Monday, April 17, 2006

Toronto Star and Maclean's: Amateur Hour

As I lay awake at 4:30 am, muttering incantations against The Toronto Star for having woken me up with the paper ricocheting off my front door, it dawned on me that my frequency of complaints in the last few months reached unprecedented heights only after the coup d'etat against John Honderich. At the time, columnists lamented the moving on of a professional newspaperman and the end of the Atkinson/Honderich family member at the helm. I now know what they mean. Between a Saturday colour comic redesign that either requires a skilled ability to fold the paper when half-awake or a totally clear breakfast table, an A2 page redesign that looks like someone's vomited text boxes all over the paper, a roving GTA section, and a paper delivery that borders on the disrespectful (nice way to put it, a better way is "FU service"), it's amateur hour at the paper these days.

It seems to be the way to go for Canadian publications. Maclean's hired Kenneth Whyte to reinvigorate the paper. He reinvigorated it to the point that the redesign, for the first time, made the magazine look cheap and chaotic, instead of the usual exciting, innovative step forward. The first thing I noticed was that the paper felt cheap. It reminded me of Time Magazine back in the 70s. The second thing was that I had to fight the graphic design -- the reduction in white space, the harder-to-read font, the low contrast between text styles, the jumble of visual elements, the look of an advertorial -- in order to understand the content. If your eyes are tired or you wonder why you have a head-ache after reading Maclean's, it isn't the content, it's because of the visually distracting graphic design that requires more cognitive resources just to read it, before even understanding it, than the previous incarnation of Maclean's. The Question and Answer feature used to be one of my favourite sections. I liked that Whyte expanded it, but the differentiation between questions and answers, using font style, is so poor I cannot visually distinguish between the two. To make matters worse, Whyte turned it into a syncophantic muse to American trendoids. I'm not prepared to work that hard just to read about some popular American of the moment. I'd rather do that to learn about my fellow accomplished Canadians.

As for the content, I cannot comment on its quality. I rarely managed to finish an article, or to understand it on a comment level because of the amatuer redesign. If Whyte thinks this is the height of innovation in magazine design, I'd hate the see his personal artwork. Optic shock comes to mind. I'm letting my subscription lapse.

2 comments:

Classic said...

_I believe I may have "taken an FU" too, this past weekend. re; the Takefuji Classic :)

talk talk talk said...

I hope it wasn't too much of a hit!!