Issue: February 2009
Launched: 1997-98
Circ: 36,000
Production Editor: Deanna Taylor
Publishing Company: PennWell Corporation
Senior Editor: Kathleen Davis

The plight of heavily technical trade magazines, like Utility Automation and Engineering T&D, is for publishers to design relevant—and riveting—cover art for a highly-specific and complex subject matter. Senior editor, Kathleen Davis, was hoping to go more minimalist for the February cover of the electric industry publication. In her mind, the ideal angle for T&D’s early 2009 redesign would be more minimalist cover concepts, similar to Wired’s May 2008 issue, “Inconvenient Truths.”

While Davis didn’t get her wish, exactly, what developed was a more abstract take on the delivery side of power—in this case, a mix of meters and abstract art—and a more structural and elemental look of utility automation. “The illustrated elements represent a connection to the grid like on a mother board you would find in the meters,” says Utility Automation and Engineering T&D presentation editor, Deanna Taylor.

The issue’s cover story featured an interview with a big name in the electric industry and power world, Glenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Incorporating the cover lines into these branches made sense “because the cover was so intricate, when we did this it looked better than listing them down the left side like we’d normally do,” says Davis. The green-blue color scheme for the issue’s background and meter branches were meant to represent rural cooperatives and growth of the electric cooperative, T&D says.

When the cover line, “Glenn English Talks Machinations, Meters, & MultiSpeak,” gave way to the current, “Interview with the NRECA’s Glenn English,” the meter tree and abstract design were left hanging. “I can see how now this can be kind of a disconnect,” says Davis. “My compromise is that I still think it’s a bit busy.”


“I like the collage of the photographs of meters with the background resembling electronic wiring. Considering that this is a very technologically advanced readership, the cover should reflect that and look more futuristic—it seems to represent the technology of the ‘80s. Wired would push that concept most likely to its maximum coolness. While I like a contrast between coverline sizes in general, the small coverlines are in all caps, making them even harder to read. The logo of Utility/T&D might benefit from an updated type design, especially the ampersand solution between the T&D. The cover should visually address the new generation of technology experts, and somehow this one looks as if it is for an older readership.”

Petra Kobayashi | Art Director | Self

“The circular photos of technical equipment create a harmony with the layers of lines as if to whisper, ‘this is complicated stuff, but fun, too.’ The headline ‘Interview with the NCRECA’s Glenn English’ seems disconnected from this playful feeling, both in its content and its quotidian typography. It makes the reader scan the cover more closely to see if a sub-headline has more relation to the cover image. (To a layperson, it seems ‘Success in Substation Control’ would fit the lines and curves better.) However, the text is readable and effectively offset from the 45-degree angle of the curves, and is supported by all-cap sub-headlines.”

Jeremy Leff | Art Director | Roast


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


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