for a few months, but I suppose he will have had time to learn about the basic lines of design in the big US newspapers, which are the ones that, sooner or later, will reach Europe, Spain, the Canary Islands.
Yes, it is clear that they are the trendsetters. I have been a reader of The Washington Post and The New York Times since I was in college and, therefore, I already had more or less controlled how design works in the American press and, in that regard, I have not been much surprised . What has surprised me is how they work and the means at their disposal. Editing, for example, has absolutely nothing to do with the things that are done here. And I’ll give you an example: if in El País, I had two people to edit an infographic, here I have 8 or 10. I also admire the process and the rigor they have before publishing something.
“Who has to win all the battles in journalism is the reader, not those who exercise it”
There is a future for the press that is published on paper. And if there is, how will it be?
We have been “killing” paper for more than twenty years and although it is true that lately there has not been such a disproportionate difference between advertising that went to paper and that which went to digital publishing, I believe in the survival of paper insofar as it is read it is calmer, more reflective, deeper even. And, on the other hand, it is quite clear that local and regional newspapers have better prospects in this “battle” than national ones. Regarding the latter, I have the impression that, at the same time that the contents and the pages will be lowered from Monday to Friday, on the contrary, the weekend editions will be strengthened, with long stories, with deeper treatments of the information , with a greater cultural profile and with the intention of telling you and explaining well what has happened throughout the week.
But that also carries a risk: that the paper press becomes a minority, only suitable for certain social circles.
The Washington Post is only sold on paper in Washington and Maryland, and instead our digital edition has millions of readers around the world, but beware! Surely that does not happen to any local / regional media like LA PROVINCIA, where logically the paper edition has not only the present, but also the future, because I am sure that it will live many more years than that of the national newspapers.