Cover Story: Behind the cover of Advertising Age’s Agency Issue

20140428-NEWS--0001-NAT-CCI-IN_--.qxdArt Director Jesper Goransson shares the process behind Advertising Age’s “The Agency Issue.”

Courtney Kan: Tell me about the cover story. What led you to choose this cover approach? Were there any other concepts or stories in the running?

Jesper Goransson: For this cover we didn’t want to focus on one story as we usually do, but decided pretty early to approach a typographical solution that would include the words “The Agency Issue.” We publish this issue annually, and it includes so many stories and so much information that it was hard to pick one story or one section that would represent the whole issue and really sell it to the reader without missing something. It also includes our exclusive Agency Report, which our readers use as a business reference tool over the year, so it was important to make it easy to navigate and also easy to find as one of my editors pointed out in our initial cover meeting. Because of that, we didn’t approach other concepts.

CK: What really stood out to me about this cover was the typography choices. It’s feels very multi-dimensional. How did you settle on this typography? How did the process for this cover differ from more photo or illustration driven covers?

JG: The process didn’t really differ that much from photo or illustration based covers except that we didn’t have to illustrate a live and changing news story. [tweetable hashtag=”#sndcoverstories”]We had to illustrate something very passive and static, and make it lively and active.[/tweetable] So right after our initial meeting that Friday (we usually try to meet a week in advance of deadline), I researched on Google to find interesting samples of typography that I then emailed to editors to get feedback on what they were envisioning. Based on that feedback I picked 3 freelance typographers via Twitter and Google searches who I felt would do an awesome job. I approached all three to see if they were available/interested. Luckily I heard back pretty quickly from Jeff Rogers, a super talented typographer/illustrator down in Brooklyn. I asked him to have 3-4 sketches done by late Monday, early Tuesday for review – and he said no problem. At that point I thought we should include the teases into the type illustration to add some dimension to it. The issue editor Nat Ives sent some teases back to me as a starting point within minutes. On Tuesday I got the sketches and liked them. I emailed my editors and deputy art director to see if they liked them, and if so, which direction they favored. I actually leaned toward one of the other sketches but two of my editors felt strongly about the direction that was eventually picked so we proceeded with that direction. We all agreed the tease banners had to be tweaked and reduced in size before committing for final sketch approval. Once approved by our executive editor Matt Quinn, It was all up to Jeff to make it work. He had two days to finish since I needed the final files by 3 pm that Thursday to be able to see a color proof the next day. Friday at 9 pm the cover went to the printer.

CK: Is the Agency Issue an annual issue? How hard is it to develop fresh ideas for your annual thematic issues?

JG: Yes we do it every year and we have several themed issues, but not all of them get this treatment. I actually kind of like when we do these typographic approaches since it is up to the illustrator/typographer to make it original with not much more than the words. It’s one of the few times we actually get a lot of freedom to come up with something totally different. So no it is not hard, it’s a real opportunity to come up with something original.

CK: Who was involved in the cover production?

JG: Matt Quinn, executive editor; Judann Pollack, deputy editor; Ken Wheaton, managing editor; Nat Ives, deputy Managing editor; Ann-Christine Diaz, Creativity editor; myself; deputy art director Jenn Chiu; and of course Jeff Rogers.

CK: Where do you look for inspiration?

JG: I love newspapers. When I lived in Minneapolis in the 90s I subscribed to The Baltimore Sun, and a few years ago I subscribed to The Virginian-Pilot (I was probably their only New Jersey subscriber). Right now I’m really into some of the alternative news weeklies. So much energy and honesty in those. Whenever I have time I check out Twitter for photographers, illustrators and typographers. I just love finding stuff there. And of course, working in New York I check out the newsstands. At this moment I’m looking through an issue of Psychology Today – amazing designs and photos. is amazing but everybody knows that. I follow Newmanology on various platforms. I also check out business magazines to see how they treat concepts that could apply to stories we do. Variety does an awesome job with all that. Fortune is a big one, too. That said you should all check out this week’s Ad Age – wow.

About Courtney Kan

is a designer at The Washington Post and the editor of

Leave a Reply