The Hindu was not just a redesign but a total rethink: Mario Garcia

In conversation with e4m, the newspaper designing legend talks about his works, the changing media landscape of print in the digital age, and his creative process

e4m by Shantanu David
Published: Sep 22, 2022 8:45 AM  | 5 min read

Over the course of his long, storied career, legendary newspaper and magazine designer Dr Mario Garcia has left an indelible mark on the Indian print media industry. From creating the widely appreciated look for Hindustan Times Mint to multiple redesigns of HT itself, and most recently, the complete revamping of The Hindu’s design on the occasion of the newspaper’s 144th year anniversary, Garcia has influenced how millions of Indians approach their morning newspaper.

Over the course of his work as Founder and CEO of Garcia Media, based out of New York, he has worked as a design/editorial consultant in 120 countries, with projects for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), New Straits Times (Malaysia) and Aftenposten (Norway).

exchange4media spoke to the veteran designer about his latest work with The Hindu, the changing media landscape of print in the digital age, and his creative process.

Edited excerpts:

You've had a long history of association with the Indian media. Could you encapsulate how it all began? And how it has unfolded over the years?

SPAN, the magazine published by the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, has honoured me with a profile focused on my work in India since 1999, when I first visited Delhi’s Hindustan Times. Since then, I have worked with Malayala Manorama, The Week, The Hindu, Sportstar, Business Line, Frontline magazine, Midday, Sakshi, Saakal Times and the creation of the financial daily, Mint.

What are your own favourite redesigns or original designs that you've done over the years?

It is difficult to single out one project (out of more than 750), just like it is difficult for a parent to single out a favourite child.  Each project is unique in scope, challenges, and the far-reaching effect it may have on audiences. In my latest book, The Story, I single out three projects that stand out as especially challenging, but, in the end, with great results. For me, those are Die Zeit (Germany), The Wall Street Journal (USA) and El Tiempo (Colombia). Each presented a different challenge and all are legacy, iconic newspapers in their respective environments.  Each began the process of rethinking and redesigning with editors sceptical of change, but, yet, in the end, these three titles went for big and long-lasting changes.

Could you talk about your redesign of The Hindu? What was your inspiration?

The Hindu is a familiar title to me, as I have worked on previous transformations of its design. This time, however, the challenge was greater: how to make a legacy, iconic print newspaper viable, interesting and essential, in the mobile era.  This was not just a redesign but a total rethink, with major emphasis on the newsroom becoming a mobile-first operation. We trained the journalists to tell stories specifically to be consumed on the small screens of telephones.  I worked with a talented internal team and was happy to see so many young journalists who think digitally now joining the ranks of The Hindu. I am inspired by The Hindu’s history, its authenticity and history for readers in southern India. The Hindu is, indeed, a national journalistic treasure, and my team and I did all we could to maintain a sense of elegance and gravitas with the new design across platforms.

With the huge pivot towards digital, how have your print media designs evolved over the years? Has digitization influenced your designs?

There is no question that many readers who read in print bring with them ideas and habits formed while consuming news digitally.  However, each platform is different. How we write, edit and design for mobile consumption are a bit different from the way we do so via print. In fact, even reading on the small canvas of a phone is different from how the eye moves on the larger screen of a desktop or laptop computer, and vastly different from how we consume content on printed pages. The reader of today is more impatient and demanding, and comes to our content already knowing more than his predecessors did ten years ago. It is the job of the journalist in the mobile era to advance stories, to tell the reader more and to dig deep into the why of stories, knowing that readers are already aware of the essentials of content. Indeed, challenging times. Our work with The Hindu is all about adapting journalistic practices to the mobile era and how we consume news today.  Unquestionably, digital modes of reading have migrated to print and we must take that into account, with 82% of readers consuming content on mobile devices.

Finally, could you briefly take us through your process of coming up with a new design, in particular the time it takes and the various processes and teams it evolves over and through?

Usually, my projects are divided into four stages: briefing (getting all the information necessary to understand why transformation is needed, and the type of change that is called for in the project), sketching (when my team and I get to put ideas down to present to the editors - this process is key, as it is where the briefing information translates into visible concepts), prototyping (taking the designs to reality, by creating actual screens and pages to review in the prototype stage), implementation (the launch day, which is the beginning of how the change will be presented to the audience). But it is not the end. For 3 months following the launch, we monitor the progress of the new concept, review feedback and incorporate necessary changes. These four steps have proved functional to us at Garcia Media, but we understand that how they develop is different for each project. Sometimes many prototypes are needed to get to one final concept that is acceptable to all. Sometimes we nail it in one prototype.

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