Thursday, April 23, 2015


In looking at old Twin Cities Reader covers, I find I'm ashamed of a couple of them. Too much color, too many colors. Misuse of type. So I've decided to do a couple of them again.

(I've been giving the Vue Weekly grief lately, so I thought I'd give myself some of the same.)

As always, click on the pictures for closer.

First off: Trying to do something here, but getting lost in my love of bright spot colors. The red bits are just distracting.

In the redo, I went with a spot-color gray instead of green. A subtle treatment for very big type.

I got really carried away with colors and blends on this one. The typography stinks. And the color separation of the tiny photograph is amazingly awful.

So I thought I'd simplify. White space to the rescue.

Too many tints on the black and white photos here. Nice photos, mistreated.

I'm attempting to let the black and white photos be black and white.

Not sure I could get away with these at the time. There was a big push to make the covers colorful. But I think these reworked covers are more attractive than the originals.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Twin Cities Reader covers, late 1995 into early 1996

Hey, here are some more Twin Cities Reader covers. Other posts with old Reader covers are here and here.

Designing the cover of a free weekly -- to me -- meant working with black plus one spot color. Maybe two spot colors. Almost always a black and white photograph. Sometimes using a duotone to jazz it up. This was hammered into me during my days as art director of Sweet Potato -- and eventually City Pages -- in the early 1980s.

But by the time I got back to doing a free weekly in the mid-1990s, a couple of things were changing on the production side of making a paper.

First big change: I was designing on a Macintosh using Quark Xpress, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. No more speccing type and using wax-backed phototype for pasteup. No more having someone else making halftones of photos. No more gang of people hunched over paste-up boards. The production of the entire editorial section of each edition went through my computer. That was both exhilarating and tiring. Total control and total responsibility.

One other change: Full color. Or four color. After the first couple months of working on the Reader, the publisher, R.T. Rybak, was delighted to tell me that we would now be printing the paper using full color all the time. Every cover would be full color. He thought I'd be excited about it. And I tried to be enthusiastic. But honestly, I thought the covers were stronger when using black plus one or two. The colors were brighter. And they could be any color, not just soupy, brownish CMYK mixes.

Eventually, I got over my discomfort and took to the challenge of four-color covers. But not without way too many ugly color experiments. It took me a while to get comfortable with full color on newsprint.

My first cover. Black plus three (count 'em, three!) spot colors.

Twin Cities Reader. August 23, 1995. Photograph by Sari Gordon.

Black plus two colors. That logo is very big.

Twin Cities Reader. August 30, 1995. Photograph by Marc Avery.

Black plus two colors. As much as I like the pure bright green spot color (it's impossible to get tha brightness using 4-color process tints), looking at it now I think a nice spot-color gray would have been a better choice. And the subhead type is too big. And the bottom type color is not resolved. I thought the Foshay photo jutting up into the white space would be cute -- but it doesn't work. Not a successful cover.

Twin Cities Reader. September 6, 1995. Photographs by Anthony Brett Schreck.

Black plus two. No photo to work with, I just went with type. One of my favorite "something out of nothing" covers. The bottom type is more to my liking. I struggled with just how light to make the color bars to have the color but not distract from the readability. I must have liked the challenge, because I kept that treatment.

Twin Cities Reader. September 13, 1995.

Full-color special edition cover. Brown. I think the color separation was done by the printer. I think I was expecting something more orange and red. I like the artwork by David Rathman, but I must have felt it needed some spicing up -- hence the little colorful icons down the edge. Icon art by Twin Cities Reader Copy Chief Ruth Weleczki.

Twin Cities Reader. September 20, 1995. Illustration by David Rathman.

Black plus two. Look at those day-glo colors. Oh, yeah! I meant to reverse the date of publication out of the left edge of the "R" -- but I screwed up the overprint and so, there is no date on this cover.

Twin Cities Reader. September 27, 1995. Photograph by Craig Lassig.

Black plus two. A little bit of photo abuse here. I'm bashing away at the logo.

Twin Cities Reader. October 4, 1995. Photo by Jeffrey Rabkin.

Starting with this issue, it was four-color covers all the time. No more day-glo. Boo-hoo, poor me. Another case of the logo being big. Note how the green is not as bright as it could be. Why did I make it green? I think I was trying to say "Look at how dull full color can be!" Why would I do that?

