CITY ON THE RISE
LSE Urban Age Conference
For ten years now we have been helping the LSE Cities department launch its biannual Urban Age conference. These conferences - the LSE calls them seminars, but hundreds attend - are held in a different city each time, and draw a diverse audience of academics, national and city politicians, developers, architects, planners, journalists, civic and political groups: all taking a rare opportunity to share ideas on how cities function, with a focus on the host city.
For this most recent conference, as others, we designed the "newspaper" - the publication that contains essays and data that constitute the LSE's specific research into Delhi's state of health, and compares Delhi to other key cities.
Just as the audience of the conference is an amalgam of academics and movers-and-shakers, we aim at an amalgam in the way we design - the best of journalistic and editorial design combined with the most impactful and fresh information graphics and gravity of academic publishing.
Most academic publications sprinkle tiny Excel diagrams throughout scrunched up text, and plonk in the odd Microsoft-styled table. Its a style academics are used to, but it sets a very low bar visually. (It's the same as living on a diet of pot noodles, it's possible, but nothing like a proper diet of fresh food.)
We need the reader to be visually attracted, but also impressed and convinced by the density of theory, research and interpretation. What this means is; we borrow the visual tools of photojournalism and juxtapose it with the rigour of footnoted essays. We scale up the infographics, design and colour them so they have far more visual punch. We use a gorgeous fat, blocky, tall headline typeface called Bureau for the titles, to maximise contrast with the prose text. We have encouraged the commissioning of contextual photographs, shot by local photographers, used sparingly, to break and alleviate the density of the essays. And give a strong all-important characterful cover.
The complete publication
The programme of talks, settled only a day or two before the conference, is printed in black on a coloured paper, usually electric yellow, and hand inserted into the printed newspapers.
Details of the infographics, with their highly disciplined use of colour, and varied articulation; icons, annotation, colour-keying, tone, and scaling.