• 02.01.12

Wanna Figure Out If Your Product Is Any Good? Think Like A News Editor

Determining whether an idea is newsworthy helps you formulate the story you want to tell from the outset, writes Paddy Harrington of Bruce Mau Design.

Wanna Figure Out If Your Product Is Any Good? Think Like A News Editor

In the last 10 years, the number of newspapers has declined by 20%, to 6,580. In the same amount of time, the number of blogs has reached 152 million. The result: The tools for spreading news quickly and widely are now abundant and available to many more people.


At first, all we heard was how the newspaper was dead and television was dying. While this is sadly true in some cases, the new media landscape is actually a boon for designers who now have more outlets for getting their ideas into the world. With the proliferation of design blogs, there is suddenly a thirst for content, and the best way for design studios to satisfy that thirst is to develop projects using what I call “news logic.”

News logic is a simple filter applied throughout a design project that asks, Is this newsworthy? It is not design just to get noticed. It’s an inherent logic in the new technology culture. Blogs want to get the most views, and what gets views is great content. So working backward, if you design as though a design blog may cover your work, you’re embedding an expectation of quality in the work from the outset of the project, before you even start prototyping. The work benefits, because instead of working in the relative isolation of client/designer, you build in a level of accountability. If what you’re doing is not newsworthy, then why are you bothering to do it? The client benefits because if the designer does her job well, the work will get picked up by a blog and result in more publicity for the client.

At its heart, news logic is about value creation and the primacy of the design output instead of a story that traditionally gets applied after the fact. Where in the old days (i.e., five years ago), you designed something and then told a story about it in the hopes that it was a story worth telling, more and more of tomorrow’s design projects will have a story worth telling built into their hearts right from the get-go.

Some now say that it’s easy to get into blogs, because they’re so desperate for content that they’ll feature just about anything. Continuing that line of thought, if it’s published on a blog, it’s not necessarily an accomplishment in the same way that being published in a book or magazine would have been 20 years ago.

But the reality is not quite that simple. The increased competition between blogs means there’s a need for not just any content but for content that will draw readers to their blog over the others. Today, if you’re on a blog, it’s because the editors believe that people will want to learn more about your work and that there’s something intriguing about what you’ve designed. The cumulative effect is an overall increase in quality, which will only be strengthened once more designers take news logic to heart. At Bruce Mau Design, we often use future headlines exercises in our work. We imagine how a New York Times headline might read about our project as if it’s already finished and out in the world. By choosing the Times, we choose a discerning media outlet with a highly public face. And by imagining the future in such a tangible way it makes the work more immediate and real. It makes it better.

It doesn’t always have to be a direct link. For example, with our identity work for OCAD University, we used news logic to understand the long-term ambition for the university; that exercise, in turn, helped us figure out the logo that would support that objective. News logic means that if you have a story worth telling at the core of what you design, then you increase your chances of designing something meaningful for the world.

[Images: troyka, and Voronin76 via Shutterstock]

About the author

Paddy Harrington is the founder of Frontier, a creative exploration company consisting of a magazine, ventures group and design studio based in Toronto, Canada. He was formerly the SVP Design Innovation and Digital Creative Director at Indigo Books and, prior to that, the Executive Creative Director at Bruce Mau Design.