The Daily Cardinal’s Design: through the years

By Ben Pickman

The Cardinal’s “Welcome Back” edition has changed drastically over the years.

On April 4, 1892, William Wesley Young launched the Daily Cardinal, UW-Madison’s independent student newspaper for the last 125 years. The cover of the Cardinal’s first edition did not have any images on it and merely alerted students to important news relevant to campus.

Today, the Cardinal’s “Welcome Back” edition still highlights important information, preparing students for the school year ahead.  But over the last 125 years due to major technological changes, the Cardinal’s front page looks drastically different.

The gif above shows how the Cardinal’s “Welcome Back” edition has changed over the years. Below is some more information about some of those changes.





The 1900 cover was the first to have an image on it.

The 1900 cover was the first to have an image on it. In 1900, the Cardinal printed two headshots in its “Welcome Back” issue, the first time any visual graced its front page. In 1914, the Cardinal’s first edition of the school year had a graphic with the caption, “Mobilization in America and Europe,” but it took another 15 more years for the Cardinal to print an image of that size on its cover.

For decades the Cardinal’s front page documented the amount of students at the UW-Madison. Major faculty adjustments were noted and various university officials would write guest columns welcoming students back to campus.

For the first half of the twentieth century, covers were text heavy and any images included were small and usually merely portraits of important people.

The Cardinal’s “Welcome Back” cover in 1951 was one of the few examples of a cover in which text was printed above the header first designed by William Wesley Young.

But, in 1951, the Cardinal redesigned its front page. The words, “Welcome Badgers” were bolded and capitalized, printed above its standard header. Two images also graced the cover and text covered only about one-third of the page’s area.

In 1954 the Cardinal’s “Welcome Back” cover had no text at all. Instead, eight pictures, all of different shapes and sizes graced the cover. But that design didn’t last long either.

This is the first time color appeared on the cover of the Cardinal’s “Welcome Back” edition.

A red Bucky the Badger was printed on the cover in 1958, the first time a “Welcome Back” edition had any color on its front page. But, after the ‘58 edition, color wouldn’t appear again on the paper’s “Welcome Back” cover until 1962.

On the 100-year anniversary of the Civil War, its front page was merely a picture of Abraham Lincoln, the first of eight-consecutive years in which the “Welcome Back” edition’s cover consisted entirely of an image.

In the early 1970s, the Cardinal’s front-page featured political cartoons, poking fun at capitalism and Richard Nixon. The 1974 edition was the first to feature blue ink and was the most colorful cover up to that point in the Cardinal’s history.

From there on out, the Cardinal’s “Welcome Back” edition utilized plenty of color and plenty of images. In the 1980s and 1990s, covers highlighted new buildings on campus, new technologies in the world and relevant social issues at UW-Madison.

Throughout the 2000s, though, stories were seldom printed on the front cover. Instead, small reefs or kickers alerted readers to the newspaper’s content.

The Cardinal’s cover in 1992 was the second consecutive “Welcome Back” edition to use a photo saying, ‘Pro-Choice.’ Other political issues at the time are also depicted.

In the late 2000s, multiple covers were made using photoshopped graphics and not photographs. But that design has also since been discontinued.

Of late, stories have again been printed on the“Welcome Back” edition’s cover. The cover in 2014 featured two stacked stories. In 2015, the cover looked nearly identical in terms of its design with a photograph covering the top-half of the page and two stories filling the newspaper’s bottom-half.

In 2016, the top-half of the cover displayed a sunset over Lake Mendota. On the bottom-half was a story about how UW-Madison administrators were promoting new diversity initiatives on campus. Pull-quotes were used on the cover for only the second time.

The “Welcome Back” edition cover from this  past fall looks drastically different than Young’s original cover in 1892.

Even with a vastly new design for 125 consecutive  years, the Cardinal has produced a “Welcome Back” edition.

And whether in 2016 or 1892, the words at the top of the page have not changed. At the top of every edition, a reader will see “The Daily Cardinal” printed in the very same font and place that William Wesley Young printed the words when he founded the paper 125 years ago.