City Pages: A history of our editorial design

Categories: City Pages
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Any good history has to start at the beginning
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 as a 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).

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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).

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.


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2 comments
East Coast Doug
East Coast Doug

At one time the Reader / City Pages had real news articles.  In depth, investivgative news.  I remember stories about NWA, taxes, etc.

Now it's just junk week after week, resturant(s) of the week reviews, anti Bachmann (how much does anyone want to read?), grade B music groups.  Seems many of the reviews are for 20 somethings, who can't prepare a 'burger' or 'mac'n cheese' in their own kitchen.

What's even worse are the 'paid for ' for advitorial resturant reviews in the middle of the paper.

Thomas James
Thomas James

What a great look at the evolution of City Pages. Thanks very much for posting this.

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