‘Sun-Times’ Completes ‘Stealth’ Redesign

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Updated at 5:50 p.m. EST

With the publication Wednesday of a new nameplate on a front page filled with newsy refers, the Chicago Sun-Times essentially completed its months-long rolling redesign of the tabloid.

In a telephone interview, Editor in Chief Michael Cooke combined pride in the result with a certain reluctance to discuss the redesign: “Do I want to talk about it? No. The reason we did it this way — without fanfare, without leading off with brass bands — is because we wanted a redesign by stealth. Most redesigns piss off readers.”

Cooke called this the penultimate step in finishing the long-running redesign, which began months ago with a different headline typeface and new page design in the business section, and was gradually spread throughout the paper. There will be some tinkering inside the paper, he said, but the front-page launch was the final big step in the redesign.

The paper replaced a blue, rounded typeface for its name with an all-caps black, with white, shading type that includes a jaunty angle to the hyphen in Sun-Times. There are nine separate refers to inside stories, including a 50-word narrative below the lead headline that encapsulates a Fran Spielman story about the city’s plan to overhaul the fire code for high-rise buildings. The newsier feel is intentional, Cooke said.

“As you can see there’s more gravitas to [the front page], but also more pop,” he said. “The design we had until today was very 1980s. We’re trying to broaden the reach without … [alienating] our faithful and longtime readers.”

The new front page also solves a problem that many newspapers have faced since the 9/11 terror attacks two years ago: How to eliminate or downsize an American flag image added in the fervor of those days — without angering some readers. A day after the attacks, the Sun-Times added a flag with the words “FLY THE FLAG” below the image. Those words are now gone. The flag remains on the front page, but it is far smaller and waving.

“That was a challenge, and I think they handled it very well,” Cooke said. “They made it blow in the wind, which is what flag is supposed to do.” As for the absent admonition, Cooke said it is “implicit” in the flag image, and he didn’t rule out bringing it back on some occasion.

The new Sun-Times flag can be seen on the paper’s Web site.

The print front page can be viewed at Newseum.org.

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