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Dylan Stableford

Cover Critique: New York's Spitzer Cover

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 03/31/2008-10:22 AM

New York magazine is no stranger to controversial covers (see its Lindsay Lohan cover and accompanying, server-melting photo shoot a few weeks back). But when the story of New York governor Eliot Spitzer's shocking involvement in a prostitution ring broke early (Monday) in the magazine's print cycle (New York publishes on Mondays), it put the magazine in a tricky spot: it would be six days until it had its turn—six days of New York Post covers, blog posts, tabloid headlines and late-night joke fodder—to weigh in with a cover of its own. And it delivered a memorable, edgy one.

We asked some of our design friends to critique New York's Spitzer cover. First up, Tim O'Brien, the illustrator behind the subject of our last cover critique—Rolling Stone's Obama.

NAME: Tim O'Brien
TITLE: freelance illustrator; VP, the Society of Illustrators
CRITIQUE: The March 24th cover of New York Magazine is a funny and effective catharsis for the shocked New Yorkers. Swept into office with a wave of hope and enthusiasm, it was all undone by lust and hypocrisy. The cover image, an awkward shot of Spitzer shot from above making him look small is effective in shrinking a small man even smaller. Not knowing where to put his hands he forms a halo over his crotch; completely unintentional I'm sure but there it is. The use of white isolating his figure adds to the look, one that is reminiscent of the famous George Lois Esquire cover of Muhammad Ali pierced by arrows. The cherry on the top is a Barbara Kruger-esque sign and arrow that sends it over the top. Over the top is what this story is and the cover is perfect.

NAME: Laura Wall
TITLE: design director, Pace Communications
CRITIQUE: Wow. What a good reminder to NEVER run for public office. New York magazine held nothing back on this cover. It’s clean, powerful and probably award-winning. I’d hate to be Spitzer—how completely humiliating!

NAME: Anthony Ficke
TITLE: creative director, CAB Communications
CRITIQUE: Well, I must say I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to design, but to put it bluntly ... this is pretty ballsy of a cover. The power created from this cover is that you were able to sum up an entire nation's exact same thought with only one word! Nothing else needs to be said on the cover, yet you are compelled to read the story, if only to see what lines the author might have crossed. Most importantly, the goal of intriguing the reader has definitely been achieved. On another note, I really like that the New York logo breaks away from the edge to give a photo-negative feel.

NAME: Marco Turelli
TITLE: art director, Wine Enthusiast
CRITIQUE: Image and concept is brilliant! Will it sell magazines based on lack of cover lines and starkness of image? Who knows. Do I see it winning awards? Probably. Does Mr. Spitzer want to get away? You bet he does.

NAME: José Reyes
TITLE: creative director/Principal Metaleap Design
CRITIQUE: I appreciate how they showed a photo of Eliot in a way that was not disdainful, disrespectful  or shaming—that would be too easy. Instead, they showed how everyone knew him—for better or worse—which makes for a much more compelling cover. An argument for the internal battle of personal restraint and what we allow the world to see vs. what we are capable of doing and hiding from others seems to also be a subtle statement that the editors are making with the smiling Spitzer. If so, well done. The cover, in my opinion, is provocative, clear, succinct, humorous and timely—perfect.

What do you think? Drop me a line [dstableford AT red7media DOT com] or add your own critiques in the comments section below.

Dylan Stableford

1978: The Year Sports Illustrated's Covers Got Weird

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 03/28/2008-16:59 PM

The Sports Illustrated's recently-launched SI Vault is a treasure trove of weirdo vintage covers, as Gawker recently discovered. Just how weird? That cover above is merely the tip of the wack iceberg. (I wonder what the people who are criticizing Vogue for its Lebron and Gisele cover would've said about this one.)

Dylan Stableford

Rolling Stone's Obama Illustrator Responds

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 03/28/2008-09:13 AM

After reading your critiques of the Rolling Stone Obama cover, Tim O'Brien writes:

I'm the illustrator who painted Barack for the cover of Rolling Stone. It seems you've selected a group of designers with a lack of understanding of what Rolling Stone was doing here.

