A project by London’s RIG provides everyday users with a means of designing, producing and delivering newspapers directly from their browser, a mischievous appropriation of the industrial infrastructure left sitting around. Russell Davies said it best: “We've broken your business. Now we want your machines.”
There are two broad phases in the ways that computers and designers have come to work together. In the first phase, designers were using computers to make things; e.g., setting type that would then be integrated into a magazine. It was a few years later that designers started using computers to make things for computers.
But now here we are in 2011, and RIG has made Newspaper Club, using computers to build online services that let users make stuff. Real stuff, with ink that comes off on your hands. Newspapers. They smell good.
RIG’s Newspaper Club is one of the most extraordinary pieces of design I’ve ever seen. In the end, it’s software, I suppose, not so very different from the web app I’m using to compose this blog post.
The difference between this software and Newspaper Club’s is that instead of posting to the web, their software posts to greasy industrial machinery, pallets of rolled paper, and a series of ropes and knives and trucks, I think there are trucks involved somewhere down the line. There must be.
Their software posts to full-on printed newspapers that can be run in batches from one to a couple hundred thousand. These can then be delivered to homes, classes, demonstrations, weddings, whoever needs the news.
All this from a bespoke chunk of code and design, built lovingly by a few good people in East London. Their space itself must have once held some archaic building-size machinery. Now it’s code.
The idea is delightful. Industries (like the UK newspaper industry) age and die, but it takes geniuses to realize that what they leave behind isn’t trash, but treasure.
Newspaper printers simply don’t print like they used to, so the hours on the plant go idle. Newspaper Club keeps costs minimal by using those spare cycles to allow people to print whatever news fits to print. Of course, it’s unlikely to have anything to do with, you know, News.
Most often, it’s quirky, personal, super-local deeply loving artifacts, like wedding newspapers or comics. Small transmissions from one person to a few more. It seems only fitting and fair that this happens in the paper wake of the stumbling British press, broken by the criminal violations of people’s privacy.
Those personal messages Murdoch was spying on are still likely to be printed on his newspaper stock in his newspaper’s ink. But not by NewsCorp anymore, and not for money.
lot of the genius here is in the design of the interface to allow users
to do all this. It’s great—not perfect yet, but great—and I don’t
recall Quark XPress being any good at all. I found this far more fun to
use than any Adobe product, and it didn’t hang my computer when I was
I was able to generate the Design Envy blog newspaper in about 10–15 minutes, and I hope that it’s a few weeks in the future, and you’re holding it in your hands. Maybe you’re drinking coffee somewhere, reading about this thing I’m jealous of, that these guys made this possible and with a spirit that’s equal parts generous, mischievous, hopeful and funny. That’s news. Good news, even.