Issue: May 2011
Publishing Company: AOPA
Design Director: Mike Kline
Editor-in-Chief: Thomas B. Haines
According to Mike Kline, design director of Flight Training magazine, there is a typical look associated with cover art of aviation magazines: a full-color photograph depicting a plane in flight. After all, as Kline says, “Pilots do like to see planes flying.”
However, when Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s (AOPA) Flight Training underwent a relaunch in April 2010, staff dared to imagine concept covers that reached beyond the traditional realm of flight publications.
The May cover focuses on the issue’s theme of aerodynamics, and Kline cites influences outside the flying world as inspiration for the featured photography. “We’ve seen prints of human forms where they focused on shape, and we took from that approach for this cover—really focus on the wing to try to capture a fine art appeal. And to that end, that beautiful, but not literal, sense of how planes fly. It’s more of an organic shape.”
Kline and staff were hesitant to approach the cover art in a less-than-traditional way for the relaunch, as Kline identifies Flight Training’s readership as conservative (the typical reader is 43-years-old, and the audience is 91 percent male).
Aside from the streamlined cover art, fonts were chosen to have a more minimalist feel. Tweaks that rendered an increased readability were also a primary focus of the redesign. Use of color has been minimal as well, with touches of yellow only used on the flag at the top of the cover and on the cover cell line.
Kline says that challenge of the redesign was to strike a balance that not only appealed to current readers, but to reach out to potential audiences as well. “We think the biggest growth area is going to be in that younger age.”
Flight Training is used as a resource for aviation students, as well as by AOPA as a recruitment tool. Kline says the magazine is how potential member demographics are gathered. While there is a newsstand presence with Flight Training, flight schools and other gathering places for potential pilots are the primary targets for distribution.
“From the reader’s satisfaction standpoint, I think we’ve met and exceeded the objectives,” says Kline.
The beauty of this cover lies within its simplicity. The all- black cover, with the touches of yellow, is gorgeous. The notches on the word ‘Flight’ are a cool tweak to what would have been a rather straight-forward typeface. The three dimensional yellow band in the roofline with the quote is a nice, colorful accent.
The bottom cover lines seem a bit vague. And while the wing is so graphic and elegantly lit, it also seems a bit too obscure. Also, the cover itself has a very horizontal flow to it, yet the bottom cover lines seem to be stacked vertically, leaving a large black hole in the bottom third of the cover. That space could have been minimized by more horizontal, slightly larger cover lines giving the cover an open feeling.
Chris Hercik, Creative Director for the Sports Illustrated Group
This is a cool, smart cover that is very stylish and attention-getting. I love the Flight Training logo, and the way the angle of the airplane wing mimics the slant of the italic type. The bespoke typographic feel of the logo is great, as the notches at the top of the letters and the slant of the word all add to the motion feel. The ‘type nerd’ in me would love to see the logo character spaced a little more consistently.
The all black-and-white feel is cool, but it might have been even cooler to have a wing that was a bright color, making it the only color on the page. I don’t like the underline under the ‘Art of the Wing’ headline. I’m also not quite sure about all that empty black space at the bottom. Does the world’s biggest address label go in there?
The top 2/3 is almost flawlessly designed and conceived, and the bottom third feels like a barren strip that was tacked on without much overall thought about how it relates to the rest of the cover. Still, for all my nitpicking, this is a wonderful, surprising, original cover.
Robert Newman, Consulting Creative Director for Reader’s Digest and JCK magazine
Have a unique “cover” story? Contact associate editor Stefanie Botelho at email@example.com.