At Work With: Francesco Franchi, IL Magazine
Francesco Franchi is an Italian editorial designer who has been applying his theories for a new paradigm of news design to IL Magazine, the monthly magazine of newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore. The result has been a multiple award-winning exposition of typographic and infographic invention, a thrilling visual treat that transcends its Italian-only execution. We join him as his first book on the subject of news design is published, itself a tour de force of design featuring many of the leading figures of contemporary editorial design.
Where are you today?
I’m in Milan, in the newsroom of the Italian financial daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore where I work. The building was designed by architect Renzo Piano.
What can you see from the window?
At this moment in my room the automatic curtains are lowered and we cannot look outside. I move out into the corridor to show you what I can see from the windows.
How many emails are waiting in your inbox?
What's your favourite magazine this morning?
This morning I’d like to order the new issue of Desports (the French sports mook), a collection of literary articles about sports and athletes. I saw that its editor-in-chief Adrien Bosc has just posted their new cover.
I’m also waiting for the latest issue of Gym Class Magazine which I bought a few days ago from the magCulture shop.
And your favourite newspaper?
The Sunday edition of The New York Times.
What inspired your fascination with infographics and diagrams?
I always preferred to make a diagram rather than write something. Graphs, charts, maps, and schemes have always intrigued me, probably because of the manner in which they communicate concisely and unambiguously on the basis of a set of commonly understood conventions.
Your new book is packed with information. How long did it take to prepare?
The book gives a wonderful exposition of the theory and engineering of editorial design, defining it almost as science. Yet one of the most exciting things for me about editorial design is the art – the random discovery, the surprise juxtaposition. Is there space for that in your vision of design?
Yes, of course, there is. In some cases serendipity can point the way to new ideas and new ways of thinking. The designer requires logical talents (calculation and precision) and imagination, or even the talents of an explorer/investigator, including, for example, the serendipity that might lead him to welcome and make use of the unexpected, an unforeseen and random fact. Among the traits of the investigator is also creativity of thought, which implies the rejection of seriality and uniformity as a prerequisite, to start instead from questions posed by the natural and social environment in search of new possible responses.
Manners and methods of planning are different according to the designer and type of project. Design is not only the solution of problems through the application of pre-established rules, but on the contrary, the invention itself of rules to the resolve the problem. Machines may help the designer in his planning and monitoring activities. In particular, the interactive use of a computer expands the exploratory capabilities of the invention process.
Do you worry that the infographic is becoming the latest cool ‘style’ and we are becoming surrounded by what Edward Tufte describes as ‘Chartjunk'?
I do not worry because I’m seeing a lot of intelligent representations of data which I think they are able to make the difference and to stem the chart-junkies. Turning visualisation into a story asks for a designer’s point of view and it demands responsibility. In order to become better at what we do I think that we all need to try new things, to experiment and sometimes also to fail.
What was the last thing your editor said to you?
Two things. 1. I would like an illustrated Christmas cover: lively, colorful, cheerful and plentiful 2. We have to develop an infographic double spread page about Iran.
What are you most looking forward to this week?
This week we are closing the next issue of IL.
What are you least looking forward to this week?
The production manager who will call me because, I already know, we will be in late with the deadline for this issue
What will you be doing after this chat?
I’ll work with Davide Mottes, a designer here at the magazine, on the forthcoming cover story for the next issue (above). We’re developing a special infographic session. We started working on this topic a few weeks ago during a workshop in Singapore organized together with Gestalten and the design think-tank Methodology (video: http://vimeo.com/80055377).
Francesco’s book ‘Designing News’ is highly recommended.
Published by Gestalten, ISBN 978-3-89955-468-7, £45/$78/e49.90