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Letters from alumni about PAW's appearance

March 19, 2002

I have been reading the PAW since 1974, and I have noticed that I am having a harder time reading the magazine. I looked very carefully at the last copy I received (March 13, 2002) to see why this might be so. For me, the layout style has gotten to the point that I am having great difficulty knowing where to start reading an article or having any place for my eye to rest. Often the layout seems like a random patchwork to me with the result that I simply turn pages and don't end up reading the pieces. Here are two examples:

The spread on page 12 and 13 on the Chapel. There appear to be three fonts and five colors of type. The overlapping pictures seem very jumbled to m,e and the quote in the purple box fights with the rest of the text for my eye. It is not clear to me where to start reading. The quote and the body text fight with the titling. There is no use of proximity and separation to delineate these separate pieces. After reading the first two columns of text it is not clear where to go on the next page. Is it the text under the picture of the cleaned stone work which looks like a paragraph rather than a caption, or is it the body text lower down next to the chapel door? The Photoshop effects seem out of place. The color fade out in the middle of the quote makes the readability/legibility of this area difficult at best. The color transition from sea foam green to purple in the side bar seems out of place. Why sea foam green? The picture of Dean Breidenthal seems so synthetic and gimmicky. Purple sky, pasted portrait on top of the church background with vastly different lighting? Lastly there are many areas of trapped white space, and on page 12 there is this strange disembodied 90° turned credit for photos by Barros, nowhere near a photo. But then on the next page there is a very crammed-in credit next to the picture of the chapel doors that says "Masonry Preservation Group Inc.". So which is it?

Another example is the Contents page on page 1 (actually there is no page number anywhere to be found). It appears so messy to me that I can hardly make it out. And if the orange color denotes a title heading then why are the other two lines in orange when they are not headings? I am confused. What is that picture of the man in the library doing out there on the page edge? Looks like it may be related to an article on pg. 48 called "snapshot", but I had to search for it 4 inches away and several lines down. Man, this is tough visual stuff. Reminds me of Victorian Crazy quilts or puzzles.

My purpose for looking at the layout elements is NOT to make your artists "bad and wrong" but rather to let you know that many of us are having a very hard time reading your magazine because I believe, of graphic choices that seem "patchwork" at best. The result is that I have to work very hard to decipher the information and navigate its flow. The consequence is that I rapidly loose interest, flip the page, read the class notes, and toss the magazine in the recycling. This is a shame since the ultimate goal of any publication is to have the reader read it! I have shown the magazine to several friends to get their reaction and the answer is always the same: visual confusion.

I have never written a magazine before about layout style, but felt compelled to in this case because it is becoming painful to read this one and I think that is a huge disservice to the University which depends on this magazine for much of its PR image. Hopefully you will consider these comments from one reader who cares.

Scott Jones ’78
Portland, Ore.

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October 10, 2001

Since the past you have received pleas to make some changes, this time I want to compliment you on the changes that have been made — apparently to the satisfaction of just about anyone who may have complained.

You've kept the logo and pumped up Princeton Alumni Weekly on the cover. Very nice compromise.

Mostly, your Class Notes is outstanding with the alternate black and orange at the heads. Very, very nice. Keep up the good work.

Herbert W. Hobler ’44
Princeton, N.J.

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September 12, 2001

Congratulations on the appearance of Volume 102 #1 (September 12, 2001). You really responded to the criticism of the alumni and yet moved forward to a contemporary format and presentation.

Ted Meth ’44
Princeton, N.J.

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