Thursday, January 20, 2005


Check out Dig today! That is, check out the former Weekly Dig.

Adoption by Metrocorp, owner of Boston Magazine, has freed — or prodded — the paper’s design team, Tak Toyoshima and Kat Topaz, into an improved look with expanded features on more pages and better paper. It has several good, clever ideas (including the contents finder running top to bottom on every right-hand page) and manages to just avoid revealing that there’s one too many fonts making the scene. Which, come to think of it, means there probably isn’t.

The name itself is newly minimalist, obviously. There’s white space galore. The design retreats from bleary-eyed retro into chunky, stripped-down elegance, from loopy rounded edges into comfortingly solid squares. But what’s interesting about this redesign is that it simultaneously cleans things up and complicates them to the point of constant squint and shifty eye. It rewards close looks in something of an alt-weekly version of the elaborate cartoon work of Chris Ware (with the qualifier that peering intensely at Ware’s tiny panels is more likely to reveal something worth looking at, while Dig might just show you that “I love chambord, and purple is my favorite color, and I like to get drunk; but I need drinks that are sugarcoated”).

The editor’s comment that the new layout “doesn’t cause blindness” isn’t quite true; but going blind from tiny type, articles buried among listings and sideways copy is better than going blind from glaring ugliness. What ugliness, though?

The comment itself is yet another example of the Dig’s disappointing penchant for saying things whose drama and provocativeness can’t disguise their pointlessness. There was nothing really wrong with Toyoshima’s previous design, and it seems odd to gratuitously bash it. Especially since he’s still on staff.

The redesign is another encouraging sign for Boston media, which improves in fits and starts and — disappointingly — from the bottom up. The Improper Bostonian was an embarrassment when it began and now exudes prestige intriguing for a free publication. Barstool Sports was appalling but has grown dramatically in its short life, even if it discovered that the trick was giant photos of hot babes instead of regular reports on the travails of small businesses (meaning itself), or even anything having to do with sports. Even the Boston Phoenix is experimenting with sensible page flow and improved design, and the Phoenix is truly the weekly whose pages contribute to blindness.

The biggest problem is at the biggest papers, with the real embarrassment being at The Boston Globe, which touted its 2000 redesign as expensive and extensive but failed to notice that it was amateurish and awful — one of the extraordinarily rare occasions that a redesign made a newspaper uglier. Even after retreating from some of its sillier elements, including horizontal rules made of tiny vertical rules, the Globe still can’t manage to make its use of white space consistent. Or line things up. And this is the era of desktop publishing.

Dig spent less time and money and came up with something far better.

Check it out.


Anonymous said...


Scape7 said...

That seems to be overstating it a bit. But sure, what the hell.

Anonymous said...

I'd hardly agree that the new design is better. It's visually chaotic, and I have a hard time even reading an article, let alone a whole paper. Toyoshima's design, while not the most 'minimal' was readable. Topaz's design is too busy, not reflective of the weekly dig's personality, and rigid. The bracket idea is the same element the phoenix uses, and the last page funny photo is courtesy of someothermagazine, another boston mag. If you look at her portfolio on Topazdesign you'll notice that she's used pretty much the same idea for covers before as well. I gather that advertisers have dropped off as well, since there are a lot of 'dig ads' in the dig itself. I'm really disappointed in their new schlockyness.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that they also wiped out their web archives, so there are no back issues available.