The Australian Financial Review

The daily habit of successful people gets a digital upgrade

Australian Financial Review

Fairfax Media / Nine Publishing
Head of Product Design
2017 – 2023

The Australian Financial Review is Australia’s premier destination for business and finance news. It is the essential daily read for the nation’s most influential and ambitious decision makers, with monthly readership of over 3 million.

With 70 years of history as a print publication, guiding the newsroom into the digital age was the biggest challenge as we set out re-imagine how the AFR could become the premium digital experience the audience expects.

Design principles

With the content being more targeted to the business world, the needs of the AFR readers differ to those of the Metro Mastheads. To ensure these needs were reflected in how we approached our design decisions, we established a set of principles specifically for the AFR digital products. They were informed by qualitative insights, and served as an addition to base principles we had already established for the design team overall.

We set Australia’s business agenda

Our newsroom connects the decisions makers, the visionaries and the ambitious minds of our society.

Time is our most valuable asset

We are the daily habit of successful and busy people.

Status matters

We are sophisticated and without peer.

The brand

Revamping the entire digital experience offered us the chance to not only eliminate outdated templates and design patterns but also to enhance the visual language for increased simplicity and clarity. We meticulously fine-tuned the colour palette to align with accessibility standards and reduced its complexity, assigning each colour a distinct purpose. Consequently, the brand now boasts a more cohesive and uniform appearance.

In conjunction with the established design principles and tone of voice guidelines, these efforts collectively formed the foundation of a robust digital design system.

AFR Design System

One of the more distinct brand elements of the AFR is the woodcut treatment of the author headshots. The old process of producing these was tedious, expensive, and not optimised for digital. Not able to take the Wall Street Journal approach of using machine learning to produce similar treatments, we created new PhotoShop templates to make them more consistent, as well as reduce time and effort.

Premium efficiency

Considering the second design principal focusing on the audience being time poor, the concept of ‘scanability’ was applied wherever possible, which meant bolder headlines and stricter left alignment rules.

With imagery not always a priority for much of the everyday business reporting, we enabled some sectional story tiles to feature related ASX stock quotes instead, providing better context and quick links to the new markets data section.

Replacing images with stock quote provides contextual storytelling of high value to the audience

Our research also revealed that our audience is highly selective and attentive when it comes to the topics and authors they engage with. With this insight in mind, we introduced “Newsfeed” – a feature designed to empower users to follow their preferred topics, authors, or companies. Our team dedicated considerable effort to ensure the setup and onboarding process for this feature is as user-friendly as possible, allowing for both manual and automatic curation of the feed. To take this feature a step further, we implemented the capability for Newsfeed content to be delivered as email newsletters, allowing users to define their preferred delivery frequency.

Luxurious features

Several luxury magazines are part of the AFR portfolio, and in order to distinguish their reporting, new feature templates were designed. Drawing inspiration from design principle number 3, “Status Matters,” these templates were not only quickly embraced by the editorial teams due to their streamlined layouts, but they also featured prominent typography and larger images, fostering an environment that attracted high-end advertisers.

AFR feature articles

Much like the metro mastheads, the AFR also adopted the Collections feature the product team developed. It allowed for more targeted and consolidated curation of special topics, as well as a digital home for the magazines. It was a feature that almost everyone in the design team touched at some point or another, as it lingered in the back-log for several years.