Twin Cities Reader. October 11, 1995. Illustration by Tom Dolan.

Four-color covers can be a struggle, but when the cover photo looks like this one, by Marc Avery, I had nothing to complain about.

Twin Cities Reader. October 18, 1995. Photograph by Marc Avery.

Here's the inside spread of this issue. In glorious black and white.

Twin Cities Reader. October 18, 1995. Photographs by Marc Avery.

Another "something from nothing" cover. I was going for a dirty, gritty look inspired by the scary movie, "Seven." But the cover just turned out muddy brown.

Twin Cities Reader. October 25, 1995. Type illustration by David Steinlicht.

Black and white photo with duotone. Nice photo -- unnecessary duotone. Unnecessary duotone on the bottom photo, too. Unsuccessful page design. Using as many colors as I could. Plus, I started putting a drop shadow on the logo. I look at that drop shadow today and say, "Ugh."

Twin Cities Reader. November 1, 1995. Photograph by Diana Watters.

Joe McDonnell comes to the rescue with a swell illustration for a winner of a cover. Solid magenta logo. I'm still longing for those spot-color logos. (I choose to not comment on that drop shadow.)

Twin Cities Reader. November 8, 1995. Illustration by Joe McDonnell.

A big miss. A failed "something from nothing" cover. Somebody take the colors away from the art director! Where's the white space? On this cover, I'm apparently attempting to learn how to do color separation. Very bad color. One more thing: Mark Odegard, my boss at the Science Museum, used to say that type on an angle is a dead giveaway that the designer is out of ideas. Guilty! But remember, if you're gonna tilt the type, tilt the picture.

Twin Cities Reader. November 15, 1995. Photograph by Craig Lassig.

Attempting to make the logo appear smaller by covering part of it with the illustration. I think it works. A more successful brown cover.

Twin Cities Reader. November 22, 1995. Illustration by Andrew Powell. 

A nice cover.

Twin Cities Reader. November 29, 1995. Illustration by Anthony White. Courtesy Native Arts Circle.

Finally a four-color photograph that looks natural. Now, was that so difficult?

Twin Cities Reader. December 6, 1995. Photograph by Jeffrey Rabkin.

When I took over the Twin Cities Reader art director chair, I told the editor, Claude Peck, one of my main goals was to change the logo. This idea didn't go over well.

1995, the year of three art directors -- and three logos.

I started at the Reader in August. The paper had just changed its logo in April. And if I made a new logo it would be one year with three logos.

But I really felt that changing it was necessary because the Franklin Gothic Extra Condensed logo made the cover of the Reader too much like the cover of City Pages (their logo was Futura Extra Condensed Bold, always red on white). The two free alt-weekly papers were always confused with each other and I felt this made the confusion worse.

Claude relented and I was able to make the change in December, for the big holiday issue. So the change wouldn't be too radical, I suggested making the logo out of another condensed sans serif font. I used Gill Sans Extra Condensed. I also designed the logo so that it would usually be in the brightest color available to me: newsprint.

Twin Cities Reader. December 13, 1995. Photograph by Ann Marsden.

A something-from-nothing cover that works fine. The logo and page format is now in place and -- for better or worse -- the whole thing stays in this configuration for remaining life of the publication, another year and three months.

Twin Cities Reader. December 20, 1995. Illustration by David Steinlicht.

Fun illustration, slightly mistreated by the art director. I was working too hard to make the colors go with the illo. And the "Cultural High Fives" art is -- also trying too hard.

Twin Cities Reader. December 27, 1995. Illustration by Brian Barber.

Very straight-forward four-color photograph treatment. That looks normal and nice. Black and white photos top and bottom allow the color photo to be the star of the page.

Twin Cities Reader. January 3, 1996. Photograph by Marc Avery.

Big type. Maybe the biggest. I think there's some very light tints under some of the type that could have been eliminated.

Twin Cities Reader. January 10, 1996. Illustration by David Steinlicht.

Another successful full-color photo. Is the art director getting the hang of it?

Twin Cities Reader. January 17, 1996. Photograph by Craig Lassig.

A misstep. Full-color photo color balancing trouble. Some white space would have helped. Too many blue tints.

Twin Cities Reader. January 24, 1996. Photograph by Sevans.

One of my favorite covers, even though I crapped out on the color balancing of the color photo. A typography joke about tightness. Or something. I had fun monkeying around with the new logo.

