Apr. 1st 40 Years/40 Lessons (6)—Eagle.
Update #5: Sunday, April 4, 11:40 EST
TAKEAWAY:This is part 6 of my occasional series 40 Years/40 Lessons, which I call a “sort of career memoir” capturing highlights and reminiscing about what has been a spectacular journey for me, doing what I love most. Today’s segment: One American eagle that became the wings on which my career soared: redesigning the St. Cloud Daily Times PLUS: It is iPad weekend in the US
The Bild am Sonntag interview appears
For those who read German, you may find my interview with Bild am Sonntag here:
How the interview appeared in print:Bild am Sonntag today
My review of the iPad tomorrow
I am enjoying the use of my iPad, downloading apps and feeling my way through. It will be the conversation piece as we gather at my daughter Elena’s for Easter brunch today!
Something for everyone on my iPad desktop, including for the kiddies.
Also tomorrow: Times of Oman, Al Shabiba first day pages
Tomorrow will be a busy Mario blog as we will also show you the first day pages from Times of Oman and Al Shabiba, of Oman.
Interview with Bild at the Apple Miami Beach store
Here with Bild technical writer Martin Eisenlauer in front of the Miami Beach Apple store: the lines were long
Here is the line outside the Miami Beach (Lincoln Road) Apple store at 8:05 am this Saturday: iPad launch day
It was an early morning call for me as I met with Bild technical writer Martin Eisenlauer, who is reporting live from Miami Beach about today’s launch of Apple’s iPad.
Martin’s main story will appear in the Bild am Sonntag tomorrow. We witnessed long lines, and some of the people I ran into at the Lincoln Road store had been there since 4:30 am, to make sure they would get their iPad.
I was not surprised to find that the place looked like a “major news event” was about to take place; television crews, reporters, photographers from around the world capturing the moment.
Must read this TIME Magazine review:
Here is a quote to get you to read the rest:
“……the iPad is merely the tangible component of a much larger device, an entire Internet ecosystem that extends out to the horizon in every direction. Other companies simply cannot match Apple’s skill in constructing media pipelines for its products.
The Easter bunny and my iPad
Today’s Welt Kompakt (Germany) frames its front page around the iPad
I know that my 10 grandchildren will be happy to see me arrive for the annual egg hunt, as they always do: I am the grandpa carrying big chocolate filled bunny rabbits from Europe. The ritual is always the same each year. The chocolates melt quickly in the Florida heat that is usually there on Easter Sunday, and the kids’ hands and beautiful outfits soon reveal what they have been up to munching on the rabbits.
But for me this year, the Easter bunny brings something special: my own iPad, which I ordered the day they went on sale.
This Good Friday is all about the iPad for the media. Reviews are in almost every newspaper, but the one that truly made me smile was the one by the Wall Street Journal’s techie writer, Walter S. Mossberg, If Walter likes it, as he did the iPhone, then I am almost sure that NOT only would I like it, but the rest of the world will too.
Mossberg apparently had a fantastic time testing his new gadget for about a week. I hope you will read his piece, but I must give you this quote right away:
I believe this beautiful new touch-screen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop.
Go here for the Mossberg column:
Another unique review (seen from the techie’s point of view as well as by regular users’) by the NY Times’ David Pogue:
High flying daily newspaper project # 1
This was no ordinary American eagle.
This was an American eagle wth wings expanding about 8 columns across the top of the page.
This was an eagle that, when we changed it to a more stylized eagle, grew bigger wings that took off, with me under them.
The flight of that eagle has been a journey that has not ended for me yet.
The eagle in question was the eagle on the nameplate of The St. Cloud Daily Times, of St. Cloud, Minnesota.
(The newspaper is now just St. Cloud Times, as it dropped the Daily in 1988 when it started publishing a Sunday edition as well)
I must admit that the first time I came in contact with a copy of the Daily Times, I knew that the first thing we had to do was take that eagle off the front page of the newspaper.
In the process—-and this was my first official redesign project from start to finish——I learned valuable lessons, most important of which was: yes, you can push for what you believe it, and sometimes you accomplish what everyone around you think is NOT possible.
