Re-Design: The Sentinel

Yesterday the result of my latest identity redesign project arrived in the mail - the July issue of my local neighborhood monthly newspaper, The Sentinel.

A few weeks ago "scrappy" (Note: admittedly an inside joke reference) Managing Editor and Publisher Cornelius Swart contacted me in regards to possibly redesigning the paper's identity and assisting in the establishment of a color palette for the news vehicle. Swart, who I originally met several years ago when he was working with the Portsmouth Community Development Corporation - another local identity re-design client, was familiar with my wide variety of past North Portland logo design clients. In addition, over the past 30 years I have designed identities for several publications.

The Sentinel was going through a total redesign, including a change in page size as a cost-saving measure and to allow for greater unfolded newspaper rack placement in local businesses. Art Director Colleen Froehlich was creating the still evolving page format. St. Johns web designer Andy Nelson was - and is - working on the yet to be unveiled new web presence for the paper.

In meeting with all the players, in person and via email, I got a good sense of the direction in which they hoped the public persona of the publication would go. There was a desire to have "the look" be unique, fresher and bolder, while maintaining some elements of the common appearance of a newspaper or tabloid publication. The current image seemed to be fairly traditional to me (above top).

Initially I presented type treatments of The Sentinel, with an image of an eye replacing the dot over the letterform "i" and revamped sun rays as a background, making use of the fonts Unicorn, Boca Raton Solid, Blue Blate Special and Rockwell Extra Bold. I also toyed with adding some emphasis to the "n" and "ne" letters in "Sentinel," as references to "north" and "northeast" Portland, with overly complicated results. I maintained the placement of "THE" as a element of continuity, and historical perspective, to the existing identity.

Swart and his staff narrowed the type selection to the Boca Raton and Rockwell treatments. They liked the "sexiness" of Boca Raton, but thought it might be a little too "magazine-like." Those providing input felt that Rockwell conveyed the "seriousness" needed for a newspaper, but the uppercase "S" letterform was too heavy, "clunky" and distracting. I was asked to finesse - or change - the "S" in the Rockwell treatment, to tweak the eye imagery, and play with "i" letterform a bit to make it possibly more lighthouse or "sentinel-like."

In literally going back to the drawing table, I worked on the "S" element for quite some time. I kept returning to the fact that everyone involved liked the "S" letterform from the Boca Raton font a great deal. In what was a bit of an "a-ha" moment I simply took the "S" from Boca Raton and dropped it in front of the Rockwell treatment of the remaining letters in the word "Sentinel." It seemed to work beautifully - and the newspaper crew agreed.

With some emails back and forth, in tweaking the eye element in my logo concept, the final new identity was approved (above bottom). The rays of light coming from the eye imagery seemed to become less and less important as the project progressed and eventually disappeared.

One of the things I really appreciated about working with the individuals involved in this project is that they really knew their "stuff." The design process for The Sentinel was much more of an actual collaboration than efforts with most of my clientele.

In our first meeting, Swart arrived with his copy of the Jim Krause book Color Index. Numerous Post-It notes marked color combinations he liked and was considering as possible palettes for future use in the newspaper. Once the logo design was finalized in black and white, Swart, art director Froehlich and I met to discuss the pros and cons of the various color options. From our discussion the suggested colors to be used were determined (above). While a blue and orange-ish color combination had been used previously, the new selections were richer and more intense. If used, the added suggested color options of the green and purple will give the paper an even greater visual richness.

It was great to receive the newly formatted paper (old design above left; new design above right) in the mail just days after completing the identity design. I appreciate Swart's column, and blog, mention that, "Thanks to local logo guru Jeff Fisher, The Sentinel has a spiffy new brand identity and logo."

(Note: My book, Identity Crisis!: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities Into Successful Brands, contains case studies from 35 designers and firms located around the world. Learn more about the book on the Identity Crisis! blog.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

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