Issue: September/November 2008
Frequency: Quarterly
Launched: Originally published as Noetic Sciences Review in 1986; re-launched as Shift in 2003
Circ: 25,000
Editor: Matthew Gilbert
Publishing company: Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS)
Art/Production Director: Gregory Atwood

For Shift, the Institute of Noetic Sciences’ flagship publication, the methodology behind finding a great cover image begins with a worldwide search, “something like jumping into a Jungian pool of consciousness,” says art director Gregory Atwood. Each issue, Atwood determines the magazine’s cover by finding images that resonate by “tossing them up on shore and looking for patterns and commonalities.” This is precisely how Shift’s September-November issue cover was born.

The chosen image, a non-commissioned Google search find, “struck me like a futuristic shaman or avatar,” says Atwood of the face composed of a fractal image, created by designer Karl Eschenbach. The magazine’s staff was struck by fractals incorporated into this design, especially how they are also manifested in natural systems like tree branches, rivers, nerves and blood vessels—all part of IONS’ mission of exploring consciousness and interconnectedness. “I liked the way he was playing with photorealistic imagery,” says Atwood.

Eschenbach explained to Shift that he created the image using sophisticated graphic and mathematical programs. Beginning with a fractal generated via Tierazon, he then matched it to a 3-D head built in Poser. Eschenbach then placed the fractal, which approximated the forms of the face, onto a separate layer in Photoshop, using the “overlay” blending option to merge the two images, altering the fractal to fit the face more closely.

Unlike its previous earthy-brown covers, Shift initially considered this cover too dark, even haunting. “We experimented with softening the impact of the black background using a border and different fonts,” says editor-in-chief Matthew Gilbert. But as the magazine’s content developed, the image organically aligned with the subject matter, and the full-bleed backdrop was effective. “It was here to stay,” says Gilbert.


“This one’s kind of tough to work with, given the size of the flag and the boundary created by the folio information running down the left side. I would have emphasized the art more, either using an illustration that faced the reader eye to eye, or by running the main head in one line under the image, closer to the promo lines. As executed here, the intricate image feels almost forced off the page. I’m also not a huge fan of gradients within text; I would have stuck to solid orange in the main hed.”

Geoffrey Giordano | Art Director | The Week

“The cover is completely intriguing and well-executed. Here is a woman’s face breaking through the darkness. Her illustrated face is so unexpected and beautiful, it draws the reader in. The cover is simplistic in composition and typography. She’s the obvious hero on the page; this is clearly a winning cover.”

Laura Wall | Design Director | Pace Communications

“Overall, this cover seems like a lost opportunity. The art is unique, yet the masthead, illustration and cover lines seem like three separate entities. The treatment of the typography lets the entire cover down and seems like an afterthought rather than a compliment to the striking, concept-driven illustration.”

Erin Loukili | Senior Designer | SWITCH Studio


Have a unique “cover” story? Contact FOLIO: Associate Editor Vanessa Voltolina.

Thinking Outside the Box in Editorial Management
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