The Sunday Times 11.08.11


How long must the breakfast tables of the middle classes groan under this paper mountain of grainy paparazzi shots, illegible layouts and faux Victoriana?

There are many good reasons not to buy The Sunday Times – the fact that it employs Jeremy Clarkson chief among them. But if you can get past his smirking visage then there's still the issue of its fantastically horrid design to contend with.

As its adverts used to say, The Sunday Times IS the Sunday papers, at least in the sense that it's as large as the rest of them put together. The Sunday Times is a vast, ungainly lump of seemingly endless supplements, each one shrink-wrapped inside another like a particularly pointless game of pass the parcel. When you rip them open, a bundle of leaflets advertising gardening tools and antique clocks falls to the floor like so much landfill at your feet. The pages are huge too, their expansive dimensions suitable mainly for noisy displays of disapproval over the state of the nation.

Then there is the layout. This is fussy, difficult to read and overly reliant on grainy paparazzi shots blown up beyond legibility. Illustrations are invariably hideous composites of pixellated photos and bad Photoshop heavily saturated in "graduated fill". Faces are cropped into circular picture boxes like on page one of the Adobe Illustrator manual.

But The Sunday Times' biggest crime is the photograph-represented-as-a-photograph technique, the one where the corners of the image are curled up with a bit of shadow underneath to make it look like a real photo stuck to the page. In contrast to this, the opinion pages appear positively Victorian, chastely black and white and loomed over by the royal coat of arms.

The Sunday Times is justly famous for its magazine, a pioneering format for photo-journalism that has confronted the middle classes with grisly atrocities and pictures of Tutankhamun's tomb over breakfast for five decades. Even this now seems oddly archaic, printed on unfeasibly cheap paper and badly in need of a revamp. It sums up The Sunday Times, though: an odd mix of ruthless commercialism and establishment entropy.



Charles Holland


The Sunday Times

quotes story

The Sunday Times IS the Sunday papers, at least in the sense that it's as large as the rest of them put together

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