Gone too soon
Darren Long could never resist a challenge.
Well before he became creative director at the Post, he was told as a young student in Europe that his skills as an illustrator would never support a working life abroad.
So he went on to enjoy a highly successful career in the industry spanning almost 30 years, mostly in Hong Kong.
Darren died in the early hours of November 26 after a fearless battle with cancer. He was 54, a loving partner to wife Nisha and devoted father to daughters Sarita, 17, and Anoushka, 14.
During his seven years as head of the illustration and graphics team at the Post, among his many achievements, Darren spearheaded a transition in visual storytelling from the print to digital platforms. The team has collected 488 awards across four continents under his stewardship.
Top: At Peñafiel Castle on his last trip to Spain. Bottom left: Darren listening to a lecture at Malofiej, the world infographics summit. Bottom right: Darren at the SCMP offices, in front of the infographic "A world of languages".
“Darren was a real gem, an amazing group leader and team player,” Post editor-in-chief Tammy Tam said. “I remember him as being always cheerful and gentle, confident in his work and never deterred by difficulties. Under his leadership, our graphics team won so many international and local awards for the Post that we lost count! He fought the good fight and remained a champion throughout. I will miss him and remember him fondly, as will the entire newsroom.”
Born in Britain, Darren was a keen rugby player and music lover, but yearned to travel.
In an interview with the Society for News Design in 2017, on becoming a regional director for the prestigious organisation, he spoke of how he wanted to see the world before settling down to get a masters’ degree.
After travelling in India and Southeast Asia, Darren landed in Hong Kong in 1992, clutching a sketchbook of his experience. He was offered a job as an illustrator with Asiaweek magazine and never looked back
The illustrator soon switched roles to become an art director, creating, launching and rejuvenating a wide variety of products, including fashion magazines and trade journals. But his first love was news.
At the Sopa Awards with colleagues Marcelo Duhalde and Dennis Wong, celebrating one of the team's countless awards.
At an art and design conference for young people in Hong Kong.
Left: At the Sopa Awards with colleagues Marcelo Duhalde and Dennis Wong, celebrating one of the team's countless awards. Right: At an art and design conference for young people in Hong Kong.
Darren initially joined the Post in 1995, as art director for the company’s Asia Magazine, a weekend supplement for eight newspapers in the region. He left just before Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 after being headhunted for a job in Kuala Lumpur where he would help rebrand Malaysia Airlines’ inflight magazine.
He was back in the UK for the millennium, freelancing in London for TV station Channel 4 and Associated Newspapers, among others.
But Darren could not be kept away from Hong Kong. He returned in 2002 and in the years that followed worked for Time, oversaw the launch of luxury magazine Prestige Hong Kong, and led art direction on financial publications at Haymarket Media.
His ability to produce visually engaging and well-designed products caught the eye of the Post which hired him to lead its graphics and illustration team in 2014.
It proved to be a great choice. Darren led the team with passion and devotion at a challenging time for the Post as it accelerated its transition from traditional Hong Kong newspaper to modern digital media organisation, with a fast-growing global readership.
In 2018, with part of the graphics team in the offices of the South China Morning Post.
The graphics team, a diverse group with different nationalities and backgrounds, quickly acquired new skills and took its visual storytelling to the next level with impressive interactive displays.
Darren compared his role with that of an orchestra conductor bringing talent together to produce a pleasing symphony. The awards flooded in, securing an international reputation for the team.
Tributes were paid by international news organisations. Paige Connor, Interim Executive Director of the Society for News Design said Darren played a huge role in the visual journalism community and would be greatly missed by many around the world. Joon-Nie Lau, Director, Asia, WAN-IFRA, said Darren was a trailblazer in the field of visual journalism.
Darren first met his wife Nisha in Hong Kong in 1994 when they were both working for Asiaweek magazine. They lost touch but bumped into each other again in London in March 2000. Two years later they were married in Kerala, with more than 800 guests attending. Nisha’s parents lived in Hong Kong. Her father was a journalist and an inspiration for his son-in-law. Their daughters were born in the city.
Music helped Darren form his view of the world. He fell in love with the post-punk scene in Britain at the end of the 1970s, listening to an eclectic mix of artists from the Sex Pistols and The Jam to The Specials and The Style Council, along with Jamaican bands. “Music was wonderful in those days,” he said. He also had a taste for jazz and preferred vinyl records to digital streaming.
Darren in action on the rugby pitch, playing a sport he was passionate about.
Rugby was another passion. Darren was a stalwart of the Causeway Bay Rugby Club, joining in 2008 and playing mostly for the Marines as a flanker. Club chairman Umesh Desai said he was “absolutely devastated to have lost a legend” and that Darren would “remain in our hearts forever”.
Adolfo Arranz, deputy creative director at the Post, said: “Darren was the best boss and a close friend. He was a pillar of this team, a bridge between editors and artists.”
Senior designer Marcelo Duhalde added that Darren’s leadership had created a “golden age” for the graphics team.
Post executive editor Chow Chung-yan, who was instrumental in bringing Darren back to the company in 2014, said: “His warmness and brilliance have touched all of us. And in the rich body of work he left behind, Darren will live on as legend at the Post forever.”
Creative Director Darren Long