Cover story: Columbus Monthly
This week, Art Director Carrie Sosnowski shares how the cover for the November issue of Columbus Monthly was developed.
Courtney Kan: This cover really caught my eye. Then upon closer inspection, I realized the cover was made with a laser and it appears to be a map of Columbus. What was the process like developing this cover concept? Were any other cover concepts in the running?
Carrie Sosnowski: Yes, it is a laser cut street map of Columbus. The concept stemmed from our cover feature about interesting things made in Columbus. At first the idea was to put on a contest to local artists and have them submit designs in their style for the cover using the words “Made in Columbus.” But after brainstorming about people and companies that we actually planned on talking about in the feature, it was decided to instead approach Vadim Daskal of Papel Couture to specifically make a piece for our cover. Papel Couture is a local company that laser cuts beautiful high-end paper products for things like wedding invitations, greeting cards, and much more. We thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase a local artist/business and still have some control of the art. Vadim was more than happy to help with the task. We met a few times to talk about different concepts of what would be laser cut, and finally narrowed it down to a street map grid illustration he had previously laser cut for another local artist, Dan Linden. I designed the wording Made in Columbus, gave Vadim that file and our logo, and then he went to work! He combined all three and then we chose the paper color of a dark metallic grey to give an industrial feel to the cover, and then he laser cut it for us. From there we took it to our photo studio where our photographer, Tessa Berg, shot it on top of a pink background. She had to put a piece of Plexiglas between the two to be able to see the slight shadow, so people could really see that it was cut paper, not just a Photoshop trick.
CK: Was it difficult to get support for the approach to the cover? Did you run into any obstacles in the execution of the cover?
CS: Once the idea came up to do it this way, we were all very excited about it, so everyone seemed on board. The only obstacle I can think of that we came into was just narrowing it down to the street map design in the background. We thought of doing a decorative flourish in the background, but really wanted to somehow tie in the city.
CK: Looking at covers from the past few months, there’s a range of both photo-driven and illustration-based approaches. How do you decide which direction to take?
CS: We’re always trying to come up with fun, conceptual ideas on how to execute a cover. Sometimes you get a beautiful photo to grab people’s eye, other times you have an opportunity to be a little more conceptual with an illustration or a very heavy typographical approach. For me it all depends on the subject of the cover story. The cover is so important because you’re trying to set the mood for people about why they should pick up your magazine, and you probably have about 2 seconds to do this, either they want to grab it from what they see or they don’t. I do a lot of research and have brainstorm meetings with my editor, designer and photographer. We usually throw ideas around until something fits just right.
CK: As a monthly magazine, you have a lot of standing features year-to-year. How do you keep ideas fresh?
CS: I’ve been the art director at Columbus Monthly for 6 months, so right now, I seem to be helping a lot with bringing fresh ideas to the magazine art-wise. But I came into the same situation at my last job at Time Out Chicago, and I found that even though we’d have standing features every year, there was always something unique to each issue to draw from. Sometimes I’d have an idea for the previous year but for some reason it didn’t work out and I’d remember it for the following year. I always save my old ideas in a folder for that reason. But also design is always changing and I constantly keep my eye out for new, good ideas.
CK: Where do you look for inspiration?
CS: Magazines, photographer and illustrator websites, coverjunkie.com, pinterest, book cover designs, menu designs, ads … there’s so many places to look for inspiration.
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.