Hi Sue, welcome to the FT! You’ve just joined as the Head of Design for Product. What’s your background?
When I was young I loved fine art, but being far too sensible at 18 I abandoned the idea of being an artist in my garret, and went on to study Typography at Reading University. It was here I developed a nerdy passion for text based graphic design that has influenced my work choices ever since.
Previously you worked at the Economist, what are you most proud of from this time?
I was with Digital Art Director for 5 years at The Economist. The thing I’m most proud of is that together with the head of Front End Dev we dragged editorial into the world of pixels by slowly building a team and changing the design process.
Our team started life very modestly, with just one front end developer and one designer… me! This was ideal as we could fly under the radar, experiment and innovate. We launched the “Economist essays” in Feb 2014 as the paper’s original digital first and fully responsive product. Designing a specific look and feel for the product, which maintained the editorial brand, but developed the article experience to be immersive and modern, it was a fantastic project. More importantly we started the change to work in a hybrid team of designers, developers, and journalists. Working collaboratively all the way from concept to finished product was creative and really productive. This broke the chain of design being a service industry, and brought design and dev to the forefront of the Economist’s story telling.
We also designed ‘Espresso’ [see above], the Economist’s daily app, which was later used as a template for a bilingual English/Chinese app, it was a short, sweet and fun product to develop.
It’s a surprisingly small set up at The Economist, which together with our track record allowed us to experiment with new products like ‘The World If’. That was a wonderful and rare occasion where the stakeholders gave us tremendous freedom in terms of design and tech to create a new experience for their content. We made a visually strong product coupled with a super fast component-based architecture using NodeJS and ReactJS.
What do you like about the FT?
I like that the FT is so digital first in it’s approach, and there is such a wide variety of content! I was impressed by the Product team’s future plans and it’s a great relief that design and ux is being valued and encouraged as a significant contributor to the brand.
What would you like to tell your colleagues about your way of working?
I’m very collaborative and direct!
Finally, are there any designers or design styles you admire?
Herb Lubalin the American art director and type designer was a master at typographic illustration and Dieter Rams, the design director at Braun was a giant in product design. His paired back timeless solutions are inspirational, as are his 10 principles of good design. A perfect benchmark for all designers.
Above: One of Herb Lubalin’s most famous pieces
Like most things, design is subject to fashion, but good design is timeless. It was recently all about flat design thanks to the pervasive Apple and Google aesthetic. But just like with the digitalisation of music, we are now seeing people feel nostalgic, embracing vinyl again, and pining for the texture of the scratches and impurities that added character and charm. Texture is also creeping back into digital design too.
And I couldn’t finish without mentioning Erik Spiekermann who I’ve had the privilege to work with, he is a self confessed typomaniac, and one of the most influential typographic designers of the last 50 years.
Thank you very much Sue, can’t wait to see what you do here at the FT!