William Drenttel | Essays

Posted Without Comment

Jessica Helfand and I were recently in Portland, Maine participating in a symposium and workshop at the Maine College of Art. During our stay, we witnessed the launch of the redesign of the Portland Press Herald. This letter, in response to the paper being slightly downsized by 1.25 inches, was published on June 17, 2004. We offer it here as an example of the absurd (and delightful) ways in which the unsuspecting public experiences design.

To The Editors:

So what do I think of the new smaller sized Portland Press Herald?

I would say there are some good things and some bad things.

I always read my paper at the breakfast table all alone. And wow! There's a lot more room for my waffles, coffee, juice, etc. That's good.

But when I finished reading the paper, I spotted a housefly on my refrigerator, so I rolled up the paper and tried to whack it. I missed by about 1.25 inches. That's bad.

Paul Blaisdell
South Portland, Maine

Posted in: Media

Comments [5]

Thanks for the laugh.


I'm from Portland. And when I went to the coffee shop, across the street from DesignInquiry, where I was with Jessica, Bill , the workshop that week, there on the counter where they tape the horoscopes every day, where i read it every day, was Virgo: in a NEW and DIFFERENT typeface, size, column width, rules, subheads, header... certainly now my horoscope is just not right anymore either...
Margo Halverson

I was reading recently that the PIttsburgh Post Gazette recently started something similar, changing the width of each page in their paper by one inch.

However, in this case, the paper seems to be making the change gradually. Seems that not all of the presses can be changed at once, so in the meantime, subscribers may find their newspaper comprised of sheets of paper varying in width from the start date in January and the end date in September. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Regardless of a paper's reasons for "downsizing" (the Post cites cost reasons), it seems unfriendly that such an action would be taken with seemingly little concern for the subscriber who may now wake up every morning with a hard-to-use, strange-to-handle newspaper.

Makes me wonder how much thought anyone gave to this. I know it's not the first time that a decision (which ultimatley boils down to a design problem) was made without much regard for the end user.
Andrew Twigg

Not as funny as the fly-swapping comment, but an interesting post on the Houston Chronicle redesign over at Typographica.

Well, I think it has to do with economy. For them smaller means better. And after all, the scientists are talking about e-papers to take place of conventional ones.
Mark, web designer

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