10 October 2016

[print] The New New Oregonian Front Page, In The Flesh

Saturday was our weekly sojourn to that bastion of a democratically informed public, the Mighty MultCoLib, and I finally got my chance to lay my meat-peepers on the real thing, and get an idea of how visually impressive, the new new The Oregonian design is.

Here, on the table in front of me, the paper:

A thing that was merely a protoype a few days ago is now a thing that's a thing. It's still a tabloid thing, though; one feature of the re-design is certainly not a return to broadsheet-ish.

The impression one gets is not so much that of a newspaper as some sort of hybrid between a newspaper and a magazine.

The modified blackletter O which serves as the "Oregonian Media Group"''s logo has the pride of place on the page, in the upper left-hand corner, where most of us really enter a page. That's smart; if you think of the page as a battlefield, that's where the invader (your reader) will make their landing. This also sets up a natural idea of grid, espeically the way they've sliced off the O on the right, giving a hard line with which to define a visual column and to draw the eye right down to where an important story could be. The bottom of the O extended left could also be a visual boundary, but somewhat of a weaker one.

The name of the publication, always a good thing to have, still plays but a supporting role in the layout.

Here, the O not only defines a natural visual progression from the top left down but the top left to the right across the top of the page, where a couple of notable interior news stories are called out.

The foliage photo in the middle of the page is allowed to break out of its bounds and overlap the big O, providing a bit of visual iconoclasm that has the result of drawing the eye into the one direction that the big O in the corner does not directly encourage. This space, already defined by the trend of the big graphic to pull the eye along the top and down the side, is ideal for a bit of color. In this case, a brief seasonal word about Portland's Hoyt Aboretum as a blandishment to visit, along with hours of operation and encouragement to visit online sources where more information can be found about the place, as well as online links to more images.

Where's the front-page index, you say? Right here, at the bottom, almost invisible.

The use of the fonts, Tiempos and Guardian Egyptian, are appropriate, but like the front-page index, the bylines and slug lines have also been rendered nearly invisible. I'd punch that up just a little. And I've noticed the type in the headline about the Arboretum, which is one I don't recognize and don't remember seeing it announced, is for subject headings in many of the stories. It scans well and has a genteel feel to it.

My verdict? Since The Oregonian has been going through it's changes the last few years, I've not been a fan. I don't get the idea of scaling the paper down to a tabloid size; thus robbed of the pleasure of not reading a broadsheet, the whole experience is a little less fun. I'm still making my peace with it. That is an ongoing project.

This redesign is, however, a solid idea. Reducing the O to a small box in the upper left was a change that was visually aggravating, and making the old masthead type even smaller broke my heart. A classic masthead like that is something you boast, not something you tuck away. So, even though the design fixation on the O is something that strikes me awkwardly, the way the design manifests it is an improvement, and the way it's put into service to catalyze the page layout here is sensible. It does bring a welcome sense of personality to the layout that the redesign lacked.

That was the message I read between the lines of the editor's blog post last week, and that's what's been accomplished. 

No comments: