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Face Up: Good

Does the magazine's design live up to its name?



By Joanna Pettas
01/04/2008

This Month: Good
Issue: November/December 2007
Frequency: Bi-monthly
Launched: 2004
Circ: 50,000
Editor: Zach Frechette
Publishing Company: Good Magazine LLC
Creative Director: Casey Caplowe

A rigorous debate about the cover of Good's November/December issue was in deadlock between two options: The image of a mule from a feature on how these animals are used to deliver mail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and the one they chose-a profile shot of political scientist/game theorist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, standing behind a glass wall on which his work is scrawled.

They went with the second because they felt it was "a better sell" and made for a "more succinct and compelling communication" with their readers, according to Good creative director Casey Caplowe. "[Mesquita's] story is interesting and hadn't been reported on much. We thought it would appeal to our readers."

The image was shot in Stanford, California, where Mesquita is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. The formulas were actually written in marker on the glass wall he is standing behind in the photo. Caplowe says Photoshop was not involved.

The technique of overlaying the man and his work is not terribly conceptual, says Caplowe. "There's no big light bulb above his head." Caplowe says it was inspired by and is a reference to the movies "A Beautiful Mind," in which a math prodigy works out formulas this way, and "Pollock," in which the artist Jackson Pollock is portrayed painting on glass.

The image was used "pretty much fresh off the scan," says Caplowe. "We give a lot of freedom to artists we work with. Covers are not storyboarded in-house." Typically, Good's commissioned artists deal with only one constraint-the need to leave extra head room, as the top third always contains the logo and a few cover lines.

DESIGNERS' COMMMENTS

"I don't get the monochromatic look of this cover. Is the subject predicting doomsday? The placement and overlapping of the headlines, handwriting and the portrait make this cover cluttered and imbalanced. The headlines are also non-descriptive and do not capture the sense of curiosity. Step back five feet and you'll notice the headlines quickly blend into the dark gray background, and the portrait looks out of focus."

Paul Lee, Creative Director, Radius Design Group

"The decision to use a limited color palette gives the image a chance to stand on its own. The yellow headline grabs attention, though the subhead is lost and hard to read. The use of the equation that somewhat follows the silhouette of the scientist is a creative use of text combined with design. It's also interesting as a side view, not the subject looking directly into the camera."

Anthony Ficke, Creative Director, CAB Communications

"The cover is contemporary and compositionally interesting, but some of the typography borders on being completely illegible. At first glance, I couldn't even understand what this magazine was about-a real problem if you are trying to attract a newsstand readership. The design could have been more successful with fewer cover lines, particularly in the upper right, and a different font selection. The serif/italic font against the handwritten equation is just not working. "

Laura Wall, Design Director, Pace Communications

What do you think? Take the Face Up Survey, powered by Nxtbook.

By Joanna Pettas
01/04/2008




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