Redesign reactions

Anytime a newspaper goes through a redesign, some people are going to hate it, and they will be vocal. And the complaints are almost always the same.

Having just gone through such a revamp with this blog, I offer this list of the top 10 complaints about a newspaper redesign.

10. It looks like USA Today.

9. Why isn’t international news on the front page anymore?

8. The type is too small. I can’t read the stories.

7. The photos are too big. There’s less space for news.

6. Dumbing down the newspaper will not attract younger readers.

5. The weather map looks like the one in USA Today.

4. A redesign has never been shown to increase newspaper revenue. Never!

3. The colors are ugly and distracting.

2. I can’t find the Jumble.

1. Why are you turning into USA Today?

UPDATE: Thanks to links at Romenesko and elsewhere, this post is getting lots of traffic. It’s also being perceived in some quarters as a critique of the redesign at the Los Angeles Times. It isn’t about the LAT — it’s about typical reaction from readers to a typical newspaper redesign.

Thanks for reading.

10 thoughts on “Redesign reactions

  1. 4. A redesign has never been shown to increase newspaper revenue. Never!

    That one’s true. No designer can offer an example to refute the point.

    6. Dumbing down the newspaper will not attract younger readers.

    It won’t.

    8. The type is too small. I can’t read the stories.

    This happens far too often. It proves that people doing the redesign are hopelessly out of touch with what readers want.

    As we all know, the primary goal for any redesign is so designers can handle less text. They hate text. They don’t understand it, and they fear it.

  2. Well Wenalway, thanks again for nothin’ —
    I have no problem with you spouting a bunch of negative assertions, some of which I agree with and are likely to be true.

    But for once, can you add some positive, forward-thinking ideas as part of your counterpoints?

    What DOES work, and if it’s proven to work (i.e., increase revenue/readership), why aren’t more papers doing it?

    Or do you think newspapers are just fine as they are and we should just keep on bopping along with no changes?

  3. Having gone through a couple of web reductions, I can say this about type size:

    It tends to be reporters and editors who push for smaller type because they’re worried about how much they can fit in.

    Purely for readability’s sake, we should all be running larger body text.

    The increasingly small web widths are also producing column widths that are bad for readability (and making the body text larger could actually make that part of the equation worse, since fewer words would fit per line.

  4. I wrote #4 with Mr. Knilands in mind.

    I hadn’t heard from him in a while, so I put that on the list and wondered how long it would take him to comment on this post. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed that it took as long as it did.

  5. When I’m King of Newspapers — which will be never because I refuse a doomed kingdom — the first thing we’ll do it kill all the designers and go back to eight vertical columns of text.

    Newspapers are too design-intensive. Too much scaffolding is built around the baby. Too many pieces are required to feed, clothe and bathe the baby every day.

    This was fine 25 years ago. Not today. You’ve got a print edition and a Web site. Newspapers can’t devote full resources to either.

    Who buys from the newsrack anymore? Then why are pages so design-intensive?

    Newspapers could hire three reporters or copy editors for every AME Design.

    Kill designers.

    Kill designers.

    Kill designers.

    They’re only in for their SND awards.

  6. Ed,

    In my experience, most designers care about their newspapers, not SND awards. Sure, I’ve encountered a few who don’t care enough about the content, but they are the exception, not the rule. I’ve also encountered reporters and copy editors who have the wrong priorities, but again, they are the rare exception.

    So please don’t kill the designers. Just hire and keep ones who are journalists who are engaged in the content and ready to collaborate with everyone in the newsroom. It’s not that hard to find people who are in journalism for the right reasons.

    As for too many AMEs, that’s another question altogether…

  7. Kill designers? You’re joking. I am a designer and I can’t stand SND and their self-important “theories.” Please don’t lump us all into that category.

    As far as redesigns go, we had a successful one and are now one of the top newspapers in the nation for circulation growth.

  8. “Sure, I’ve encountered a few who don’t care enough about the content, but they are the exception, not the rule.”

    Nope. They’re the rule.

    This is the same weak argument people keep trying to make to defend the obsession with page design.

    It’s done nothing to boost readership. The concept needs to be removed from newsrooms. The resources are simply not available to keep playing “massage the poor designers’ egos” games any longer.

    Also, designers pass the buck whenever a redesign fails, and most of them have. Funny how no one comes forward with the specific numbers in those cases.

    If Waterbury did see a 600 percent revenue increase, then there must be some other factor. Readers don’t care about design.

    Again, it’s time to retire the concept from newsrooms. No argument can be made for keeping it. When money is tight, the non-essential pieces must be removed from the equation. Design is non-essential; it must go.

  9. I know I am late to this discussion, but it hits too close to my heart to not comment. I agree that much about SND and its awards bother me — and I was a judge once — because “cosmetic” design seems to get rewarded. That’s not good newspaper design.

    Don’t kill designers, kill BAD designers, get rid of those who don’t understand that newspaper design is functional, it has a purpose. Get rid of those who don’t understand that and instead go for the trendy or pretty instead.

    Design is essential because you cannot in fact put together a newspaper without considering its functional design: its format, its organization, its typefaces, etc., all must be _chosen_ and that, by my definition, means designed.

    I wrote two articles at that discuss the separation of art and design, which is similar to this discussion. They may interest you.

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