Science

Copyright: John Frost Newspapers

The newspaper: The Independent

The date: April 24, 1992

The news event: How the Universe began

What you see

This is a striking example of how The Independent re-defined the kind of stories that could be classed as news. The Independent’s   designers would also have a major influence over the future of design in broadsheet front pages.

Background

During the 1980s and 1990s, as scientific knowledge increased, many more questions were asked about where and how the universe began. The main findings became known as the Big Bang Theory. Many people took a great interest in the subject, although the theory was so complex few ordinary people really understood it in much depth. The reason for this front page was explained in the 'strapline' or headline that runs at the top of the page: A NASA spacecraft has detected echoes of the galaxies' birth fourteen thousand million years ago. The discovery about the formation of the stars after the Big Bang has been hailed by excited scientists as the Holy Grail of Cosmology.

The front page

It was, and is, extremely unusual for a story about cosmology (the study of the nature of the universe) to become the main or ‘splash’ story on a newspaper. But this was an unmissable chance to show how The Independent could help set the news agenda. Science Editor Tom Wilkie and his deputy Susan Watts worked out a way of telling the story so that the average reader of The Independent could understand it. It was a good example of the role of a newspaper as a ‘teacher’.

Design

The dominant feature of this front page is the graphic which was remarkable for its time. Drawn up by graphic artist Michael Roscoe it dramatically told the story. It was produced on an Apple Mac computer using a drawing programme called Adobe Illustrator. It was the designer's job to make sure that the overall layout and design fitted together. The software used was an Atex newspaper typesetting system. The full-page make-up system did not like running text around cut-out images which is often done today. As a result, stepping blocks of text were used to accommodate the fan-shaped graphic. In the end the story was boxed off and an editor was able to write the headline of his or her life: 'How the universe began.' At the time it was printed it in black and white but later on it was printed it as a full colour graphic poster.