Goodbye blue at the Chicago Tribune

Click here (or on the image above) to download a high-rez PDF of the logos

The Blog noticed many papers getting narrower lately as the 48-inch web sweeps the nation. The Chicago Tribune is the most recent to make the transition, making the switch today (see the new front page below). The paper is using the format change to introduce other changes, perhaps the most noticeable: getting rid of the blue background on the Page 1 nameplate. Joe Knowles, the Tribune's AME for design and graphics took a few minutes to talk with The Blog about the changes:

What was the thinking behind changing the blue background to white in the Tribune's flag?
Joe Knowles: "We felt it was time to update it. Our world has changed quite a bit since we introduced the white-on-blue version 25 years ago. Color was a relatively new thing on Page 1 back then. We knew the blue bar had become a powerful brand identifier for the Tribune... it was originally developed to stand out and be distinctive and it certainly did its job. But it had become overpowering in a way. It was a difficult visual element to overcome on the page. The new one lets the content come forward. That's how we want to distinguish ourselves now."

When was the last time there was no blue background?
"The color bar -- which also ran in green for our now defunct afternoon markets edition -- was introduced in 1982. Before that, the nameplate was black on white."

Did you have the flag redrawn?
"Yes, we had Jim Parkinson, who updated our flag for our last major redesign in 2000, redraw the nameplate to work with the new approach.

Do you have any thoughts about what readers might think?

"We expect some negative reaction initially. I certainly think some people will like the new nameplate, but we're more likely to hear from those who don't. It's reasonable for readers to react strongly to such a change. They're very attached to their Tribune and the blue bar has taken on a sort of iconic status for many of them. I think they'll get used to the new one pretty quickly because it's more evolutionary than revolutionary."

What other changes is the paper making?
"We're adding more white space to the design in general, more space between elements all the way through the paper. There's some new type as well. We had Nick Shinn draw us a new Century Light Italic, and we're using Benton as our primary sans serif in place of Myriad. We also previously used Myriad for agate and small-type presentations, but we're now switching to Poynter Agate for those applications. There are some other relatively minor changes as well, most of them directly related to the narrower page size. We'll employ a five-column grid more frequently now, for example."

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Blogger billy said...

I really, really like it. It's very clean. I don't live in Chicago, but I'm excited to see the paper on the Rockford market news stands.

What font is used for the date and location ("Chicagoland final")?

Monday, January 14, 2008 7:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Steve Cavendish said...

It's Century.

Monday, January 14, 2008 9:00:00 AM  
Blogger Robb Montgomery said...

Benton sans is nice - I used it for The Examiner redux and I really like how it grades up and in.

Looking at the blog post here (sorry - I only take the Sunday Trib) I see something that needs more 'splaining.

The black and white page one photos with the spot color flag - now that's a retro touch. Thos Tribsters are digging way back to circa 1987 for that Daily Eastern News design motif infuence.

That's awesome!

Finally they have dropped off the reverse blue flag USAToday bandwagon.

Monday, January 14, 2008 4:24:00 PM  
Blogger Francie said...

Oh thank God. It's about time the blue reverse died.

Monday, January 14, 2008 8:30:00 PM  
Blogger Rogelio Aranda said...

First Comiskey park, such as it is, becomes The Cell. Then Marshall Field's ditches the locally produced chocolate and then gets taken over and renamed by a NYC conglomerate. Oh and First Chicago becomes Bankone which is now Chase! Now this?! Is nothing sacred in Chicago anymore?

Kidding of course. Change is a good thing (sometimes). All I can remember from my childhood about the Trib is the blue bar across the top, but I like the new look. Clean, classic yet somehow still modern.

Monday, January 14, 2008 9:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve Cavendish said...


The photos were a PDF thing on the Newseum.

Monday, January 14, 2008 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger Robb Montgomery said...

You can't get upgrade Dorsey to a full-color image? Man, you guys are harsh.

Can't help but notice that the Chi-Tri blue logo nameplate now better matches regional competitors The Times (NW Indiana), Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and The Daily Herald.

