Issue: March 2012
: 10,000
Publishing Company:
ALM Media Properties, LLC
Design Director:
Joan Ferrell
Editor: Robin Sparkman

Design director Joan Ferrell started out with “Class Warfare” in mind for the March issue of The American Lawyer.

That was the working title at least, as the magazine planned its cover story around generous pension plans that are causing a rift between older, retiring partners on the receiving end, and younger, still-working partners forced to up their contributions in a bad economy.

By pairing the cover with the feature’s opening spread, Ferrell, along with Texas-based conceptual photographer Fredrik Broden, portrayed the growing generational divide.

“We came up with a dual approach to the story,” she says. “The older partners’ point of view for the cover image and the younger partners’ for the opening spread illustrations, in effect, a matched pair of images.”

On the cover, the archetypal established partner sits comfortably in his leather club chair at the close of a distinguished career, Ferrell says. But while he is the larger, centered image, it’s the smoke rings that draw the eye.

“The smoke dollar sign tells the real story,” Ferrell says. “On every level, it’s all about the money.”

The matching interior image shows a younger partner bound to a ball-and-chain against a stolid gray backdrop, a physical symbol of the pension burden he now bears.

Ferrell and Broden often pair up for photographic covers. Working remotely, the two discuss themes and develop a detailed art brief before coming up with an approach.

“Fredrik’s work is compatible with my sensibility in every way and I have complete trust in him,” she says.  “This particular story was more complex than most because of the dual nature and because we weren’t exactly sure at the outset which side of the story we would present on the cover. It was a difficult choice, but in the end we felt we made the right selection.”


“My first reaction was, ‘Not more smoke turning into an image in the air!’ It is not a particularly sophisticated or fresh solution to that particular problem, but those heavily metaphorical cover illustrations are a bear to do over and over. That said, the logo could have been a contrasting color to give it a little depth, and hierarchical separation. Too much of that cream color can get a little ‘rich.’”

Helene Silverman, art director, Architectural Record

“This is a tough cover to critique since it speaks to such a specific audience. I find the message a little difficult to ‘read’ quickly. I like the idea of the rich older lawyer sitting with his back turned but maybe there’s a way to make him even more sinister. The monochromatic feel is cool, but I would like to see some separation between the color of the logo and that of the main headline. The white type at the bottom accomplishes this but that treatment might work better for the main headline, deck and byline.”

Darin Johnson, creative director, Car and Driver

Have a unique “cover” story? Contact associate editor T.J. Raphael at

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