What is it like to radically redesign and expand more than 20 weekly newspapers in just a few months? That’s a banner question

On my first day at the Orange County Register, I learned two ways of looking at our newspaper:

We see the Register as the nation’s largest community newspaper, and like a tree, it needed strong roots to grow at a time most newspapers are struggling to stay alive. Those are the goals that executive editor Ken Brusic and our new publisher, Aaron Kushner, wanted to achieve.

To do that, the Register needed to produce not only a great daily newspaper, but also some of the best weekly papers in the country. 

It was a cool assignment, because the Register’s weeklies had long been neglected by the people who previously occupied the executive offices on the fifth floor at 625 N. Grand Avenue in Santa Ana.

But these weeklies were about to be pushed into the centerpiece position at one of the largest newspapers in the nation – both in quality and as a significant part of the new owners’ advertising and circulation strategies to revitalize the news organization.


Over the next few months, I am going to go over many of the strategies we implemented at the Register’s weekly papers. But first, let’s talk about the flags we used for newspapers that serve vastly different communities in Orange County, each with their own distinct cultures.

When the assignment was given to revive the weeklies, the papers looked like this:


Every single weekly newspaper at the Register shared the same design and the same banner flag font. They were typically 16 pages. 

Anyone who’s followed my digital career knows that the news web sites I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of did all that they could to reflect the community. At the Las Vegas Sun, for example, we designed a banner that reflected the icons that distinguished that city. Same in Lawrence. Newspapers are even more a part of a community’s history than a web site. Some of our community papers were older than the Register itself. They needed to be unique and represent their distinct communities

We started asking questions. Did a newspaper have great flag in the past? Is there an iconic image or moment in that community? Was there something that unites a community?

For the Anaheim Bulletin, which used to be a daily newspaper, we used the same fonts that had been used in the 1920s. We went back further than that for the Fullerton paper. The San Clemente paper was going to get wonderfully retro, 1960s style.

For many of the papers, we commissioned artists just to design their flags or the imagery used in the banners.

And, here’s how they look today:




When it was decided that the weekly newspaper for Newport Beach and Costa Mesa would become a daily newspaper, we decided to create new artwork for each day of the week – with the different images representing each of the paper’s communities.


For the edition of the Current that ran before the reboot of the “Arrested Development” television series – and was loaded with stories about the show’s ties to Newport Beach and Orange County – we created a special one-off image for the flag. What made that even more amusing to us was that it was going to be an image that didn’t exist in the real Newport Beach, only in the one in the show: the Bluth family frozen banana stand.


So which of the Register’s community newspaper flags is my favorite?

Not sure I could pick one. But I sure like the ones that have historical significance. And our “newest” weekly definitely fits that bill.



This flag is basically a composite of the banners used by the Register between 1912 and 1951, with the fonts being from the later years and the eagle and slogan being from the earlier years.

To pull it off, we asked Cleveland Plain Dealer artist extraordinaire – and longtime friend – Chris Morris to help us build the new flag. He did an amazing job.

I also like the flags that are for newspapers that have really distinctive names. And few newspapers have as cool of a name as the Huntington Beach Wave has, and we tried to give it a flag as awesome as its name.


Helping with all of these flags were the Register’s fantastic senior designers Pam Marshak and Scott Albert. I look back and can’t believe how much work and creativity those two put into all of these.

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Dad. Journalist. Nerd. Music lover. Baseball fan. Puckhead.