Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The Independent's new look: Madame Arcati review
Certain darling Arcatistes have messaged me privately imploring me to cast my eyes on the redesigned Independent. It's not as if I haven't other things to do. I'm busy. But as I sit here drinking a lunchtime latte mocchiato from my Tassimo coffee machine - barcoding has never been put to better use - I succumb to blandishment and compromise by summoning up the front page. Only.
To quote the No 1 single of the moment: omg! I am utterly appalled. Return editor Simon Kelner simply has not a clue about visual seduction. The Mail grabs and molests and you yield against better judgement; the Telegraph emits a tractor beam with its high-low mix of hoity-totty. Even the ghastly Express catches your attention with a waggle of a varicose veined pin before you hurry past. But the Independent! I just don't want to look at it. It makes me feel all Hannah Montana and want to go ew!
Why can't Kelner simply steal some ideas from other papers if he can't master the idiom of sexy look?
Now, of all the papers, the Indy is my least unfavourite. Its mind is in the right place, it does not demand the return of the Coliseum, it doesn't hire tomb-toothed loony James Delingpole; atheistically, it's on the side of the angels. The case for the Indy is a good one. New owner Alexander Lebedev potentially has a great asset here. So why the hell (to use a Carole Malone-ism) can't it get its face right?
Where to start? First, why all that white space to the right of the headline? How many trees were felled for that art statement? A front page must demand our instant interest; there's no time for lolling. If a paper wants stylised it must commit not omit. The only case for white space on a front page is a signposted area for reader shopping lists or moustache doodling - a playpen for idlers. And is "Goldmans" literate? Is the plural accepted use for Goldman Sachs? It just doesn't read right.
And what's with the fancy font for the new Viewspaper? You expect to see those squiggles on wedding invites or Valentine's cards or in a movie starring Margaret Lockwood - for lickle sticky-out finger occasions when silly tarts dress like Jordan and the men breathe in for the cummerbund.
Logically and aesthetically, the front page makes no sense. The Indy primarily is a read paper. One way to signal this fact is to have plenty of words on the page and several stories. What we have instead is the one story body copy squashed down at the bottom in favour of a hideous great plane and a dumb monster screamer (with tabloid exclamation mark). The overall sell is basically tabloid though the product is broadsheet all but in size. What is Kelner thinking of?
The only thing going for this front page is the come-on for Gauguin's Girls in the bottom right hand corner, featuring a patch of female pubis: an advert for the editor's cock-cunting inclination no doubt because it would be hard to imagine, say, a naked Alex Reid here with his flaccid four-incher hanging down like a rotten corgette.
Oh no. Must do better. The overall impression is that of a local newspaper with airs. This may work if the paper does go freebie. But not if you're looking for cash.