Oh, also down-state rival Quad City Times.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 9:05:00 AM  
Blogger steve & christina said...

my wife, a chicago native and sun-times reader, agree. its a depressing change. the blue mast was one of the wrinkles that made the tribune unique and stood it apart from every other paper. no more. i'd rather a much more dramatic change in how centerpiece stories on A1 are played than changing the mast.

and the previous post nails it. now the trib looks like the journal sentinel, times of NWI and quad city times.... and the look of those papers have taken hits recently.

steve zimmerman
the oregonian

Wednesday, January 16, 2008 3:30:00 PM  
Blogger MattE. said...

"and the previous post nails it. now the trib looks like the journal sentinel, times of NWI and quad city times.... and the look of those papers have taken hits recently."

Ahem. Gotta butt in here with a couple of things.

1) Steve Z., you may be the only one in this industry who would look at the Chicago Tribune, Times of NW Indiana, QC Times and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel all in a row and suggest that they all look alike. Look beyond the top 2 inches of the front page, man.

2) Does it really matter if the four of us all have blue in our logos? Last I checked, Milwaukee isn't stealing any readers from my paper. And probably not any to speak of from the Tribune, either. So we're all blue -- big deal. We're all blue for individual reasons, and it doesn't have anything to do with trying to look like each other.

3) Blue was a color that The Times of NW Indiana readers strongly identified with from years spent with our previous "blue block" logo on A1. When we updated our nameplate a few years ago, making the new logo blue was a natural transition. Same can be said of the Tribune.

4) Oh no! I just noticed that Akron, Cleveland, Dayton and Cincinnati all have black all-caps logos! They all look the same!

5) It should be duly noted here that Steve Z's previous employer was the Gary Post-Tribune, fierce competitor with The Times of NW Indiana. If by "taking hits" he means in circulation, The Times of NW Indiana's numbers are some of the very few in the country that are INCREASING. The Times of NW Indiana was up 6.5 percent as of last October. Steve's old paper, the Post-Tribune? Down 18.5 percent.

So what was the problem again with having a blue nameplate???

Thursday, January 17, 2008 1:25:00 PM  
Blogger Robb Montgomery said...

I have expanded and illustrated the analysis: http://www.robbmontgomery.com/home/2008/newspaper/design/01/whats-in-an-nameplate/

Thursday, January 17, 2008 4:21:00 PM  
Blogger steve & christina said...

hey matt,

i dont think i'm the only one who noticed. the times of NWI may be the only paper that breaks away from the similar look of all four regional papers, five if you include the daily herald. all have traditional treatments below the mast, 4-5 story counts, very little if any white space and few risks taken.

mostly i'm disappointed a bigger change wasn't made at the trib, especially when you look through a sunday tribune and see dramatic design on nearly every section cover and know the talent inside the building. to see a change like removing a signature element like the blue mast when other improvements could have been made is disappointing. i was disappointed when the times of NWI went away from their blue reversed mast. i thought it broke the mold. perhaps more change was suggested and vetoed from the top. who knows. change on a big scale takes approval from glass offices.

when i worked in south florida i saw several papers try new and dynamic things on A1 on a regular basis, esp. in miami and the 'old' sun-sentinel. the glass offices were on board.
back in 2003 when i lived in NW indiana the times did have a unique style. i even still have a copy of the times' election coverage from 2003 because i loved how it was presented. different than i'd seen at other papers. much like the tribune's cubs coverage that postseason.

as far as the post-tribune, it's been five years since i've been there and seen what they're doing. but were no different. very similar. few risks on A1.

Thursday, January 17, 2008 6:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve Cavendish said...

I think the love for the big blue bar doesn't extend much past nostalgia.

I'll leave this comment over here since the comments have apparently been disabled over at Robb's blog . . .

"Interesting piece of psychoanalysis, Robb.

Alas, it's wrong.

The only inspiration for our change was ourselves. (We were blue for a long time, you know.)

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Thursday, January 17, 2008 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Robb Montgomery said...

Steve, the comments are not disabled on my blog and never have been. FYI, your comment actually came through twice.

Saturday, January 19, 2008 5:30:00 PM  

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