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Behind the Cover: A Look Back at a Year Designing The New York Times Magazine
A lot goes into designing a magazine cover, from type treatments to photography to the best possible cover line. The finished product needs to catch readers’ attention but also begin to tell a story.
We spent a year documenting our cover process in short videos. Each week, our editor in chief and design director talked through their decisions and the challenges along the way.
We’ve just wrapped the series, which gave us a chance to look back at what it meant to us.
Gail Bichler, design director: Coming up with a meaningful cover image can be messy. It sometimes includes false starts or means simultaneously going down several different paths.
Jake Silverstein, editor in chief: These weekly conversations with Gail became a kind of therapy, I think for both of us. Making covers is the ultimate design/edit collaboration, so it’s great to be able to sit and talk through the twists and turns of an idea at the end of the road — revisiting the light-bulb moments, rehashing some of the disputes. I’ll miss it.
Gail: Internally, we have so many interesting discussions about our covers, and some of the thinking behind our choices is pretty nuanced. Talking with Jake about the decisions we made helped clarify my own thoughts on why we did what we did.
Jake: We take that real estate so seriously, and I want readers to know that.
Below are some of our favorite videos from the series. (The complete archive is here.)
March 13, 2019
The Music Issue
Jake Silverstein, editor in chief: “Cristiana Couceiro’s collage of the artists selected for our list of the 25 songs that matter right now is dynamic and fun — I can imagine readers turning the magazine around to study the image for who made the list. The shape created by the cluster of all those different musicians has a wonderful organic quality to it.”
August 12, 2018
War Without End
Jake Silverstein, editor in chief: “Tyler Hicks’s image captures a dramatic moment as a soldier from Viper Company dashes up a hillside after a Taliban ambush, with smoke grenades billowing behind him. The pink smoke and green leaves, along with the slightly blurry quality of the photo, give the whole thing a surreal apocalyptic beauty, which perfectly complements the cover line.”
October 28, 2018
The Food Issue: Candy Around the World
Gail Bichler, design director: “This year’s Food Issue takes a global approach to candy. For our cover, Massimo Gammacurta used a silicon mold to make a lollipop that looks like the earth and then photographed it capturing its beautiful, sticky imperfections and bubbles.”
September 16, 2018
Jake Silverstein, editor in chief: “Maya Rudolph is such a game subject that we wanted to try something a little weird and collaborative. The photographer Alex Prager’s sister, Vanessa, a painter, created a portrait of Rudolph that is inspired by a work by the 20th-century American portraitist Alice Neel. It was then cut to allow Rudolph’s real face and hand to come through, creating a surreal image that blends fact and fiction, much the way she does as an actress.”