Out with the new
A few years ago the national newspapers went through a spate of redesigns, resizing and relaunching. The Times went tabloid, as did the Independent, and The Guardian moved to a format midway between tabloid and broadsheet dubbed Berliner, used by several continental European newspapers.
The Guardian's relaunch was eagerly awaited by design nerds and I was among those who rushed to buy the first edition on the morning it came out. Perhaps I should declare a bit of an interest in / brag about newspaper tabloid-ising – my dad, when a regional newspaper editor, took several papers from broadsheet to tabloid, 20 years before the nationals above did, and won design awards in the process. Go dad.
I loved the Guardian redesign, not least because it was unobtrusive and logical, the classic example of evolution not revolution. A review some days later from a grand old retired editor – Harold Evans was it? – summed it up perfectly. He said words to the effect that he had spent a few moments going 'oh, they did that with that bit…I like the treatment of this bit here' as he read it for the first time but after a quarter of an hour, he said, he had forgotten the redesign and become absorbed in a story and was just reading The Guardian, again, as he always had done.
So it was, walking around the new Central Library in Liverpool – stunned into silence by the scene-stealing atrium as we walked in on the first day of its reopening. We walked around the reborn old rooms and newborn new rooms and purred over how well it had all been done. As we walked I looked further into the rooms, into rows of bookcases to look at the layout and see where rooms led to on the far side. Each time I saw people, old man here, parents stood behind child on computer there, just working away on their projects or reading that book they'd heard about. The place was packed, thousands of people turned out that day – it was Light Night and special activities were attracting large crowds – but amid the noise and celebrations, people were just using their library, as they had before, seemingly comfortable enough in the new surroundings to sit down and get back to their library business. A sure sign of success.