[Rolling Stone makes] no bones about viewing Barack in the most hopeful light. At the time of publication, the newsstands were brimming with photographs of the man, so in this instance, they chose illustration to push the cover out there to get some buzz. I seem to get used when the art director or editor is trying to make a serious point about a person. Sometimes it's a mocking image, such as a golden glow around a portrait of Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro, and sometimes it's reeled in a bit to showcase a person in a respectful tone. I happen to like the cover and know that the ADs at Rolling Stone were thrilled.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: To check out more of Tim's work, including a detailed account of what went into executing the Obama cover, click here ...]

Dylan Stableford

Have the National Magazine Awards Become Too New York-Centric?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 03/20/2008-13:53 PM

The finalists for the National Magazines Awards were announced yesterday. And—like every year—the list included some surprises (Good), snubs (Esquire) and the requisite head-scratchers (Bloomberg Markets?) that make any awards process fun.

And, also like every year, the list, like a lot of things in the consumer magazine industry, was dominated by a disproportionate number of magazines about or originating in New York.

Of the 128 finalists for this year’s Ellies, at least 78 are based (or have significant staff) in New York City. That’s over 60 percent, for those of you scoring at home. (The New Yorker and New York magazine combined for 21 nominations alone.)

It’s always been a criticism of the media at-large. It locks its viewfinder on New York—to a lesser extent, L.A.—and nothing else. And the media that covers media—particularly the journalists that cover the magazine and advertising industries—are especially prone to overstating the importance of New York, or, perhaps more accurately, not expanding the scope beyond Manhattan enough.

I think it’s a valid gripe to have, but an unfair one, too. For starters, what is a journalist covering the magazine industry supposed to do when the American Society of Magazine Editors is not exactly hunting down new nominees (sorry, the Virginia Quarterly Review doesn’t count anymore)? And when virtually every major magazine publisher works or has a sales office in New York, it’s tough not to have your view distorted.

While we, at FOLIO:, always talk about representing the entire swath of magazine publishers in such far-flung places as “Washington D.C.” and “Chicago,” we’re admittedly part of the machinery that gives New York its big head. (We’ll shoot video and liveblog the Ellies in May, for example, like every other magazine media outlet—and we should.)

But who cares what I think. What do you think? Has ASME become too New York-centric? Have the National Magazine Awards become the New York Magazine Awards? Will the MPA ever tire of Adam Moss?

Drop your comments below …

Dylan Stableford

Cover Critique: Rolling Stone's Barack Obama Endorsement

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 03/13/2008-14:01 PM

In the midst of a fascinating 2008 presidential race, Rolling Stone unveiled its endorsement of Barack Obama last week with this cover. Like anything this race seems to touch, the cover was immediately tagged as controversial (with some cable news pundits suggesting the magazine touched up Obama's skin color to make him appear "whiter").

Putting that, and Jann Wenner's politics, aside for a moment, FOLIO: asked some of its friends in the design world to weigh in on the cover. Here are some early returns:

Dan Trombetto
TITLE: Art director, FOLIO:
CRITIQUE: From a design standpoint, the composition and typography are very straight-forward - nothing very interesting going on there. The use of an Obama illustration portraying him as a glowing savior peering off into an unknown future? It seems a bit melodramatic. But I’m sure it will get some religious folks up in arms and create some controversy, which is probably the desired effect. If nothing else, it sure gives Barack a lot to live up to—especially since “A New Hope” contains no question mark after it.

NAME: Marco Turelli
TITLE: Art director, Wine Enthusiast
CRITIQUE: Doesn’t really do much for me. Coverlines don’t help sell it to the reader. Barack isn’t looking out into the distance nor is he making eye contact, so in effect he isn’t creating a sense of “greater purpose” nor is he connecting with the viewer. I would expect a more provocative coverline like “America’s Only Hope.” I’ve seen much better from RS in the past when covering political figures. They need to get Woodard back. Hillary’s Last Stand could have been fun though.

Paola DiMeglio
TITLE: Associate art director, Psychiatric Times
CRITIQUE: First reaction was that this looked like something from a Jehovah's witness "The Watchtower" cover (those brochures that they pass out for a quarter) ... has this religious feel to it. It's more like he's doing a Superman stance. Maybe they should have put the "S" shirt under his jacket with the cap. That would have gotten the effect, but maybe taken as more of an insult than an endorsement. I don't really care for the fonts but I see it's their standard serif font. It looks more like The New Republic or The Week instead of Rolling Stone.

