Nanna Särkkä

Nanna Särkkä

  • Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture
  • Department of Media
Participant in 2013

Phd Projects


Worlds apart? Editorial design as a practice and as an outcome

Editorial design is a quite little studied field between journalism and graphic design. It means the graphic design of journalistic products. This study examines the ways in which editorial design is understood in the production and in the reception, and what differences there are in the ways different actors (designers, journalists and readers) evaluate editorial design. Wide empirical data consisting of comments on editorial design have been gathered. The key components are 19 semi-structured interviews with art directors of different magazines and a diverse set of data collected during the redesign process of a Finnish financial newspaper in 2011–2012. The latter contains semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews and surveys with remarks on design choices at different stages by 1) in-house designers and journalists, 2) external experts and 3) readers. Additional data will most likely be collected in order to specify some results about the readers’ evaluations. The theoretical tools for inspecting the different understandings of editorial design come from social semiotics. As opposed to traditional structuralist semiotics, social semiotics sees that meanings and the signifier–signified relation depend on the social context and the intentions of the actors. Social semiotics’ benefit is its multimodal approach: it focuses on all forms, or modes, of communication, not just language. What modes are available varies according to the social context, too. For example, on the strength of the preliminary analysis typography is an important mode for the designers, whereas for the readers it isn’t: some typographic variables are signifiers for the designers but not for the readers. The data shows that there are very different approaches to editorial design. Designers’ orientations vary for instance from a designer focused approach to a reader focused one. Yet, the biggest difference seems to be between the designers and the readers. This difference is related to a common duality in design and journalism studies: whether design/journalism is seen as a practice or as an outcome. Designers tend to see editorial design as a practice, whereas readers see it as the outcome. Such unrecognized differences hinder communication about visual issues in the editorial offices and with the readers. This study is significant in that it draws parallels between the production and reception of visuality. In graphic design studies the emphasis has quite strongly been on production and products, whereas audiences have not been discussed that much.

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