Sunday, July 10, 2005

New LA Times Current Section. Pass? Fail? Incomplete? First, Layout, Design - And That New... Title!!!

First, the title. Current. Editor Bob Sipchen admits that the new title of the Opinion section is, "bland in an AL Gore sort of way..."


It is bland in a younger brother of Al Gore who no one ever remembers kind of way. I also keep typing it as 'Currents' as in the 'Currents' feature in the New York Times. And unlike Opinion or Business or Entertainment - it intuitively tells you nothing about what is in the section. And it simply does not roll off the tongue. Can you really imagine people saying - did you read that article in Current last Sunday?

So... back to square one on that.

Second, graphic design.

Page 1 - When you first pull out the section, all you see is too much type crammed together that is too hard to read and the top half of a drawing that is totally unreadable. There is no reason why anyone would want to open this section based on what is above the fold. So most people will just set it aside, at least at first.

If you are going to keep the new format - the top teasers need to be far easier to read (and snappier) and far more bullet point. Plus the name 'Current' needs to be a less thick typeface with a much more... contemporary font. It is simply too heavy and not even remotely current in feel or style.

And the thick black lines that separate articles are... way too thick and black. Rather than separating stories, your eyes go to them rather than... to what is on either side of the bar. The thick bars overpower the too small type (and weak fonts) on either side of them, detracting from the design

And, going back to the design above the fold of the first page, the only thing that might get you to open the section - is the word 'terrorism' - and that is done in a too light too hard to read red type and, again, the font is way too thick to pop off the page. Plus, again, it is overpowered by the thick black bar.

Below the fold of the front page, the 'By The Numbers' column is hard to read due to the sentences being broken into little, itty bitty, tiny little lines. And it takes a moment to realize that the story is not appended to either of the stories on either side of it.

Page 2 - The three tiny little columns down the middle of the page with only 2 or 3 words per line... are totally impossible to read. Surely this will immediately be seen as a big mistake and whoever designed them... publicly executed.

Page 3 - God, are those long, little columns annoying as Hell. Whoever designed them should like rot in Hell for like... all eternity.

Page 4 -The redo of the Editorial page is a complete disaster. Every single change makes the editorials far, far hard to read (of course - can that really be a bad thing?).

I feel like I am reading a book meant for four- year-olds - and not very bright four-year-olds at that. Letters part is OK, though.

Page 5 - Other than thick black lines sucking all the oxygen off the page, the layout here works.

Page 6 - 'Shelf Life' column would still work better as a horizontal than a vertical piece, but at least it is readable, unlike other long, skinny columns. Illustration well done - but does not give a quick read, and is not memorable like a great editorial cartoon. More art than editorial. Same could be said of front page art. Good art - unsuccessful editorial. Rest of page is fine.

Next... content...

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