Think Tank

Grégory Leduc, Editorial Designer: “It is always the content that guides the form and not the other way around”

Greg defines himself as an Editorial Designer who helps media transform to better engage their readers through content, products, and aesthetics that emphasise their messages and boost their impact. We discover his unique career path; one that seem him become indispensable to so many website, application, newspaper and magazine redesigns.
His convictions in a nutshell? The importance of hierarchy, reading comfort and creativity!

David Sallinen – Your background is impressive! You are 100% dedicated to the visual transformation of newspapers, media websites and professional magazines. What make you become an Editorial Designer for digital and print?

Gregory Leduc – Actually, during my graphic design studies, I had a passion for journalism so while I was in graphic design school, I decided to specialise in editorial design rather than choosing advertising, packaging or illustration or any other field…

At the time, I was trying to redefine press layouts. Indeed, for me, it was much more than simply designing layouts, it was necessary to understand the history of a title, its identity, in order to master its editorial line, to know its readers, its distribution in a given territory, etc. It was a project that encompassed the whole of the media industry and encompassed so many facets, that required a complete reflection, much further than a simple visual identity project. It was this global dimension that interested me. So once I had graduated, I was only too eager to bang on the door of an editorial office to put it into practice and orchestrate it in a way that was personalised/adapted to each brand. This is what I did and continue to do because I have never left the world of the press. And that passion remains as strong as ever to this day.

Gregory Leduc’s projects

DS – In an increasingly competitive media world, where visuals are vital to branding, what should a media brand be looking out for to assert its print and digital presence? What are the trends to follow?

GL – First of all, be sure of your information and your brand! Titles must stand tall in their boots and do journalism…  For some time now, we have known that practices are changing, as are the ways in which news is processed and accessed, because the world is constantly evolving. Of course, we have to follow trends, understand where readers are, how they get their information, but the media must remain the producers of information, services and links for their readers: like a friend who introduces us and makes it easier to understand an increasingly complex world. The media must use new tools to reach their readers, through the right channel, at the right time, to facilitate reading, decoding the news or improving understanding by deciphering an event.  Also, the reader will only come back or subscribe if the information is there. Too often, I receive specifications that are dominated by technical aspects or a short-term vision, for example, how to arrange a lot of articles on a page, on a smartphone screen… When we should first be asking ourselves: what is the right format to best satisfy the reader for each of these articles?

Digital tools must remain aids to the hierarchy of information and its circulation. Thus, we must have a global, multi-support, multi-channel reflection because the readability model, formerly limited to the newspaper object, has spread to different objects. This has considerably enriched the processing methods, which are more in line with their medium. Ideally, each piece of information will have one or more processing modes depending on the channel it will use.

This requires a lot of investment, sometimes consequent reforms, but if you neglect the editorial material in favour of a push, a Facebook publication… without thinking about it beforehand, you won’t reach your target.

However, if the information reaches the right reader, with the right format and the right emphasis, this is what triggers the purchase (subscription), whether it be print or digital.

Gregory Leduc’s projects

DS – Why would publishers want to revisit their print formula in a world increasingly dominated by digital consumption of information?

GL – For years now, people have been announcing the death of paper, yet we know that the newspapers that are most resilient are those that maintain a high rate of subscribers. The transformation is therefore more natural, provided that they are in good working order on digital.

Paper is still alive and well – it should be around for many years to come! – we are even seeing new publishers making the choice of paper, following the example of some magazine or newspaper fan communities. Moreover, some of them are considered the best, the most inventive, the most readable, the best staged…

Paper is real, tangible, instantaneous…and if it is well done, it can also be beautiful.

From a design point of view, it is first and foremost an object that may be pleasing to the eye, but is above all a functional object.

This object is constrained by its format, its periodicity. It is a presentation model that forces one to make choices, to prioritise. The limited space of the paper imposes a certain amount of information and length of treatment. For some readers, this way of providing information to read and see for a limited time is not the most readable or most pleasant way of consuming information.

This medium also remains an object that you take with you, keep, exchange, that has a physical life and can also be very aesthetically pleasing.

For me, these are the essential ingredients for installing and anchoring a brand close to people in the hope of then finding them on the digital platform.

Gregory Leduc’s projects

DS – In concrete terms, what are the challenges you face?

GL – They are many and varied. They range from “how to successfully reinvent a paper title that is suffering from an ageing readership, to supporting editorial offices in the transition or making them web to print compliant”, not to mention “redefining paper and digital while developing the brand”. Often I am expected to pull out a magic hat with ready-made solutions that work very quickly. My biggest challenge is to be totally in tune with the editorial team. It sounds a bit corny to say this, but it is always the content that guides the form and not the other way around. The editorial team must be in working order, capable of producing the information it wants to produce. The newsroom must have a clear vision of its editorial capacity, of its intention, of the direction it wants to take. Without good information, there is no miracle formula. You can create a wow factor but very quickly it becomes a splat… Obviously, there are solutions but no miracle formula.

DS – Faced with the very different expectations of Swiss, French and Belgian clients in both print and digital how do you adapt to your clients’ projects? What are your working methods?

GL – I only take on one project at a time; this allows me to devote myself to it completely. I begin my support with an initial phase of observation and understanding, both of the writing and of the company, by analysing who it is, what its history is, who the men and women who work there are… Then I set up a very collaborative process, trying to rely on the forces in place, in small teams, with journalists and/or managers to get to the heart of the matter, because the idea is that the project should very quickly become a joint project. This helps to involve and unite the teams. Moreover, the more the editorial team invests in me, the better I respond to the demand.

DS – How did you work with La Dépêche, whose brief was to modernise the formula without upsetting the reader? How do you find the right balance?

GL – With La Dépêche, there was a strong desire on the part of the editorial team to innovate but without upsetting the teams and readers. In my job, we are very often confronted with various demands, so my response was to look for the breaking point. I pushed the graphic research a little further, played with the newspaper’s codes and paid attention to the reactions of the teams. This allowed me to understand in a concrete way how far I could go, what were the unchanging elements, the ones that constituted the identity of the title, those that I could change and those that I could completely reform.

DS – Finally, what are your sources of inspiration in digital media?

GL – Being a designer means being able to draw inspiration from everywhere and from everyone. I have countless sources but I’ll give you my favourites:

  • and because they are very focused on digital,
  • for the user interface,
  • for the quality of the infographics,
  • The Guardian, Bloomberg and The Economist for their apps,
  • And finally, and for relaxation and inspiration.

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