The Daily Tar Heel — the independent student newspaper of the University of North Carolina — launched a redesign today.

On the left is Thursday’s front page. On the right is today’s.

The first thing you notice: The DTH eliminated its left-side rail and replaced it with a strip across the bottom containing an index, weather and a few promos. This was probably a smart move. My own experience with rails has been that after a short while, readers tend to ignore ’em. Unless you have a way of making them visually stimulating every day.

There also seems to be more color — “Carolina” blue tint bars ‘– across the top of the page, which I think is a welcome change.

Here’s a closer look at the new front:

A story about the redesign in today’s paper reports other changes include:

  • Anchored corrections column on page 2.
  • Longer “lead-ins” to summarize stories.
  • A new sans-serif accent font.
  • No more justified text — it’s all ragged right from now on.
  • Centered headlines

That last one, in particular, interests me. Just last week — during a Skype class visit with students at Oklahoma State University, in fact — a student questioned the centered headlines on page one of the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer that he saw in my blog.

He asked me about them. They don’t really bother me, because I’m used to them. The N&O has been using centered headlines since Mario Garcia‘s huge 1993 redesign of that paper. But, sure enough, not many papers used centered headlines. If you’re not used to them, they can mess with your head a bit.

So I find it curious the Daily Tar Heel is going with center heads… like the ones in the N&O, the closest large daily.

The creators of the new look — senior designer Beatrice Moss, left, and design editor Kelly McHugh, right — also write in their story today:

We’ve also brought back the bottom quote. This feature, which alumni may remember, adds a light-hearted element to our top news page. The quote will be selected by a member of our staff each night and will be exclusive to the print edition.

Today’s quote is one of my all-time favorites:

Kelly and Beatrice get extra kudos points from me for accurately quoting Steve Jobs. Here’s the full quote, from an article eight years ago in the New York Times:

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

Other than a few cosmetic touches, the inside news pages don’t appear to have changed radically. Again, on the left are Thursday’s pages. On the right are today’s.

Here’s a before-and-after of an open news page.

As you know, we normally advise redesigners to not mess with the crossword puzzle. Unless they just like getting a bazillion phone calls.

This redesign is a bit unique, however, in that it moved the crossword downpage to a spot where most crossword lovers prefer to see their puzzle.

Or maybe that’s just today’s ad stack. Normally, though, you’ll want your crossword in the bottom quarter of your page, so readers can quarter-fold and then work the puzzle.

The redesign included a number of structural changes on the editorial pages.

It’s a shame the DTH is losing the “quick hits” feature at the bottom of the page. It’s usually a good idea to give readers something shorter than the usual lengthy editorials and columns to enjoy.

And here is the back page… better known as sports. On the left is last Monday’s sports page. On the right is today’s new-and-improved page.

Find the Daily Tar Heel‘s article about its changes here. Find the Daily Tar Heel online here.