LAT designer discusses redesign

Michael Whitley, assistant managing editor for design and graphics, talks about the visual tweaks that appeared in the Los Angeles Times this morning over at the Society for News Design's blog. Excerpts:

When it was announced that all the Tribune papers would redesign this year, we saw it as an opportunity to fix some things that just weren’t working. Our mission remained pretty steady — make a good paper better. It was a chance for us to update and improve things in the paper, but we also had to make sure to keep some of the basic DNA of the Times....Our hope was to create a modern paper that still feels like a 126-year-old brand and has that trust behind it. I think we’ve done that.


Probably the boldest thing about it is that the Sunday styles are a bit different than the daily. We all know the Sunday paper is edited differently and that we treat it like a different product than the rest of the week. So we decided to make it different. And our color palette is all new. It may sound crazy, but for us Sunday section reverse color flags are pretty bold. I think boldness can be a matter of perspective, and this is a pretty bold leap forward for the Times.

It's been pointed out to me that the pullout quotes on the second page of the LAT's A section look awfully similar to the "Overheard" feature in the new Los Angeles Times Magazine — the one that supposedly no one in editorial pays any attention. A baseball blogger at Sons of Steve Garvey picks apart the Sports section re-do in detail. The summary:

Sure, this is their second redesign this year, but this time, they're serious. Serious at shrinking both the quantity and the quality of the newspaper, that is. And as one of the few remaining holdouts who actually enjoys the ritual of braving the cold Los Angeles autumn mornings to emerge from one's domicile in boxers and barefeet to pick up the paper from the front doorstep, I was looking forward to this latest round of changes as a substantive improvement for the LAT, restoring its trajectory back toward its glory days as a quality newspaper.

This redesign is not an improvement.

After the jump, some of the dozen or so comments I've received.

I'm not impressed with the changes. Most of them look like alterations just to be different from what was before, not to add value to the reader's experience of the Times. However, several of the changes are definitely for the worse. Moving the identification of the reporter's affiliation ("Times Staff Writer," etc.) to the end of the story is a horrible idea. When I start reading an article in any newspaper, I want to know what the source is, to provide some context for what I'm about to read. Given that many stories jump to later pages, this new format frustrates that desire and annoys me greatly. The cynic in me is screaming that there can only be one reason for such a change: that you are looking to replace homegrown content and want to disguise that fact.

Next, expansion of the dateline to include "Reporting from . . ." is quite an insult: did you really think that your readers were unable to understand what a simple reference to "Sacramento" at the beginning of an article represented? Eliminate those extraneous words and give the space over to the "Times Staff Writer" or other affiliation, please!...

Did it occur to you that, if a reader needs a distinctive colored type to find the section he or she is looking for--as opposed to reading the HUGE SECTION TITLES--that person is probably not a candidate for puzzling out the content of a newspaper article?

— Bob Niccum

While I like some of the more subtle changes to the overall design package - such as the color coordination of the section headings, I think that the redesign to the editorial page makes it appear more cluttered. It was actually much cleaner before and I felt its look had resembled the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, but not so much anymore. I also liked the feature previously where a quotable quote from one of the day's letters was printed in bold at the top of the letters section. That is now gone.

— David Alpern

At last I can find the "OPINION" page! It used to be so difficult. However now I can't find the masthead -- and since it changes so often, I need to check it regularly.

— Jon Wiener

Thank God they color-coded the sections so the illiterate can tell whether they're reading a news story or a sports story ...

Wait a minute! If people are reading the paper, doesn't it mean that they're literate, and could - theoretically - read the section names regardless of color?

— John Rabe

Who did the times makeover, the guys at Jiffy Lube? What a total bust. Much to do about nada.............. i do like the nameplate, though!

— Jeff Prescott

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