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Q&A with Francesco Franchi

Information visual designer from Italy

I’m an editorial and information visual designer, a journalist, a professor and the author of Designing News – Changing the World of Editorial Design and Information Graphics (Gestalten, 2013).

Since 2008, I’m the art director at IL, the monthly magazine of Il Sole 24 ORE (the Italian leading financial and economical newspaper). Before that, I worked for five years as a senior designer at Leftloft, a Milan based design studio, dealing with communication design, editorial projects and infographics. I hold a Bachelor in Industrial Design from Politecnico di Milano, where I graduated in 2004. In 2005, I took specialized classes in Communication Design at the London Metropolitan University. In 2007, I graduated cum laude at Politecnico di Milano, where I gained a Master degree in Industrial Design. My thesis focuses on newspaper design, and suggests a new design paradigm for the redesign of a newspaper. I’m professional journalist since 2010. I’m visiting professor at Universita IUAV di Venezia, Domus Academy, IED Milan and Politecnico di Milano.

I’m member of The Society of Publication Designer (New York) and professional member of AIAP, the Italian Council of Communication Design.

I lead Infographic Thinking two-day workshop (in Berlin, Singapore and other cities this year) [read more]. The workshop aims at highlighting the potential of Infographic Thinking as modality to approach and interpret reality: not only limited to the traditional graphic design disciplines, today infographic is able to translate a complex issue into an effective and recognizable visual form, producing new knowledge and revealing new meanings.

In Designing News, my perceptive book about the future of the news and media industries in our digital age, I tried to convey my vision for the future of the news and media industries.

© Malvina Monteggia

I evaluate the fundamental changes that are taking place in our digital age in terms of consumer expectations and the way media is being used. The book then outlines the challenges that result and proposes strategies for traditional publishing houses, broadcasting companies, journalists, and designers to address them. Designing News explores how today’s media outlets can become credible, cross-platform news brands. I advocate redefining reporting as telling a continuous narrative across a broad range of traditional and digital media. To this end, I propose a new, integrated role for editorial designers in advancing the evolution of media for the future. [read more]

Software / hardware

I work with a mac and I use the most common softwares for desktop publishing like Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop.

Ideal work environment

I tried to explain that in Designing News. The book is a reflection on the changes currently underway in the world of newspapers and magazines, assessing the resulting problems and, above all, the opportunities. I attempted to propose a transition from restyling to rethinking, meaning a new design paradigm and a new epistemology of professional practice for the designer.

The underlying premise is that it is possible to come up with a new context for design. This development requires, first of all, comprehension of the transformations underway in the world of information and changes in users’ reading habits. Secondly, we need to discover the limiting factors for design, which, as we have seen, may be traced to three key factors: the internal structure of the newsroom, technological conditioning and external culture.

In the past ten years the newsroom has undergone profound changes as a result of the transition to multimedia technologies and diversified distribution platforms (print, web, smartphone, tablet, social media). We may identify three phases in this process: introduction of online news in addition to print editions (newsroom 1.0), integration of the print and online processes (newsroom 2.0), and addition of new digital publication platforms such as tablets and smartphones (newsroom 3.0). These new developments have led to a new way of organizing work in the newsroom and a new approach to journalism.

A newspaper is no longer simply a product published once a day. Its definition has now extended so far that we should no longer speak of newspapers but of media brands distributing multi-channel stories. The name of a newspaper (the “title”) no longer refers to the paper it is printed on, but has become a brand describing a whole apparatus — the newsroom, its relationship with the public, its editorial vision, its know-how, the way it interprets events.

Understanding the transformations now underway means experimenting with new forms of visual journalism. The technology used by the written word has been restructured, directed towards a multiplicity of languages. Combining different languages to improve our knowledge and understanding is the great challenge of our times. One opportunity is offered by infographics (a field in which The New York Times excels, under the leadership of Steve Duenes).

My hypothesis is that in a favorable design context, the communication designer has a crucial role to play in the newsroom, drawing on his or her know-how, cultural background, ability to communicate and professional ethics.

I have attempted to demonstrate the importance of a “collective decision-making set” in the newsroom which includes different skills and in which the presence of a designer offers added value (as, for instance, in the case of the IL and Bloomberg Businessweek newsrooms). Here the designer’s contribution is no longer limited to a few regulatory functions but the designer works as “an organizer, not a drawing-board stylist” (Le Corbusier) and at the same time a “planner with an aesthetic sense” (Bruno Munari). I have outlined this figure, whom I refer to as a Re-thinker because of the crucial role this person plays in rethinking the entire process. I supported this thesis by referring to Lindblom’s theories on the structure of decision-making processes and Schon’s considerations about the reflective professional.

I conclude this reasoning by auguring that, in the changing context of today’s editorial design, the figure of the Re-thinker will bring together two areas of expertise which were until recently considered unrelated. This convergence in a single profession leads to the birth of a new figure, the editorial-experience designer, who must be capable of working with respect for the traditional principles of editorial design and the user experience but also has the innovative vision and cultural baggage to travel beyond.


From the classics. Italian and Swiss design from ’60 and ’70. From the history of art, architecture, literature and philosophy.

Admire most

Bruno Munari, Le Corbusier, Max Bill, Herb Lubalin, Fortunato Depero, Piergiorgio Maoloni.