Twin Cities Reader. January 31, 1996. Photograph by Brian Pobuda.

The publisher was requesting more use of color on the inside of the newspaper. So -- there you go.  Oddly enough, the inside color looks better than the cover color.

Twin Cities Reader. January 31, 1996. Photographs by Brian Pobuda.

I was on vacation during this week so Twin Cities Reader Copy Chief Ruth Weleczki pitched in with a cover design. Looks good. Nice photo, too.

Twin Cities Reader. February 7, 1996. Photograph by John Noltner.

An okay cover. The deck type is too big. I like the colors.

Twin Cities Reader. February 14, 1996. Photograph by Marc Avery.

Not a great one. This one would have benefited from less color in the logo and the secondary art.

Twin Cities Reader. February 27, 1996. Illustration by Mike Waraksa.

A tough photo to work with. Not particularly successful.

Twin Cities Reader. February 28, 1996. Photograph by Eric Altenberg.

Pretty good cover. Fun photo. I like the treatment of the secondary art.

Twin Cities Reader. February 6, 1996. Jeffrey Rabkin.

Again -- I was trying too hard to coordinate the colors with the artwork.

Twin Cities Reader. February 13, 1996. Illustration by Carl Wesley.

Okay. Good color separation. The secondary art and type treatment is . . . not good.

Twin Cities Reader. February 20, 1996. Brian Pobuda.

Unusual photo for the cover. I think it works.

Twin Cities Reader. February 27, 1996. Photograph by Michael Dvorak.

Really nice artwork.

Twin Cities Reader. March 3, 1996. Illustration by Lisa Blackshear.

This one works. Excellent Ward Sutton artwork. Not sure why I didn't make his artwork bigger. I think I was just trying to be contrary.

Twin Cities Reader. March 10, 1996. Illustration by Ward Sutton.

Very busy photograph. I kind-of like that there's lots of type in the photo. I think I should have used a sans serif font for the deck. The secondary art is too busy to be next to all the other busy stuff.

Twin Cities Reader. March 17, 1996. Photograph by Dan Marshall.

I'll post more covers later.

Vue project 1016

I like this week's cover. Good job all around -- art and type.

(Tiny complaint: I think the record player's tone arm should be on the right-hand side.) (I know -- picky much?)

I like the simple but powerful restricted colors. I like the display type.  I particularly like the way the illustration makes its way up into the logo.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Twin Cities Reader covers from 1995

A while back I posted some Twin Cities Reader covers from when I worked there in the mid-1990s.

Here are a few more covers from January through early August 1995. Once the paper went out of business (long story) I had bound-copy books made of the issues I worked on. Plus the rest of 1995 for context.

Speaking of context, here is what the competition looked like in 1995. City Pages had a serious redesign in 1992 and they continued to use it mostly unaltered until a 2001 redesign. Here's an informative article on City Pages' design history (hey, there's Marcia Wright Roepke and me!). (Note: I stole this cover image from that article.)

That's how I am now posting a bunch of covers that I didn't work on. I think these covers are a fun time capsule.

Photographing bound copies is an art I haven't mastered. That means there's a weird bend here and there. Sorry about that. Bound copies are great for preservation, but not so good for reproduction. (I'm sure there's a better solution for taking pictures of these things, but I haven't found it.)

The Twin Cities Reader's editor at the start of 1995 was David Carr (yes, the late New York Times columnist). Marcia Wright Roepke was the art director. Marcia used Cochin for the logotype. Looks distinctive and classy. The logo's really big -- but light, so it's not overpowering. A good contrast to City Pages look.

A black-plus-two-color cover with a black and white photo -- as was often the case at the time for free alternative weeklies. Note the inflammatory headline. A Carr (and alt-weekly) specialty. (As always, click on the image for a larger view.)

Twin Cities Reader. January 4, 1995. Photograph by Craig Lassig.

Another black plus two colors.

Twin Cities Reader. January 11, 1995. Photograph by Brian Pobuda.

Full color!
Twin Cities Reader. January 18, 1995. Illustration by Jeff Tolbert.

Black plus two colors. Type only. And big. Get out of town! (One of my favorite recurring Twin Cities Reader articles. So grouchy.)

Twin Cities Reader. January 25, 1995.