NAME: Randy Dunbar
TITLE: Freelance designer
CRITIQUE: Presumably this an illustration. As illustrations go, it's unremarkable. And Barack appears to have more lines on his face than Georgia O'Keefe. He also appears to be all ear. Personally, I am not inspired by this cover—by design, color, graphics, etc. If this is the "new hope" cover, the future appears to be cloudy ... I did check the cover out at the RS Web site and in a smaller version. It has more impact ... whatever that means ...

NAME: Robert Siel
TITLE: Production director, Sumner Communications
CRITIQUE: Very solid cover. I like the painterly touch to the illustration. Nothing really pops out at me about this cover, either great or bad, but it's solid. The stance of Barack and the one touch of color on the red tie seem to symbolize a Superman pose.

NAME: Bryan Canniff
TITLE: Owner, Bryan Canniff Designs
CRITIQUE: I have several reservations about this cover. If I were a Barack supporter I would not be too happy about his angry expression. The candidate for change seems to be looking forward to hard times ahead instead of "A New Hope". He looks so mad he is literally steaming. The blue color scheme is also not very positive. It makes his skin look even redder in contrast (and angrier). I don't see the need to cover up so much of the logo, unless it is an awkward attempt to say Rollin one. It looks forced since his head is so small and there is no need to show more of his rumpled suit and askew tie. Starting with his pitifully small light yellow name, the typography is very laid back and the layout is too predictable and unexciting.

UPDATE: Tim O'Brien, the illustrator behind the Obama cover, responds ...

What do you think? Drop us a line [dstableford AT red7media DOT com] or drop your own critiques in the comments section below.

Dylan Stableford

Is This the Worst Time Cover Ever?

Dylan Stableford Design and Production - 03/12/2008-11:25 AM

Time magazine—home to such modern self-marketing marvels as the Person of the Year franchise—has put together a self-deprecatingly fun interactive slideshow. Tapping its 85-year archive of covers, the magazine is enlisting a reader vote on the worst Time cover of all-time.

Some of them, like the one on the right, I actually like.

And while it's not going to make any ex-art directors too happy, the feature is, as they say on the Internet, "sticky."

Dylan Stableford

If Spitzer Was a Glamour Blogger, He Would've Been Out of a Job by Now

Dylan Stableford emedia and Technology - 03/11/2008-16:12 PM

A full day after the New York Times' shocking revelation about Eliot Spitzer's involvment in a prostitution ring, the New York governor still, somehow, remains in office. UPDATE: Not anymore.

It took less time for Glamour magazine to fire a blogger after, as they say, a majority of readers wanted to "pulverize" him. Here's our story. And here's the note:

Our ultimate goal here is to open a productive conversation about men, sex, love and dating; clearly, that can't happen when the majority of readers would like to pulverize the blogger.

Glamour's hands were clearly tied. (Need to kill some time? Peruse the 200-plus comments posted here, here and here.) But did he deserve to be fired for, as he told Radar, being a "single guy with some issues and a lot to learn. So be it. I kind of thought that's what made my blog interesting"?

By the way, Glamour says it will name its new "Man Needs a Date" man soon. I can think of one candidate ...

Dylan Stableford

Harvard Lifestyle Magazine Featured Eliot Spitzer, Wife 'In Happier Times'

Dylan Stableford City and Regionals - 03/10/2008-23:28 PM

That didn't take long.

A scant two hours and 17 minutes after the New York Times broke the story that linked governor Eliot Spitzer to a prostitution ring, I got this press release from a publicist for 02138, perhaps the last (only?) magazine to feature Spitzer and his wife on its cover.

Sent: Monday, March 10, 2008 6:03 PM
To: Dylan Stableford
Subject: Eliot Spitzer & wife Silda Wall on cover of 02138 ---in happier times

In Happier Times: Eliot Spitzer and wife Silda Wall on the “Power Couples” issue of 02138, the lifestyle magazine for Harvard influentials

Photo Credit: Jake Chessum at Capsule Studio in New York

Eliot Spitzer’s shocking admission about his involvement in a prostitution ring has rocked the political arena today.