In reviewing my notes and articles written “post redesign” of the The St. Cloud Daily Times in 1979——at the time I was a professor at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications——I find my own reference to the eagle on the nameplate:
“….most importantly, the front page nameplate displayed a spreading and graphically overwhelming eagle, which became the greatest source of irritation and delays as we proceeded with our redesign efforts.“
More on that famous eagle and the impact it had on my career later.
Why a redesign for St. Cloud Daily Times
Around 1978, the young staff of the Daily Times, led by news editor John Bodette (who is now executive editor), had formed a “redesign committee” which spent months meeting regularly, analyzing the newspaper and trying to come up with graphic ideas to make it look better. But Bodette and Times editor at the time , Don Casey, soon realized that their in-house efforts to redesign the paper were hampered by the lack of a sense of direction. This prompted them to seek an outside opinion. It was at this point that I became involved with the Times as a design consultant.
I asked Bodette to send me two weeks worth of newspapers for me to analyze. This allowed me to observe the newspaper’s highs and lows, as well as to grasp a basic understanding of the newspaper’s news content, photo and art choices and the role of visual journalism in how the newspaper was put together daily.
By the time I made my first visit to St. Cloud—-a snowy day (those are frequent in St. Cloud, of course), I was able to experience the gravitational center of St. Cloud, the locale where readers and advertisers of this newspaper lived. I soon realized that St. Cloud, which at the time had a population of about 44000, was close enough to Minneapolis that it was like a microcosm of the larger city. This mental image started floating in my head, leading me to think that the old, ugly eagle on the nameplate could be replaced for something more stylish.
Eagle evil thoughts
I started sketching a modern version of this eagle on napkins, business cards, and anything that I could get a pencil image on. It became a crusade for me, but I was still not telling anyone about these “evil” thoughts. How do you begin a project——your first!—-by informing the editors that you want to change the nameplate, and, furthermore, remove a patriotic symbol as strong as an American eagle, which, by the way, I found out later, was a major nameplate staple of newspapers across the country.
I also was aware that as a Cuban American, many in the newsroom might see me as someone with no real patriotic feelings or attachments to the American symbol of freedom. To make matters worse, this ugly eagle was wrapped around an American flag.
But I could not imagine the front page looking good with that nameplate on. Something had to be done.
There were no Macs to design on in those days. But we did have border tape, and glue sticks, and ideas. The rest was a matter of executing.
I found myself drawing a box, a perfect rectangle, then using thin border tape, configuring the profile of a stylized eagle. I liked it from the start, but I was not telling anyone.
I casually asked about the “history” of the existing eagle adorning the top of the front page of The St. Cloud Daily Times.
Bodette, always gracious, enthusiastic and ten steps ahead of me, had compiled the information:
The eagle at the top of the newspaper had survived two World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars and it had sat proudly there on July 20, 1969, when man first set foot on the moon.
I could read between the lines as Bodette and I reviewed this over lunch one very cold day: “Mario, this eagle means history here.“
Yes, the eagle and St. Cloud readers had more than a mere casual relationship.
By the end of this lunch I had decided to tell ONLY Bodette about my plans to dethrone the eagle and replace it with my idea of a minimalist rectangle and a very thin lined shape of an eagle inside.
Always open to the next idea, Bodette did not seem to brush my idea aside instantly.
“Why don’t we tell the others, Mario?,“ he asked me as he got ready to pay for our lunch and head back to the newsroom.
A case of cold feet
The old eagle and the one in the box
Bodette knew his colleagues well, I must say.
The publisher of the Times and many of his editors developed a normal case of cold feet when the discussion of the eagle took place.
“We are not getting rid of the eagle totally,“ i hurried to say. “It is just that we put in a more modern one.“
Half the people in the room were at least curious, others stayed quiet and seemed confused, and not at all convinced.
I emerged from that long and mentally exhaustive meeting with at least permission to try my rectangle with the stylized eagle inside.
I returned to Syracuse and knew that I had to truly work something magnificent before I send it for review.
