City Pages: A history of our editorial design

It's about time. This month's stem-to-stern editorial redesign is the first since 2001.

As with most large newspapers, complete redesigns are infrequent. In this publication, it's occurred roughly every eight-to-ten years. The decision to update our look was made over a year ago, and it's the result of collaborations among several Village Voice weeklies.

Curiously, although City Pages' publishing history includes several significant changes, its visual history is separate from that. Major changes to editorial design have occurred independently of other factors--even name changes and change of ownership.

Sweet Potato: 1979

​Sweet Potato was a newsprint publication transplanted to the Twin Cities (as was its content) from Portland, Maine. The publication debuted here on Thursday, August 1, 1979 asa monthly rag. The paper's first art director, Marcia Wright (now Roepke) tells us she's unsure who designed its first logo, which also came from Portland. Its loopy, "doodled" quality underscored its music and arts content, but the paper quickly asserted its liberal bias on social and political issues as well (in the vein of Rolling Stone).

City Pages: A history of our editorial design
City Pages: A history of our editorial design

A More Serious Potato, then City Pages: 1979-81

The whimsical logo wasn't long for the world. It was soon replaced by Roepke's successor, David Steinlicht, with a much more formal logotype scaled to resemble a "small caps" serif font. For an independent publication, the design of Sweet Potato was fairly professional, straightforward, and properly typeset. This may have been a play by the paper to compete with their main rival, The Twin Cities Reader, a weekly college paper begun in 1976.

On August 20, 1981, Sweet Potato went weekly and its success soon prompted a name change. The paper was retitled City Pages on December 3, 1981, a change that was heralded on Sweet Potato's final back page. Curiously, though the name changed, the mast/logotype was not at all altered in style. The words "City Pages" were rendered in the exact same fashion as "Sweet Potato." Steinlicht was still at the helm during this transition. (Ironically, he was also the final art director for the Reader when in 1996 both papers were acquired, and the Reader shut down).

City Pages: A history of our editorial design

The early Sweet Potato covers are experimental, music-focused, and singular in subject. But for years, the paper's cover design swung back-and-forth stylistically. By the time it was City Pages, the covers had become less iconic, newsier, and functioned like the front page of a daily newspaper--the text of the feature article began right there on the cover. The covers continued to alternate between iconic, tabloid, and hard news through 1984.


Color usage varied as well. Most covers were two-color, and in rare instances, four color. On June 15, 1983, the annual "Summer in the City" debuted, featuring a cheery image of kids on break. This was a larger-than-usual issue--the "Special Issue"--one which attracted increased ad revenue (and thus provided the extra funds for a full color cover). Steinlicht left in late 1983 (he's still in newspapers and now works at the Pioneer Press). The art directors who followed came and went with fair regularity (in comparison to the paper's other staff). Holle Brian, then Lisa Blackshear, and later Don Besom took the helm, but no major changes were evident in the design.

City Pages: A history of our editorial design

Readers in 1985 will probably never forget the addition of two legendary syndicated cartoons. With October 23, 1985, City Pages began running Matt Groenig's "Life in Hell" and Lynda Barry's "Ernie Pook's Comeek."

Lifting Faces: 1985-1988

Art Director Don Besom refined the City Pages logo on November 27, 1985. He kept the "small caps" look but substituted a modern Bodoni typeface. Inside, the 1980s style (and the influence of digital publishing) were in full display with the addition of boxed and decorated initial caps.

City Pages: A history of our editorial design

Cornelia Bremer and her assistant, Sandy Bartel, tweaked the Bodoni logo and interior typographic styles for the issue of January 20, 1988. The logo became "stacked," uniform in height, and occupied much less space on the cover (a preference in direct opposition with most periodicals). It would be another four years before a total redesign, but these ladies introduced the paper to the wonders of Futura and a more professional, cleaner, and delineated layout. Some section heads were run vertically, and the whole paper felt a bit more light and clean.

City Pages: A history of our editorial design

City Pages: A history of our editorial design

City Pages: A history of our editorial design

Perhaps the Futura headlines were deemed too bold because by 1989 they were replaced by a more modest treatment.


Into the Futura: 1992

In 1992, the paper's staff box reveals an interim period between art directors. While Bartel tended to the weekly chores, the paper's first sweeping redesign was set into motion. The company hired a national name to perform the task: Time magazine's art director, who was well-known and designed several national magazines. The logo was bigger and bolder than ever! Readers could not mistake the change if they passed by a newsstand. It was more than the switch from serif to sans; it screamed off the page.

This design was flexible enough to carry the paper into the new millennium. It even withstood the paper's first change in ownership. In early 1997, City Pages was acquired by Stearn Publishing, which published the venerable Village Voice in New York City. But the buyout didn't affect the look of City Pages. The only clues to the change were found in the staff box.

City Pages: A history of our editorial design

A one-off format buster from January 1997

Toeing the Minneapoline: 2001

Editor Tom Finkel (now with our St. Louis paper, Riverfront Times) wrote about the stem-to-stern changes that took effect on October 31, 2001. He credited the redesign to Michaelann Zimmerman and Ted Keller, both Village Voice design staffers who spent over a year perfecting the new look. The new logo was made from a customized version of Foundry Monoline called Minneapoline. The text typeface was Melior, whose square forms mirrored those of Minneapoline.

City Pages: A history of our editorial design

City Pages: A history of our editorial design

TheTimes are New: 2012

Here we are, another ten years on (and maybe a tad overdue). As in 1997, City Pages remained cosmetically unchanged in the wake of its second merger/acquisition, with the New Times company in 2005. But this week marks a new era: Click here for a full accounting of all the details of our newest redesign.

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