Francesco Franchi on Robinson

Or How to bring weekly magazines design to Newspapers
Francesco Franchi - Come si disegna un settimanale (Robinson)

After being internationally awarded for “ILFrancesco Franchi, Art Director of Robinson, talks about his latest creature, the 40 pages sunday insert of arguably the main newspaper in Italy, Repubblica.

In the great surroundings of MAST museum, in Bologna, Repubblica today met readers to talk about “How to”. Franchi was there to speak about his job in the newsroom.
It starts with the morning meeting, at 11, when the daily newspaper is commented and the flat plan starts to take form. Franchi speaks about what is like working in a newsroom and how this is different from working with a graphic agency. In the latter you usually have continuous exchanges with colleagues about typography, colours, measures. Besides, working for a newsroom gave him access to the archives where he did a lot of research before starting drawing the layout for Robinson.

The visual form of Robinson has been inspired by the very early inserts of Repubblica, in the seventies, in fact some graphic ideas, like thick black shadows, comes straight from 1977 “Weekend” layout.

Francesco Franchi shows the specs designed in Indesign

Francesco Franchi shows the specs designed in Indesign

After the initial sketches all the grids and specs have been designed in Indesign and then ported to the publishing system. It hasn’t been a walk through the park though. Many technical problems were encountered and somehow bypassed.


Robinson has been designed as a proper magazine. A flow of contents runs from page to page. This has been quite of a challenge, giving that the publishing system works every spread as a separate file. Not what you may be used to with DTP systems. It doesn’t even support OpenType, so many of the features of the chosen typefaces are simply not available. That’s a pity because the superfamily Sharp Grotesk could really benefit from it. Some workaround has been invented to be able to publish some pages in the way they were intended to, like producing separate PDF and over imposing them to the page, still some issues occurred, like headers not being printed. This is something you hardly think about when you are used to the flexibility of Indesign, but not everything can work like that, and being able to get to the results they are getting to is a skill not everyone is capable of.

The visuals are also bold and mainly flat coloured, not only for a stylistic choice, but also a technical one. Printing on newspaper paper is totally different from printing on coated magazine paper and using gradients or bright colours might be a jump in the dark. Better to avoid them then to regret them.

Sharp Grotesk typeface superfamily by

Sharp Grotesk typeface superfamily by Sharptype​.co

Le Jeune by Commercial Type

Le Jeune by Commercial Type

Coherence and Rhythm

Other things they had to address were typography related. Being a magazine inside a newspaper, they wanted it to be consistent with the overall mood but still readable as a magazine. So the 6 column grid has been maintained but the baseline increased to 1012 to have a more relaxed reading experience.

Robinson Reading Rhythm graph

Robinson Reading Rhythm graph

A lot of consciousness has been put in the rhythm of the magazine too, designing it in three sections: the first and last one more dense and “fast” with a “slower” central one. The final part, about reviews, is the most similar to the rest of the newspaper with type height being again lowered down, and the complex grid simplified to a more boxed and static one.

Illustration and Infographics

A lot of effort is put in the design of the covers of course, but with an advantage: the cover doesn’t have “to sell” because it is in the inside of the newspaper. This gave them the possibility to be more playful, issue after issue, and to break standard rules, even rotating or hiding the header.

The work with artists and illustrators for producing these covers is done daily (and sometimes nightly) and this can be accomplished only thanks to a deep trust and collaboration with all of them. And of course, Franchi continues pushing infographics as a journalist language, merging copy and visuals in a whole, while confirming the role of the designer as a content creator and opinion maker, rather than a post-decisions decorator.

Manuel Bortoletti infographics

Manuel Bortoletti infographics

Well, thanks to Francesco Franchi for this walk through the newsroom and good luck with pushing the publishing system further.

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