The first major redesign of a Zell-Abrams-Michaels TribuneCo paper is done. I present the new Orlando Sentinel. Abrams is allegedly a big fan. Here’s what I think (the horizontal line is approximately where the fold would be).

1) Nooooo…. I just don’t understand the wisdom of giving important space to columnist headshots, especially some of the most important real estate in the paper–basically, where the F1 would normally go. And those are some big-ass pictures. Plus the black shirts make them look like waitstaff at a nice restaurant.

Most columnists just aren’t very interesting-looking–a rare exception, I think, is John Kass, who looks like he’d make a sturdy character actor. Maybe I’m just pissed that this means I’ll never be a TribCo columnist, since I don’t allow recognizable pictures of myself to be printed or posted online.

2) That’s a brave use of fonts. Also, confusing.

3) I like the bulleted list and breakdowns. One of the things that newspapers are learning from blogs, I think, is that there are more efficient ways of presenting concrete information than the inverted pyramid style. There’s something to be said for giving readers what amount to notes and an outline. It’s not a bad way to learn.

4) Similarly, leading with an infographic is a neat idea.

5) I could do without the fillips. It’s just a tiny bit of visual excess, but still.

Here’s the old front page, for comparison: 

I have to say I think the new one is an improvement. The flag wastes way less space, the deadening “Speed Read” and table of contents are gone, and the color palette is more coherent (if more garish). The reader goes into stories with a better sense of what to expect–an approach that’s often derided as dumbing down the news, but newspapers are supposed to serve dumb people (besides, no one derides students for stupidly taking notes or making outlines).

Also of note: I think we’ll look back years from now and realize the profound impact the RedEye had on newspaper design. The Sentinel even uses the same black-red-tan/khaki (with a hint of yellow-red) palette.