Tagged: Covers

Great minds think alike, Pt. 2

If you recall, a few weeks ago I lamented Notre Dame Magazine arriving in my mailbox with this coloring book cover:

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The basis of my lament was that Johns Hopkins Magazine, which I edit, was in the midst of a theme issue on fun—stop that chortling right now—and our art director, Pam Li, had been mocking up a similar concept:

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Okay. Now you’re brought up to date. Which brings me to this, new in my mailbox from Denison:

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Open this one up and you find six more pages of Denison scenes for your coloring pleasure. Who’s next?

Oh, just so you know, after she abandoned the coloring book idea, Pam Li cooked up something way different for the Johns Hopkins Magazine summer issue. A click on the image will make the cover lines legible.

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Guest blogger Claude Skelton on editorial illustration

My long-time friend and Baltimore colleague Claude Skelton has written some of the most-read blog posts in UMagazinology‘s brief lifespan. Today he offers some thoughts on illustration.

A good illustration can do what a photograph can’t. For communicating difficult and abstract concepts, drawn art says more with a single image than a collection of photographs can. Illustration can be technical, serious, quirky, or silly, depending on the tone of the piece. A really good conceptual illustrator can interpret a story in ways that surprise and delight, and in the best cases, introduce a whole new spin. Take a look at these Bloomberg Businessweek covers, for example. Could a photograph demand as much immediate attention or communicate so effectively? Not likely. [Throughout the post, you can click on the images to view them larger.]

Bloomberg Businessweek cover credits: Bernanke: David Parkins (after Milton Glaser); King of Vegas Real Estate Scams: Barry Falls; Coke in Africa: Nick White; Crisis in Japan: Noma Barr; creative director: Richard Turley.

So how do you find and work with illustrators to get innovative, thoughtful results? First, familiarize yourself with the talent that’s out there. Look for great work. Don’t limit yourself to local or regional illustrators (another advantage of illustration is that artists don’t need to be on location; almost all work electronically). Use the best, most professional illustrators you can afford. Amateur or mediocre illustration reflects badly on your magazine and ultimately on your institution. Look at sites such as drawger.com, illoz.com, picturemechanics.com, or theispot.com, all of which can connect you to individual artists or artist’s reps. Another approach is to notice illustrations that grab your attention in publications you read; start a reference file with names and samples as you find art that impresses you.

As you plan a story lineup, consider illustration as part of the mix. If you’re profiling a professor or an alum, the natural default solution is to commission a photograph. An illustrated portrait, like this drawing of a disabled war veteran from Dartmouth Magazine, can add style and substance to an otherwise run-of-the-mill profile. If the work or activity of the profiled person is more to the point, illustrating that idea or topic is an effective approach. The full page image below, from Cambridge Alumni Magazine, illustrates a complex essay by a neuroscientist on movement and the brain—a far more intriguing and informative solution than a portrait of the author.

Illustration and text combine in a pop-inspired spread (above) by Design Army, Washington DC, from Kogod Now, the American University Kogod School of Business’ magazine. The article, on targeted food marketing to minority populations, is original, eye-catching, and unexpected in the context of a business school publication.

When you’re ready to choose an illustrator, think about the tone and emotion you want the story to communicate and find illustrators whose styles best fit what’s in your mind. You’ll need to be confident of the illustrator’s track record and ability to translate an idea into art. And you’ll need to sell a working concept, knowing that the illustrator will be bringing additional thinking and visual interpretation to the table.

This is a very subjective process and should never be attempted by committee. It’s a matter of trust—between publisher and editor, between editor and creative director, between creative director and artist. If approval from “above” is necessary before hiring an illustrator, you’ll be forced to justify your choice with nothing more than your idea and samples from the artist’s portfolio. It could be hard for an administrator to visualize the outcome, therefore the need for trust.

Art directors: it’s usually best to communicate a general concept and supply a draft of the story to illustrators, then wait and see what they come up with before making suggestions or over-directing. It’s your job to inspire creativity, not solve the problem. Trust your illustrator to find a solution that fits the assignment and suits his or her style. It rarely works to force a pre-conceived vision on an artist; be open to surprise and innovation and you’ll almost always get the best results.

A word on stock illustration: it is a less expensive alternative, but generally too generic to properly illustrate a feature story. Spots can liven up a news or class notes section, and stock can be a good substitute for those bland head shots that show up in faculty or alumni profiles—better to illustrate what they do (with symbol or icon) rather than what they look like (do readers care?). If stock isn’t available, original illustration can be cost effective for simple spots, drawing attention to complex, text-heavy pages (see news spread from Auburn Magazine, above).

Illustrated covers can be both challenging and satisfying. You have two big challenges: Finding the right artist for the job, and getting approval of concept, style, and budget. Then it’s working with the illustrator through sketches, revised sketches, more approvals, adjusted deadlines, and the holding of breath before the final artwork arrives. It’s the rare (and lucky) editorial staff or art director that has enough autonomy to move ahead through this process with no roadblocks. It’s the not knowing until it’s finished that can make you uneasy. What if it’s a disaster? What if readers are offended and cancel subscriptions? What if it’s just not quite what you had in mind? What if you hate it? These are the questions and fears that might keep you from taking a risk in the first place. But when that finished, original art finally appears, and your cover sings, it’s so worth it.

To illustrate my point, a few covers that sing (all very different tunes):

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First, the Great Whiteout of Fall 2011 continues:

And while we’re talking covers, apparently Dartmouth Medicine and Iowa Alumni Magazine now share color palettes:

St. Thomas had the good sense to devote a feature story to alumnus John Kascht, a remarkable caricaturist who became an editorial cartoonist when he was 14 and wasted no time getting into trouble as a junior high school kid by drawing and passing around a “nun of the month” pinup calendar. Kascht has become so good at what he does, he has 22 pieces in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Writer Doug Hennes did a nice job with the story, but he had a thankless task, providing the text to wrap around six examples of Kascht’s wonderful art.

