‘New look’ is an example of creeping sameness
December 7, 2007
When I heard about a year ago that our publisher had hired a redesign team to go to work on The Aspen Times daily where I’ve sweated and labored for more than a quarter of a century, my initial reaction was unprintable.
Now that the results are in, the die is cast, the print is dry and the “new look” has hit the streets, my latest reactions have been ” well, you’re about to read them, so that means they’re printable by definition.
But they certainly have not been gleeful, or even temperate, regarding the bland, all-too-familiar results.
First off, let’s get past the typical rejoinders, “Oh, Colson is just a damned curmudgeon, he doesn’t like anything new, he hates change.”
That’s a load of bull puckey (except for the curmudgeon part ” I’ll happily cop to that).
I, like any thinking man or woman, realize that change is inevitable, and accept it as something that happens every day in myriad ways, that doesn’t respond to our individual likes or dislikes. It’s the only real constant in the human condition, as has been said before. Change, as a function of the passage of time and the decay of all things, simply happens in the natural world.
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But as far as the organized activities of people are concerned, change is something that can be directed, shaped and molded, rendered either beneficial or harmful, sensible or not.
And that’s where my objections to this “redesign” of The Aspen Times come into play, which specifically focus on only one aspect of the changes ” the modification of what we in the biz call the “nameplate” or “flag.” That’s the name of the paper as it appears on the top of the front page, the most readily identifiable part of the typography that makes up our “look.”
Some have mocked or belittled the resistance to the changes. This may reflect pangs of guilt felt by some supporters of the “redesign.” Or it could be one way of justifying support for yet another episode in the transmogrification (thanks to Calvin and Hobbes) of Aspen and the entire Roaring Fork Valley.
This place has seen nothing but change, and much of it over the course of three or four decades has been ugly, vapid, devoid of social justice and based on greed and short-term gain. Many of us are tired of it, outraged by it, and every time we come across another example of change for no good reason that we can detect, we rise up and scream.
To be clear, I can accept many of the changes, such as typeface or headline styles, or the design elements used to lay out pages, the use of summary decks to further explain what a news story is all about, and all the rest.
I happen to think these particular changes, as executed, make us look like too many others in the increasingly homogenized world of newspapers, a trend that I fear is contributing to the decline of the industry. But as my spousal unit said on day two after seeing the new look, “I hated it at first, but it’s not so bad now.” There’s a ringing endorsement for you.
But why get rid of the nameplate? It was distinctive, it was quirky, it was our badge, our out-front image and declaration of solidity, permanence and reliability. It’s true that it had been changed several times over the century and more the paper has been published, but none of those changes made the paper look as bland as this one does.
Back in the late 1980s, when the daily edition of the paper was created, the nameplate was a modernistic blight on the front page that soon was changed back to the traditional design that had stayed on the weekly edition all along. The designers did that because the old nameplate was iconic, it was solid, it was identifiable, it was ours.
In the wake of the change under discussion here, even some of those who supported it now say the result is too “vanilla” when compared to the old flag, and that there may be some further changes in the offing. I can only hope the results will be better.