Black plus two colors. Black and white photo. Fun headline, "Ticket Master." I like the whole thing, except the headline type coulda been a little stronger. (Marcia, you know I love you.)

Twin Cities Reader. February 1, 1995. Photograph by Brian Pobuda.

Black plus two colors. Black and white photo. Excellent color selection.

Twin Cities Reader. February 8, 1995. Photograph by Marc Avery.

Full-color cover featuring Twin Cities rock and roller, Ed Ackerson -- don't spare the white space. Lotsa fun.

Twin Cities Reader. February 15, 1995. Photograph by Brian Pobuda.

A nice black plus two-color cover. Very newsy looking. Subtle selective tinting on the background of the photo.

Twin Cities Reader. February 22, 1995. Photograph by Craig Lassig.

Black plus two colors. Another nice selection of colors. Another typically snotty headline.

Twin Cities Reader. March 1, 1995. Photograph by Brian Pobuda.

Black plus one color. Punchy. I like it.

Twin Cities Reader. March 8, 1995. Photograph by Marc Avery.

Full-page black and white photo. Black plus two colors. No apologies. This is Marcia Wright Roepke's last Twin Cities Reader cover design.

Twin Cities Reader. March 15, 1995. Photograph by Sevans.

Bruce Macindoe was the art director from March '95 to August '95. Here's his first cover. Following the Marcia Wright Roepke template. Black plus one color. Nice type treatment and white space.

Twin Cities Reader. March 22, 1995. Photographs by John Noltner.

Black plus two colors. Very aggressive.

Twin Cities Reader. March 29, 1995. Photograph by Darrell Eager.

Black plus two colors. It might have been a mistake to print this fine-lined illustration in a spot color. The illustration is lost next to the sea of red behind the logo.

Twin Cities Reader. April 5, 1995. Illustration by Peter Bastiansen.

With this issue, Bruce Macindoe changed the Reader's logo to Franklin Gothic Extra Condensed. Very bold. A strong cover.

Twin Cities Reader. April 12, 1995. Photograph by Erika Kyte.

Black plus two colors. This is the last of the David Carr Twin Cities Readers. He went off to edit Washington City Paper.

Twin Cities Reader. April 19, 1995. Photograph by Diana Watters.

Full color. Nice use of white space. First issue edited by Claude Peck. Claude was the editor through to the end of the Reader in 1997.

Twin Cities Reader. April 26, 1995. Illustration by Erik Johnson.

Full color. Subtle yellow duotone on the artwork.

Twin Cities Reader. May 17, 1995. Illustration by Jim Rownd.

Full color. Colorful type! Nice illo. A very successful cover, I think.

Twin Cities Reader. June 7, 1995. Illustration by Tom Garret.

Black plus two. No main photo, but it looks great. Giving the typeface Franklin Gothic a real newsy workout. (This logo treatment looks a lot like what I did once I became art director.)

Twin Cities Reader. June 14, 1995.

Black plus two.

Twin Cities Reader. June 21, 1995. Photograph by Mark Avery.

Black plus two. Looks like full color. Great cover. Powerhouse illustration by Ward Sutton (who at the time was contributing a weekly comic strip to the paper.)

Twin Cities Reader. June 28, 1995. Illustration by Ward Sutton.

Full color with black and white duotone photos. This cover suffers from everything-is-the-same-size syndrome.
Twin Cities Reader. July 4, 1995. Photographs by Craig Lassig.

Full color.

Twin Cities Reader. July 12, 1995. Photograph by Anthony Brett Schreck.

Full color. Nice use of white space. A nice cover.

Twin Cities Reader. July 19, 1995. Photograph by Craig Bares.

Black plus two. Nice color combo. Successful duotone. It's a bit strange that, although they are in separate stories, the two guys pictured on the cover look like twins.

Twin Cities Reader. July 26, 1995. Photograph by Sevans.

Black plus two.

Twin Cities Reader. August 2, 1995. Photograph by John Noltner.

Bruce Macindoe's last cover. Black plus two colors.

Twin Cities Reader. August 9. 1995. Photograph by John Noltner.

After Bruce left, Twin Cities Reader Copy Chief Ruth Weleczki filled in as art director for this cover.

Twin Cities Reader. August 16, 1995. Photograph by Craig Lassig.

In a future blog post: I'll put up the old Twin Cities Reader covers that I designed.