Cover story: New York Magazine

SND will regularly feature a Q&A on how magazine covers were developed. This week, Design Director Thomas Alberty shares the process behind the September 16 issue of New York Magazine.

New York Magazine, Sept. 16
New York Magazine, Sept. 16

Tell me about the cover story, and how you came up with this cover.

We devoted this issue of New York Magazine to assess Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s three terms in office and his impact on the city. We knew from the start that the cover would be a picture of the mayor. Photography Director Jody Quon dispatched photographer-in-residence Christopher Anderson to shoot a day in the life of the mayor, and the cover photograph is from that shoot. Anderson is a documentary photographer with an amazing eye for detail: a mundane moment gets elevated to a bold, graphic picture. He made this tightly cropped picture of the mayor’s hand on his chin during that day of shooting.

The cover features a pretty dramatic crop and the masthead was moved down. What was the reasoning behind these choices, especially the decision not to show Bloomberg¹s face? How did you convince editors to approve the cover?

After twelve years, New Yorkers know what the mayor looks like, and the editor Adam Moss was open to the idea of showing the mayor in a surprising way. During a week we have several cover options in play, and we were considering other pictures from Chris Anderson’s reportage as well as a formal portrait session by Martin Schoeller. All great. The challenge for what ultimately became the cover was less about convincing the editor than it was about making the graphic elements work around an unconventional cover image. I initially had the photo inset in a frame – it looked clean like an old jazz album cover, but it lacked umph. Finally I made the image full bleed and started moving and scaling the logo around until there was the right amount of face and logo so both were recognizable. Once all the elements worked in the layout, we knew that was the one.

Who else was involved in the cover production?

The editor in chief Adam Moss, photography director Jody Quon, and myself. Photograph by Christopher Anderson.

The cover typography treatment and the words themselves get right to the point. What goes into your decision-making process for cover typography? How collaborative was this specific treatment, did you have words first or come up with the idea first?

In terms of the cover process, it’s very collaborative, it’s a constant conversation about the language and the image between Adam, Jody and me, up until the cover ships Friday morning. We pick picture options first, then I’ll get several lines to start sketching with, and seeing what works best in combination with the art. “His Town” was the best headline by far, and for whatever reason, I felt it looked the most direct and unfussy when it was set in the sans face.

Where do you look for inspiration?

Graffiti and old type catalogs.

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 [email protected].

About Courtney Kan

is a designer at The Washington Post and the editor of

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