Every night for days, I sat at my drafting board (remember those), watching the snow fall outside in Syracuse, while my son Mario, barely 9 years old at the time, stood by my side, watching me maneuver around an X-acto knife (yes, some may not know what that is—-call it a weapon of choice for artists and designers in the newsroom, seldom used for bad intentions).
Finally, I had it, and it started to put it on a page, and place type around it, since this boxed eagle would NOT sit there alone, it had to work wtih the rest.
I liked it a lot, and so did Mario Jr,, who expressed approval from the start.
New eagle lands in St. Cloud
I arrived in St. Cloud another snowy day and showed it to Bodette first, then Don Casey. They both liked it, Bodette more so, and he was already jumping with joy at the sight of this new, young version of the old, tired and ugly eagle.
But we had to convince a whole lot of other people, and, eventually, Gannett execs (they were in Rochester, N.Y. at the time).
In my correspondence of the time, as I tried hard to lobby for my new eagle concept, I wrote the following:
“….notice that I am proposing a radical change for the nameplate. But, you will notice that your eagle has been preserved, if only in very abstract terms. Of course, I would not part with the eagle….I feel that we can reach this happy compromise—-keeping it, but minimizing its impact.“
As I read this in 2010, I realize that “compromise” had become part of my vocabulary, but little did I know at the time that it would have to be the one tool that I never leave home without for every project presentation. The consultant, editor or art director who is not ready to compromise will perish along the way or self destruct.
Second I enjoy reading the words “keeping it but minimizing its impact”-—-a phrase that I have probably attached to almost all 500 plus projects at one point or another.
In this first project, that American eagle taught me much, but its impact on my career would come later, after the paper was launched, and,yes, with the new stylized eagle.
What the readers said….
The new eagle concept went to Gannett headquarters for final approval, and I knew it would not be easy, but, hey, we had overcome all the obstacles locally in the St. Cloud newsroom, so how worse could it get.
Lesson #2: when a newspaper is part of a group, the locals produce the paper, but the execs at headquarters decide in a few minutes what works or doesn’t.
More cold feet when Rochester reported that the change was too drastic, and might shock readers. (However, Bodette reminds me in a mail this week that, at the end, headquarters guided and advised, but the decision to adopt the new eagle was done in St. Cloud.)
Those shocked readers: really?
This is an argument that I still hear weekly in some newsroom around the room. I have learned that most ideas shock editors and publishers, but few shock readers. Readers tend to be open minded and ready for change almost everywhere ! Put that on my headstone please. And while at it: editors and publishers are more likely to be fearful, skeptical and afraid of change!
Somehow, however, the locals in St. Cloud had fallen in love with the stylized eagle, and the publisher managed to get a go ahead.
So, on March 17, 1980, the new eagle flew into the front page of The St. Cloud Daily Times (in the process the old eagle took the article THE from the logo as well, good riddance). Now St. Cloud Daily Times was the name, and a boxed stylish eagle was perched on the corner of the page, and then the hush in the newsroom that first day was to wait for reader reaction.
What would the say?
How many would cancel subscriptions because the old eagle had flown away forever?
Hot lines were put into effect at the switchboard. Editors and reporters volunteered to man the phones, all ready to persuade “furious” readers who would called, indignant with the change, that their newspaper had changed logos, but not spirit, credibility or sense of community.
It was my first project, so I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous, and, for the first time, wondering if I had committed some major crime against tradition, an unpatriotic act that could cause the government to revoke my citizenship and send me back to Cuba (horror of horrors). This could be my first and last project, I told myself. But, then, I was a professor, so I could always just teach.
And, as you may have anticipated, nothing like this came to be.
A team of marketing people set up calls in the evening of the first day of the redesign, to call subscribers and find out what they thought about the new look of the paper, with hints of “what do you think of the new logo.“
Surprise. Not one negative call, and, surprise #2, some of the subscribers called asked the question: What logo are you referring to? Here was this eagle that had been seating at the top of the Page One for decades, it was no longer there, and nobody had noticed?
The research of eagles, logos and the rest
Instantly, the St. Cloud Daily Times eagle logo change was a cause celebre in the industry.
So much so, that the American Newspaper Publishers Association commissioned a study of reader reaction to the change of logo in St. Cloud.