Dusk is approaching, and from the farmhouse you can see lights on in the second floor of an old chicken coop and horse stable. John Kascht hunches over a drawing table and stares at a blank sheet of paper, surrounded by photos of his subject matter. He deftly swipes a pencil across the paper and looks up to cock his head sideways and stroke his goatee before taking another swipe. He repeats the motion over and over, hardly touching the paper but, swipe by swipe, brings life to the face.

Brian C. Brown edits the magazine.

NYU Alumni Magazine (Jason Hollander, editor) weighs in with an outstanding cover story, Jill Hamburg Coplan’s “When a Woman Loves a Woman.” A case now in the judicial system, Windsor v. United States, may prove to be the landmark case for the civil rights of gay Americans. The “Windsor” is Edith Windsor, an NYU graduate who met her partner, Thea Clara Spyer, in 1963, married her in Toronto in 2007, and after she died in 2009 filed suit the next year to challenge the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that forbids exemption from estate taxes for gay marriages. When Windsor had to pay, out of her savings, $363,053 in estate taxes that a heterosexual would not have had to pay, she sued. Coplan does a great job of explicating the complex issues at stake, as well as telling Windsor’s story:

“We never dreamed it,” Edie reflects. “We didn’t expect marriage, even 10 years ago, and I never expected I’d be looking at a piece of paper that said ‘Windsor versus United States of America.’ Fighting is very hard—we spend our lives coming out, in different circumstances. We’re never all out, somehow. It takes a lot of guts to stand up and let people know—people you’ve lied to much of your life—that not only are you a lesbian, but you’re a lesbian fighting the United States of America.”

This last item is gratuitous, but I just have to say I love the name of the magazine from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina: Owl & Spade. Just set it right there on the coffee table next to Garden & Gun. I had to ask editor John Bowers how the magazine got its name, and he responded: “The first issue of Owl & Spade was published in October 1924 when Warren Wilson College was the Asheville Farm School. The masthead read, ‘The Owl and Spade: Dedicated to the Dignity of Manual Labor When Coupled with Brains.'” I love that.

UMag inbox—The White Album

Hi there. Were you to look, you would note that this is the first post to UMagazinology since September 22. There is good reason for that. September 22 is also the date that my 90-year-old father, who lives by himself 500 miles away in Cincinnati, fell and broke his hip. A few days later, Johns Hopkins Magazine editor Catherine Pierre gave birth to her second child (welcome to the world, Baby Olive), which meant I became interim editor of the magazine. So, shuttling back and forth to Ohio, working to care for my pop, and taking the helm of the magazine have left me more than a little dazed and confused. To work in a gratuitous Led Zeppelin reference.

Meanwhile, all of you just kept churning out magazines, damn you, creating a dangerously canted stack of neglected issues on my desk. Really, you might have been more considerate.

A quick sift of those issues reveals that the autumn of 2011 may go down in the annals of alumni magazine publishing as The Time of the White Cover. You’ve got Auburn Magazine:

You’ve got Georgetown Law:

And Rochester Review:

Plus Smith Alumnae Quarterly:

A few words about those last two. First, Rochester. Around the friendly confines of Hopkins Magazine, we like to say, “Babies are cheating.” That is, putting an infant cutie on your cover is just way too easy. C’mon, where’s the challenge? On the other hand, just look at that kid. Hell, I want to hug the magazine, much less the child. But—and I’m looking at you, editor Scott Hauser—Rochester Review really did cheat by posting four alternate covers online. Totally shameless. I would never resort to such a ploy on, say, an alumni magazine blog.

Go ahead, click on the tykes to see larger cover images. I’ll wait. (The children, by the way, are fraternal twins Oliver and Clara Bender, age 11 months.)

Regarding Smith, editor John MacMillan’s latest offering shows off the magazine’s design overhaul. The most striking change is to the cover, as you can see (that’s the last of the old design, at right). The design of the inside pages opens them up with a bit more white space and some new type treatments, but is not a radical departure from what the magazine had been doing. MacMillan has had some out-of-town responsibilities in the last day or so and could not respond to questions about his magazine’s new look, but he can add comments next week, particularly about how budget cuts factored into the redesign.

WAIT, WAIT, THIS JUST IN!

My god, it has spread to Middlebury:

And more! Williams:

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A quick sift of the inbox revealed chief executives incoming and outgoing at Western Carolina and the College of New Rochelle, respectively. Western Carolina‘s cover story on new chancellor David O. Belcher is notable for its evidence that high on the list of qualifications for the job is a willingness to don purple garments. Belcher is pictured in at least three different purple neckties, and wife Susan Belcher appears in an all-purple ensemble. While we’re on this subject, the summer issue of the magazine runs 44 pages, and purple appears on all but six. That’s a lot of purple. (The cover of the previous issue of WC was devoted to outgoing chancellor John Bardo, who in the cover portrait wears—yeah—a purple tie.) Bill Studenc edits the magazine.

Quarterly, the magazine from New Rochelle (editor Lenore Boytim Carpinelli), has surely set some kind of record for bestowing print-love on a departing senior administrator. Every page of the spring issue—every single page—is about Stephen J. Sweeney, the outgoing president. His visage appears on the cover and all but one page, by my count an astonishing 87 photos in a 36-page magazine. (By the way . . . at left? That’s Sweeney. You can tell he’s not the Western Carolina guy because he’s not wearing purple.)

While we’re on the subject of covers, from California to New Hampshire, great minds think alike: