De Morgen is Europe’s Best Designed Newspaper

Written by Yves Peters on December 10, 2004

Flemish newspaper De Morgen won the Award for Europe’s Best Designed Newspaper (the “Oscar” for newspapers) in the category Nationwide Newspaper. Europe’s most prestigious award in the field of newspaper design is presented to periodicals which distinguish themselves by their design, photography, colour scheme and type usage. Previous winners include Corriere della Sera, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, The Guardian, Trouw and The Irish Times. The award will be presented next year in April at the city hall of Vienna.


De Morgen received this year’s award because of its “willingness to sail its own course in its content and design”, which lends the paper a “creative versatility, with an impressive image and a daring colour scheme”. A member of the jury noted that “the quality of design isn’t limited to the front page, but is sustained throughout”. The Zeno and Ego section were also very much appreciated.

Editor in chief Rudy Collier admitted to being “a little surprised” at winning the award in the most important category, and added it might have to do with the paper’s distinctive “personality”. In a time when periodicals rely heavily on “newspaper doctors” for their art direction and increasingly start to look alike, De Morgen decided some three years ago to modernize its design internally. The editorial board and art director tackled the redesign organically — one by one all sections of the newspaper were evaluated and overhauled, some disappeared, others were born. Each day, each week, each month still sees continuous improvements, some minute, some more visible.

Now for my take on the type. The main body and headline type — Gerard Unger’s Swift — remained, but it is still used quite poorly, with squooshing, fake italics and the lot. Interstate had to mostly give way to Mark van Bronkhorst’s popular ITC Conduit. Tho the latter works quite well as secondary headline type and for running heads, intro slug and pull quotes, its use as body type for boxes and short pieces is rather unfortunate, especially as they use the Medium weight which simply is too dark for newsprint.

The European Newspaper Award is a European competition for newspaper design and newspaper concept, which was announced in 1999 for the first time. It is organized by the newspaper designer Norbert Küpper from Meerbusch (Germany) in co-operation with the journalistic magazines Medium Magazin (Frankfurt), Österreichischer Journalist (Salzburg), and Media Facts (Amsterdam).

The competition facilitates the exchange of information on newspaper design and conception throughout Europe and has been very successful so far as a great number of newspapers usually participate in it: The Sixth European Newspaper Award counted as many as 334 newspapers from 26 countries.

The chief prizewinners of the Sixth European Newspaper Award in the other categories are:

Local Newspaper:
Diario de Noticias, Huarte-Pampona, Spain

Regional Newspaper:
Het Parool, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Weekly newspapers:
Bergens Tidende Søndag, Bergen, Norway
Sentinel Sunday, Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent, GB

Yves Peters is a graphic designer / rock drummer / father of three who tries to be critical about typography without coming across as a snob. Previously columnist for Typographer.org and editor-in-chief for The FontFeed, he has found a new home on Type Network. His ability to identify most typefaces on sight is utterly useless in daily life.

8 Comments

  1. Lettertiep says:

    Dear Yves,

    I was pretty amazed when I saw ‘De Morgen’ received this price. I can’t help it, somehow the words ‘messy’ & ‘clumsy’ always pop up when I read the paper (which I do on a regular basis).
    Once you’ve seen the ‘NRC Handelsblad’ or ‘Trouw’ there is no turning back. ;-)

    I’m still a big fan of ‘De Tijd’ which is, in my opinion, since it switched to Utopia & Univers, the best designed (flemish) newspaper.

  2. David Earls says:

    While I can only work off the webpage rather than personal experience, the page designs do rather appear clumsy, especially when compared to earlier winners such as The Guardian. Suprising.

  3. Dan Reynolds says:

    The Frankfurter Allgemeine is still Europe’s best newspaper, no matter what theys guys say ;)

  4. Troubleman says:

    Yeah, I know it’s bound to raise an eyebrow or two. Personally I do think they have a lot of potential with their use of the frankly odd ITC Conduit — odd in this context — and their colour scheme, but the product has never looked finished and the paper as a whole is quite inconsistent, with what appears to be “wrong typefaces” popping up here and there and a rather cluttered page lay-out.
    I’m quite interested in getting hold of the original jury report to see the jury’s motivation: what I used in my piece comes from the article in De Morgen itself.

    Oh, and I disagree about De Tijd: the design is so sanitized it just feels “dead” to me. Then again, I’m so bored with the cult of the cleanliness of Univers — I’ve completely had it with the current wave of aseptic Modernism, sorry Helvetica lovers and DIN adepts ;-) –, and Utopia has never done much for me.

  5. Lettertiep says:

    Yves, sure de Tijd looks boring, but it is a boring newspaper too. So the form really fits the content. And that’s not bad for a (belgian) design.
    Personally I’m not overly excited when I see it, it‘s just that it looks less clumsy than all the rest.

    Since where at it: I really don’t understand why de Standaard uses Joanna as a headline-face. Are they afraid to use their ff Unit? :-)

    (Wow a typo-debate about flemish newspapers or what?)

  6. Troubleman says:

    Yeah, I noticed as well that De Standaard were really quick to pick up FF Unit soon after it came out — I believe they were using FF Fago before that if I’m not mistaken.
    Truth to be told I actually don’t mind Joanna for headlines. It makes the headlines “shout” less and gives the paper a very distinct personality. It’s as if the paper speaks with subdued authority and restraint. The condensified ;-) bold Swift that De Morgen uses is a lot more “agressive”.

  7. David Earls offers more commentary on the announcement at his typographer.org.

  8. Troubleman says:

    David is a sore loser. :-D ;-)

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