The Providence Visitor was founded in 1875 during the episcopacy of the first Bishop of Providence, Bishop Thomas J. Hendricken. Originally intended to provide the influx of Irish immigrants into the Rhode Island area with news from Ireland, the paper is one of a handful to mark its 125th anniversary in the state. Today, The Visitor and the monthly Visitor en Español were rebranded and redesigned by Creative Circle in 2007.
"The Catholic press plays an important role in the life of the Catholic Church, particularly in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and in promulgating our teachings and beliefs," said Bishop Tobin prior to the launch.
"This is a challenging and exciting time for the Visitor, particularly as we work through a restructuring and redesign of the paper," said Bishop Tobin in announcing the appointment of a new editor prior to the launch of the redesign. "With so many wonderful things taking place in the church, both within and beyond the Diocese of Providence, it is essential that our paper be as effective and as attractive as possible."
"The Visitor was regularly confused as some kind of tourist publication and the diocese wanted something that more clearly communicated it's mission as a publication by and about Rhode Island Catholics," says Bill Ostendorf, president and founder of Creative Circle. "But it also looked dated and the writing was stodgy. The redesign wasn't just about looking better and creating a new brand. It was also very much an effort to improve coverage, writing and engagement with the Catholic community in Rhode Island."
Renamed The Rhode Island Catholic, the redesign launched on an accellerated schedule requested by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, who had recently been named to the post. He thought the name change needed to be made as soon as possible. The print redesign was followed by the launch of a new web site two months later.
"We're excited about our new look," said an editorial in the first issue. "We believe the design is more reader-friendly, with larger bodycopy type, bigger photos and a clean, bright layout that we hope will entice you to read us cover-to-cover."
Larger and better body type for stories improved legibility but also saved space. The redesign also involved the adoption of more color, more modular ad stacks and larger photos. The classified section was also redesigned with more legibile text and streamlined upsells.
While the redesign was very well received, the name change was controversial.
"While the name Providence Visitor was friendly, known, even loved, it wasn't comprehensible to newcomers or non-Catholics. We recently heard the classified salesperson patiently explaining to a potential ad- vertiser that, no, we don't circulate only circulate in Providence, and no, we aren't the newsletter of a medical home visitation company," explained the editorial. "RI Catholic reflects who we are. It raises no question, leaves no doubt. We are more than 600,000 in number, living in Rhode Island and expressing our faith as Catholics. If someone leaves a copy on the seat of a train or a bus to Boston, our neighbors across the border won't wonder what or who in the world we are."
The five-month print redesign and rebranding process involved a half-dozen customized workshops for the staff and the remaking dozens of pages to show how layouts, headlines and photographs could be improved. Another emphasis of the redesign was making use of more color photos.
"You will notice more local coverage of the clergy, religious, faithful, parishes and vibrant life of the Diocese of Providence, while providing news from across the nation and world," said Bishop Tobin in an article about the redesign. "I hope you will enjoy this new publication. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the many who have served as the newspaper’s faithful stewards in the past, for they have built a solid foundation upon which we will continue to build an effective means to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you again for your continued interest and support of the diocesan newspaper."