Tag: Channel NewsAsia

A Nation Mourns: Going Grey for Lee Kuan Yew

A flag at half-mast at the Istana on March 23, 2015. BY MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION / TERENCE TAN
A flag at half-mast at the Istana on March 23, 2015. BY MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION / TERENCE TAN

Flying the state flag in half-mast is how countries have traditionally symbolised the passing of a national figure. Since Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew died on Monday, state flags on all government buildings have flown at half-mast, an act no different to when other Singaporean leaders—including Ong Teng Cheong (2002), Wee Kim Wee (2005), Goh Keng Swee (2010) and Toh Chin Chye (2012)—passed on.

But this time around, there was also mourning online. Not only was a website Remembering Lee Kuan Yew set up within hours, many government organizations also turned to “greying” or “blackening” their typically colorful websites and logos on their social media accounts.

While not every organization did so—indicating it probably wasn’t a coordinated whole-of-government directive—all of them referred to the Remembering Lee Kuan Yew campaign in some way.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth did not grey or blacken their digital presence, but did refer to the passing of Lee Kuan Yew.
The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth did not grey or blacken their digital presence, but did refer to the passing of Lee Kuan Yew.

Could this become a new digital tradition in how states mourn? As governments expand their digital presence to stay relevant to citizens, new practices like this come to play. For one, the government building is not the main medium of interaction between the state and its citizens. Particularly today, it’s often websites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts that are the communication channels citizens hear from, which makes the logo akin to the flag on the mast of a building for the online audience.

In reaction to the digital mourning, many Facebook users interacted liked the change in logos and even commented with condolences. In contrast, it’s harder to imagine someone saluting the state flag in half-mast today.

In one non-government case, the media organisation ChannelNewsAsia was even slammed for making the change a day late. While a logo was once seen as static and fixed, there is almost an assumption that it will morph with the times—just as what AirAsia did when its airplane crashed last last year or how Google does almost daily to commemorate anniversaries.

ChannelNewsAsia-LKY

A Design of Its Time — 1998

Keeping up with the times – the changing look of Singapore’s longest surviving English newspaper The Straits Times.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
Introduction } 1960s } 1970s } 1980s } 1989 } 1998 } 2000s
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

 

ST1998coverThe news magazine

For the next eight years, the paper remained unchanged until its biggest redesign in March 1998. To announce this “major milestone,” [i] ST ran behind-the-scenes stories daily in the week running up to the launch.

This extensive revamp was performed by a team led by former art director of The New York Times and Newsweek Roger Black, his associate Eduardo Danilo Ruiz and ST’s Foreign Editor Felix Soh.[ii] The hiring of an American consultant echoed the international view that American newspaper design was now the standard to follow.

ST’s new look borrowed heavily from magazine aesthetics. As a reader remarked, the paper became “less formal and feels more like a magazine style.”[iii] This approach was to project a “more youthful Straits Times” to attract younger readers who were not reading newspapers.[iv]

To aid reading, stories began with a summary deck featuring a short write-up about the story. New design elements such as quotes and infoboxes broke up the story into interesting bits to appeal to the reader’s attention. The paper also switched to contemporary typefaces: news headlines were in Miller Daily,[v] while the sports section had a separate headline typeface in sans serif, Interstate.

The paper was now in full-colour,[vi] and a greater emphasis was placed on visual journalism. Infographics and photo essays became an alternative to text stories. The different sections, including Classifieds, now came with “covers” made up of a main story and accompanied by promos – “advertisements” with etched out photographs and snappy introductions – of the stories inside.

Underlying all these changes was the need to stay relevant to advertisers. The emphasis on youth assured advertisers that “newspapers are very much alive and well” [vii] and going big on colour was to “create a better environment for advertising”[viii] in the paper too.

The overhauled paper entered the millennium facing an even more competitive media landscape: in 1999, Channel NewsAsia, a television-news channel was launched in Singapore, broadband access also became commercially available allowing Singaporeans to get their news online, and in 2000, the media market was liberalised to allow more players.

— — — —

  • [i] Yip Seng Cheong, “By Design,” The Straits Times, March 16 1998.
  • [ii] ”History in Your Hands…”, The Straits Times, March 23 1998.
  • [iii] Dorothy Ho and Wendy Tan, “It’s a Big Hit!,” The Straits Times, March 24 1998.
  • [iv] Wendy Tan, “Newspapers Ahead of Media Pack ” The Straits Times, March 20 1998.
  • [v] Roger Black, “Modern and Austere: The Next Generation of Newspaper Typography?” http://www.rogerblack.com/blog/next_news_typography, accessed 5 October 2009.
  • [vi] Fook Kwang Han, “Showcasing the Best of ST,” The Straits Times, August 8 2008.
  • [vii] Tan, The Straits Times, March 20 1998.
  • [viii] Ibid.

— — — —