Thursday, January 26, 2006
Last week at the video store, a woman in line behind me said something that caught my attention. “Change is inevitable,” she said, “but progress is optional.”
She may have been talking about some new system at Blockbuster—I don’t know, I think she found the new empty cases confusing. But what she said rang true to me—it made me think she’d been reading my e-mail, listening in on meetings.
I had just left the Weekly office, where we were finishing off a year-long process that led to this redesigned newspaper. There was a lot of talk about change—and a lot of changes happening. We knew that success was not inevitable.
We’ve got a new look here at the Weekly. Every change—from the new font to the new thicker, whiter paper stock, to the new A&E Calendar—was deliberated over. We were careful. We were scared.
As a rule, change sucks—everybody hates change, unless it makes things better. So we were determined to make this a change for the better, not change for change’s sake. We had a specific intention—with this redesign, we intended to make the paper look better, but mostly to make it work better. We sought progress.
Here’s what we’re doing:
Cover: We know our readers are so loyal that the only thing we need to put on the cover is our logo (thank you—we love you, too). But our new design allows us to showcase more of what’s inside, and to develop a signature look.
Contents: We want you to read everything in the paper, but we know you’re busy.
831—Tales From the Area Code: Our stories from the neighborhoods has been moved to the front of the book and expanded. Think of it as a front porch.
News: We can now give more stories prominent display. We also have a new feature, “Public Citizen,” to inform readers about local political meetings and civic events.
Opinion: This new section brings together the variously insightful, controversial and personal—or Squiddly—writings found in our Letters, Forum and Squid columns. It also features a new column by me, “The Local Spin.”
Calendar: Our new A&E Calendar makes it easier to navigate the fun-map of Monterey County. In this section, we have combined our old Hot Picks, 8 Days listings, theater listings and art openings, in one comprehensive day-by-day list.
Club Grid: For people looking for live music and nightlife, we are now publishing the Club Grid in plain English, minus fancy abbreviations. If it worked before, it works better now.
Classifieds: We have revised a dozen details, and we have created a new Real Estate section, which we intend to expand.
Font: All of this new work is being presented in a new typeface. Don’t know what that means? That’s OK. As it happens, newspapers pay very careful attention to the very shape of the letters that make up the words that make up the sentences that let you know about the news, creative arts, entertainment and commercial endeavors that you find in our pages.
Who, etc.: The Weekly’s redesign was executed by Sonda Andersson-Pappan and her colleagues at Dial V9 Design, based in Phoenix, Ariz. Sonda honed her trade at Rolling Stone and went on to work at Spy magazine. She was later lead designer for the New Times Media, where she redesigned the SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and other newspapers.
<>Sonda worked with virtually everyone at the Weekly: Karen Loutzenheiser, our art director and production manager, and her staff; me and my staff; Publisher Erik Cushman and his staff; Classifieds Manager Kevin Smith and his staff; and Executive Editor and CEO Bradley Zeve. There were meetings. And a lot of e-mails. We should have recorded it—we could have made a reality-TV show, The Weekly Redesign: Progress Optional.>
<>A big little change: On our Opinion page, we are now running our mission statement in display type. There it is, at the top of this page, where it will now live: “To inspire independent thinking and conscious action, etc.” >
That may be my favorite thing about this redesign. It’s an old-fashioned newspaper thing, like the New York Times’ “All The News That’s Fit To Print,” or the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s “To Print the News and Raise Hell.” Nobody has to wonder what it is we’re trying to accomplish.
We try and live the mission around here. This redesign springs from the “conscious action” part. Sometimes, you look at what you’re doing and you decide to make changes. You hope they work.
The woman at the video store—she was pissed about something changing. It’s my guess that she liked the old system. I liked the old Weekly, too. I like this one better. What do you think? Let me know.
Eric Johnson is the editor of the Weekly. The views expressed here are his own.