Horace Brooks, team leader for design at the Tampa Tribune, writes to let us know about a redesign his paper launched in January.
He writes that he found, here at the blog…
…an extensive post about our last redesign as a Media General product. So I thought you might be interested to see what we’re up to now.
The purpose of that redesign was to bring us in line with the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Winston-Salem Journal, so that the three papers could be designed and copy edited from two Consolidated Editing Centers, a truly dark chapter in Tribune history.
You can read about that October 2010 redesign here. Here’s a before-and-after look that I posted then:
The sale to Warren Buffett of all Media General papers but one, us, meant the demise of the CEC.
We were purchased in October 2012 by a private investment firm, Revolution Capital Group. Tampa Media Group was born, and we were thankfully free to shake things up and reclaim our identity.
By December of last year (below, left) the Tribune had already changed its nameplate to something that looked a little more traditional. On the right, here, is Wednesday’s front page.
You can see the elimination of the serif headline fonts and a complete overhaul of the skybox promos, for starters. But, in fact, there was quite a bit more to this redesign than that — stuff that’s not necessarily showing up in the Newseum.
Horace tells us:
Our first move was to push back against the Tampa Bay Times name change by reopening our office in Pinellas County and launching the St.Petersburg Tribune.
Here’s a live St. Pete Tribune page from last month:
Click any of these, by the way, for a larger view.
We treat St. Pete as our first edition and Tampa as the second. Most days we have two unique stories on each front and two shared stories. The same goes for Metro.
Next we switched from CCI to Saxotech, which consumed all attention for many months, so that I think it was the end of August last year when someone asked , “Why do we still look like the Tampa Times-Dispatch?”
From the start, I focused our redesign on single copy sales and reinventing our front page. Since we’re in one of the last competitive markets, with our papers sitting next to the Times in boxes and on store shelves, I felt we should dedicate every bit of the top half our front page as a billboard to draw undecided readers to our cause.
As you can imagine, this approach presented many challenges. Each time I tackled a new idea, I would design another round of prototypes, reimagining the previous four or five days of front pages using the actual news budgets. This went on for about three months. I also developed a 60-slide Power Point to present my ideas to my colleagues.
A couple of prototype pages from Horace’s collection.
One of the first people I shared the concept with was our photo editor, Todd Chappel. Since we’re now mixing photos with type on a regular basis, this wasn’t going anywhere without his help and encouragement. From day one, I’ve had wonderful backing from graphics editor David Williams, and my fellow A1 designers, Cindy DeJonge, Joel Taylor and Mike Winter.
Ultimately, I simplified our concept to three elements:
1. No body copy above the fold, the idea being that all top-half type should be readable from a distance at a newsstand.
2. Main art should always sit above the fold. A photo can extend past the fold, as in this example…
…but the meaningful area of the photo or graphic should never be folded.
3. I added the Below The Fold box. The box accomplishes two things: All headlines get a shot above the fold to nab a reader’s attention, and it’s a reminder that we’re not a tabloid. Headlines are copied into the box using the exact wording, so readers don’t have to process the information twice.
A closer look at the top half of a St. Pete Trib prototype:
As I started to pitch my ideas, I kept expecting push back that never came. All our executives responded with, “Great! Let’s do it. When can we start?”
I expected resistance from reporters and editors, but that never materialized either. One of our metro editors, Dennis Joyce, dubbed our new look The Blast, since words such as “display” or “centerpiece” just didn’t cut it anymore.
Here were the launch day front pages that published Jan. 5.
My goal from the start was to develop an architecture that would in no way compromise our decision making. No content has been lost, and we still build our pages around the best three or four stories each day. If the day’s biggest story is not visual, a rarity it turns out, we still have layouts that feature one story’s headline and display big art for another.
The rest of the redesign was more a series of tweaks. We simplified our head fonts, dropping Miller-serifs. We dialed back on color, banning most tan and light blue boxes that tend to remind me of Richmond. Red is now the signature color, and we mostly stick to that.
Here are three more sample Tampa Tribune pages. From left to right: Jan. 8, Jan. 11 and Feb. 13.
And here are three more sample St. Petersburg Tribune pages.
From left to right: Jan. 24, Feb. 21 and Feb. 23.
The response has been wonderful. We’ve had a couple of negative letters, of course , but most have been really positive. And I’ve been gratified by the support from longtime subscribers, since this new concept wasn’t really for them. They appreciate that we’re presenting a bolder face and are back to playing offense against our rival.
Average daily circulation for the Tampa Tribune is 144,510.