The results, published for all to see, revealed that the change of logo had not affected perception, consumption, level of subscription, and, that, indeed, some readers were not even aware of the dramatic change.
When I said earlier that the eagle had LONG HAUL wings I mean it in terms of my own career.
I never stopped working again. Not because this design was anything that set the world on fire, but because the story of the eagle was told and retold.
I still do seminars in the US sometimes, and, inevitably, some older person in the audience will say: You are the one who changed the St. Cloud eagle, right?
Yes, I did, I usually respond proudly, and thank serendipity and luck for putting that patriotic icon in front of me.
(In another Bodette update this week, he reminds me that before we even signed a contract, he and I were sitting at lunch at the American Press Institute, and he showed me his newspaper and asked if I would be interested in working with them. He says that I responded: Yes, please, let’s do it so I can get rid of that ugly eagle on your nameplete.)
Ooops, shame on me, not very diplomatic!
St. Cloud was my first project redesigning a daily newspaper from start to finish (I had done dozens of weeklies around upstate New York, but no dailies). Every bit of that experience remains with me, and I was fascinated, as I wrote this segment, to realize how much of it I remember as if it was yesterday.
Of course, readers of this blog have followed my blogathon
about the logo of the Arab language daily, Al Shabiba, taking place this week. There was no eagle here, but there was a sheen that consumed as much time and effort. In both cases, the better version won, but it was not easy.
If you have followed me to this paragraph, you know that I learned many lessons in St. Cloud that shaped my style of work, my behavior with clients, and my belief in myself and the fact that as consultants we sell and promote ideas. The best consultants believe in their ideas, present them clearly and enthusiastically and promote them with passion and conviction.
In that sense, the consultant can soar higher than any eagle, including the one in St. Cloud.
The follow ups to Eagle
This book includes 150 pages of the St. Cloud Times, celebrating 150 years. Notice the various nameplates the newspaper has displayed through the years, including the stylized eagle.
From John Bodette this week:
The mastheads can be found on these book covers from a book of historic front pages we did in 2005. It was a great project for me and at the end of the year – after going through our history – I was named executive editor.
I look back fondly on the St. Cloud redesign for several reasons. It served the readers well (the most important reason). We all learned a ton and I think we advanced the new field of newspaper design. I had a chance to gain a mentor and friend for life – you! We also showed that small papers can do big things…..The rest is history.
Remember too that shortly after we completed our project and became instant experts, I found myself working on another project … helping create what would become USA Today
Bringing back the eagle?
Well, maybe for one day. Bodette reveals that he is toying with the idea of returning the old eagle that flew away in 1980 back for the June 13, 2010 edition, on the 150th anniversary of the newspaper.
Go for it, John. But make sure it’s only for one day.
The research of St. Cloud’s change of nameplate
Image from News Research Journal shows before and after pages for St. Cloud Daily Times
For those who wish to read the research around the St. Cloud eagle:
Mario Garcia, J.W. Click and Guido H. Stempel III, “Reader Response to Redesign of St. Cloud Daily Times,” Newspaper Research Journal 2, no. 2 (winter 1981): 36-41.
Subscribers’ Reaction to Redesign of the St. Cloud Daily Times [and] Understanding the Research Process. ANPA News Research Report No. 32.
Monocle Radio this Sunday: newspaper show
Once again, I am honored to be a guest of Tyler Brulé’s Monocle Radio show. The show, which airs Sunday, April 4, includes the following other guests: Simon Kelner, managing director of The Independent (London), who discusses the recent sale of the newspaper and the future of the daily newspaper; Goerge Brock, head of Journalism at City University, London, about whether the importance we’re placing on the medium is overtaking the quality of the message when it comes to how we receive our news. Also, Raul Juste Lores, business and economics editor of Folha de Sao Paulo, who talks about the rise of the printed newspaper in Brazil.
The show airs at 1200 CET, Sunday, April 4.
For more information : http://www.monocle.com
TheMarioBlog post # 525
Posted by Dr. Mario R. Garcia on April 01, 2010
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Dr. Mario R. Garcia
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