SND will regularly feature a Q&A on how magazine covers were developed. This week, Art Director Greg Klee shares the process behind the Boston Globe Magazine’s Medical Issue (Oct. 13).
Courtney Kan: Tell me about the cover story, and surrounding content for the Medical Issue. How did you come up with this concept? Were any other cover concepts in the running?
Greg Klee: This is an issue that we run every year and as you can imagine it becomes a challenge to keep it fresh. We decided early on that we would use an illustrator because of the nature of the lead story, which is, ‘Is there a shortage of general practice doctors’. I called Josue Evila, a talented photo illustrator (and a former Globe designer) but he was too busy. He recommended Alex Williamson, another talented photo illustrator, and I immediately felt like Alex was right for the job.
I explained the three stories in the package and outlined a general approach to the cover. The nice thing about an artist like Alex is that the solution is a lot about the feel of the images he chooses and not a specific concept. I wanted to get a lot of the elements of the story and he seemed like the guy who could pull it off.
CK: What is your team’s process for developing covers on a weekly basis?
GK: The process varies week to week. for example if the cover story is a special issue such as the home issue we’ll be looking for a shot from one of the locations as a cover images. Other issues, such as this one, require more conversation with the editor. Unless I have a strong initial idea I don’t feel the need to settle on too many specifics during this conversation. I like to settle on a general direction and then take some time to develop that idea.
CK: The Medical Issue is one of Globe Magazine’s special issues. Did you have additional time to plan for this cover? Did the fact that this was a special issue influence your design choices?
GK: Yes, we have an organized editor and issues are planned well in advance. I’d be lying if I said we always took advantage of that lead time. There’s so much going on related to the issue in production not to mention the work myself and the other designers do in the daily and Sunday paper.
As I mentioned earlier, the special issues can present special challenges because you want to keep it fresh and not repeat yourself from the previous year.
CK: Did you run into any obstacles with the execution of the cover?
GK: The only obstacle with the cover was the time difference between Alex and myself. He’s an English illustrator and so there was that six hour difference to deal with. By the time I was ready to discuss the latest sketches he was probably finishing up his dinner.
CK: Have you received any feedback on the cover, from the reporters or readers?
GK: Yes, the feedback was good from people in the building, but as you might guess, we don’t get many letters from readers about design. I truly believe the majority of readers don’t really understand how a design comes together or what the role of the designer is.
CK: Looking at recent covers, it seems as though your team tends to look for creative, unexpected approaches to otherwise common subjects or issues we see often. Where do you look for inspiration? How do you keep ideas fresh?
GK: We certainly look around and see what other magazines, both national and sunday magazines, are doing. It’s not that they give us specific concepts but they can give us ideas about a way to think about our design problem, and most importantly great magazines inspire us to try something new and to push ourselves to be ambitious and more adventurous in our thinking.
Have a magazine cover you’d like to share with SND, or want to send a tip on a cover you’d like to see profiled? Contact Courtney Kan at firstname.lastname@example.org.