Peter Palazzo

In 1963, when Mr. Palazzo was hired to reformat the foundering Sunday edition of The Tribune, most newspapers were rigidly, and often blandly, composed by editors who were not trained as designers or art directors. Originally an advertising designer, Mr. Palazzo was asked to create a typographic format that would distinguish The Tribune from its competitors. He broke with tradition when he combined newspaper layout principals and magazine display presentation, including larger images, increased white space, and elegant headline composition.

It was a calculated risk.

"One must be very careful about tampering" with the readers' habits, "which have built up over a long period of time," he wrote in 1964 in Print magazine. But since The Tribune had been steadily losing Sunday circulation to The New York Times, Jim Bellows, editor of The Tribune, took a chance that Mr. Palazzo's concept to design all the Sunday sections for "individual identification and unified appearance" would transform the archaic-looking pages into something modern that would attract new readers.

Peter Palazzo

Peter Palazzo



On the front page, Mr. Palazzo replaced the conventional news stories, set in monotonous narrow columns, with a summary of world, national and local events in a wide column of type with bold subheading down the left side of the page. Wider columns and gutters (the spaces between columns) throughout the paper made it more legible compared with the tightly packed eight columns of type in The New York Times of that era.

Mr. Palazzo used only one typeface, Caslon, because "of the instant impression of integrity it gives to the news," he wrote. The photographs were also noticeably larger. The new modular design was so airy that readers initially complained that they could not take it seriously. But prefiguring responses to today's information glut, The Tribune's design provided readers with signposts that guided them through the paper.

In addition to remaking the hard-news sections, Mr. Palazzo helped start the typographically elegant Book World and the original New York Magazine as regular Sunday supplements to The Tribune. For Book World Mr. Palazzo rejected The Times Book Review's habit of using famous artworks and instead commissioned conceptual illustrations by contemporary illustrators. Despite an increase in circulation, the new Tribune did not last long. In 1963 a crippling newspaper strike forced an unhappy merger of three papers, The Tribune, The New York World and The Journal American, creating The World Journal Tribune, which failed to garner a sizable audience and did not survive.

Peter Palazzo was born in Manhattan on Feb. 2, 1926, and grew up on Staten Island, where his father was a milkman. After two years in the Army Air Force he studied advertising at Cooper Union in Manhattan. His first job was designing theatrical fliers and posters. Later he designed Amerika, a Russian-language magazine published by the State Department.

His first big break as design director came when he was hired to create newspaper ads for the I. Miller shoe chain, and he commissioned a young freelance artist named Andy Warhol to make shaky line drawings of legs and shoes. The ads won numerous awards. He was then creative director at Henri Bendel until moving to The Tribune.

In the years that followed he started Peter Palazzo Associates and was a newspaper design consultant for The Chicago Daily News, The Providence Journal, The Winnipeg Tribune and The Edmonton Journal. He designed the prototype for an afternoon edition of The Daily News in New York, which was never published, and a Sunday section for The New York Post. He also created formats and covers for Forbes, Psychology Today and Family Circle magazines. In 1994 he designed a family of typefaces called Palazzo for The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

2017 History of Graphic Design

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