Neil Donnelly on his vision of a paper, The New City Reader
he New City Reader is a temporary newspaper on architecture and the city, designed to be read collectively on buildings and in other public spaces. The paper is, in fact, quite illegible when read folded and collated like a traditional newspaper—it is meant to be spread out and tiled together on a large, flat surface, as a kind of corrective to reader-customized news consumed privately on portable electronic devices. The New City Reader began as a component of an exhibition called “The Last Newspaper” at the New Museum, New York in 2010. The paper was written, art directed, designed, and published from a gallery within the museum, among the rest of the work in the show and visitors there to see it. Every week over the course of the exhibition, a new publication corresponding to one of the sections of a conventional newspaper investigated the relationship among the theme and contemporary urbanity—news, politics, sports, and food, among others. Each section was edited by a different team invited by editors-in-chief Joseph Grima and Kazys Varnelis, requiring close and rapid collaboration with both the guests and the in-house team.”
“An extremely lean budget also meant that all issues could only be printed in black, providing a production constraint that helped to sharply focus the paper’s aesthetic—strong body typography (Neuzeit S and Souvenir Mono) that can be read easily in the street at a distance, set in a strict but flexible grid (for the sake of design and production expediency), augmented by a different display typeface for each section inspired by and expressive of each section’s theme. In the paper’s brief initial run of three months, more than 180 leading architects, historians, and theorists analyzed the relationship of architecture, the newspaper, and the city.”
“The New City Reader was reprised in 2014 as Varnelis and the Network Architecture Lab’s contribution to the Uneven Growth exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna. The paper contains explorations and critical views of Hong Kong present and future, and Symtactics: The Fast-Dealing Game of Inequality, a board game allowing players to act as tactical urbanists in a dystopian 2047 Hong Kong.”
“The display type in this issue is Troover, which is heavily indebted to Trooper, a Vector Graphics Corporation typeface from the late 1960s. It also bears more than a passing resemblance to the title typeface of the South China Morning Post, one of Hong Kong’s leading English-language daily newspapers. It is stacked as a reference to Hong Kong’s density and verticality, and also because type in Hong Kong is still often set this way, as opposed to mainland China where it’s typically left-to-right. Generally, the display type of the New City Reader is meant to draw on historical (or in some cases outmoded) styles as a self-conscious, tongue-in-cheek comment on the status of news in print, though the goal is also to deploy old typefaces in a way that seems fresh, surprising, and relevant to the paper’s content.”
A graduate of Yale’s MFA graphic design program, Neil Donnelly brings the innovation in his craftsmanship. The Brooklyn based graphic designer whose projects have been included in the Brno Biennial of Graphic Design and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Gwangju Design Biennale, the New Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design, and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Artwork works with clients in architecture and art, including the Guggenheim, Yale University, Columbia University, The New York Times, Princeton Architectural Press amongst many, numerous, others. Neil Donnelly has lectured, taught courses, and led workshops at the Yale School of Art, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Parsons, Maryland Institute College of Art, School of Visual Arts, Rutgers, the University of Illinois, and Typography Summer School and he is one of Typeroom’s greatest references on what typography today should look and feel like.
“An extremely lean budget also meant that all issues could only be printed in black, providing a production constraint that helped to sharply focus the paper’s aesthetic”
“The display type of the New City Reader is meant to draw on historical styles, though the goal is also to deploy old typefaces in a way that seems fresh, surprising, and relevant to the paper’s content”