Not long ago, Spitzer and his wife Silda Wall posed for the cover of the Winter 2007 “Power Couple” issue of 02138 magazine, the lifestyle magazine for Harvard influentials. The Harvard-educated couple, selected because of their influential careers and continued commitment to maintaining a strong and lasting relationship, seemed the picture of political marital bliss. The black-and-white cover photo showed a part of Spitzer and Wall’s relationship not often depicted in the public realm.

To read the full article from the “Power Couple” issue of 02138, go to

For a jpeg of the Winter 2007 02138 cover with Eliot Spitzer and Silda Wall, please contact me at [REDACTED] or [REDACTED].



Note: It appears Domino recently conducted a video interview and tour of the Governor's mansion with Silda. Perfect timing, that.

Dylan Stableford

'Help! Grandpa's Looking at My September Vogue Again!'

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 03/10/2008-16:50 PM

CBS' schtick-tastic Andy Rooney (yes, he's still on the air), the curmudgeoniest of curmudgeons, closed last night's 60 Minutes (yes, it's still on the air) broadcast with an odd rant about the effectiveness of advertising in high-end women's fashion magazines. And, here's a shocker: Andy Rooney doesn't understand the appeal of couture fashion spreads nor the ad pages that run opposite them.

The segment ("Andy Rooney's Eye for Fashion") could've been called "Help, Grandpa Took My September Vogue Again!"

What's that? You missed it? Not to worry, the video was dutifully posted online.

Quick! Someone get Mr. Rooney those audience metrics, stat!

Click here to watch the video ...

Dylan Stableford

Is This Really the Nicest Guy in Publishing?

Dylan Stableford Consumer - 03/06/2008-14:37 PM

Don't get me wrong. I like David Carey. I've met the new Condé Nast group president just a handful of times, and he seems softspoken, smart, funny. Sweet, even. And I count him as one of my Facebook friends.

Still, if I were doing a profile on the heir apparent to Condé Nast CEO Chuck Townsend—as the New York Observer did this week—I'd surely dig a little deeper than, say, Condé cronies like David Remnick—or Carey's weakness for office cantaloupe and fruit smoothies—to paint a picture of the guy.

Here are some of the quotes about Carey the Observer managed to squeeze into its 1,363-word profile:

  • “I always heard he was a good guy." (Former CondĂ© executive Ron Galotti)
  • "David Carey certainly embodies, in the best sense, the CondĂ© Nast of now." (Remnick)
  • "Carey is the sort of publisher you 'hate competing against because he’s so good.'" (Graydon Carter)
  • "Carey is very nimble intellectually. He will not allow himself to fail.” (Remnick)
  • "David inspires people to do the very best. You want to be smart for David.” (William Li, who succeeded Carey as Portfolio publisher)
  • “Also, I like the fact that like me, he has four kids.” (Carter)

And that doesn't include this passage:

The quiet, contented face of a millennial Man in the Gray Flannel Suit with a slight spare tire around his middle, leaving the Beemer at the Metro-North station to chug into work. There’s also a Toyota Sienna, “the best one on the market,” in the garage back home—Mr. Carey’s choice for corporate car. “Alas,” he e-mailed OTR, “minivans are something I know about.” And then: a frowny-face emoticon.

Looking for the darker (OK, maybe olive-colored) side of David Carey? I was too. Maybe he really is that nice.

For more Carey love (we're not above it!) check out our video interview with him at the FOLIO: show last year.

Dylan Stableford

Donny Deutsch: Regional Skateboard Magazine Has 'Million-Dollar' Logo

Dylan Stableford Sales and Marketing - 03/04/2008-15:30 PM

Justin Heister, founder of a small East Coast skateboard magazine called Focus, is, oddly, a self-proclaimed "Donny Deutsch fan." So much so that he talked his way onto CNBC's Big Idea with Donny Deutsch show this week to talk about the magazine's logo.


Focus was the subject of a recent article for its unique marketing partnership with video game maker Activision—Focus' "million-dollar" logo is featured prominently in the new Tony Hawk game.

Dylan Stableford

Meredith's Careers Page: No 'Content Strategists'—But Plenty of 'Editors'

Dylan Stableford Editorial - 03/03/2008-09:50 AM

There's been a lot of buzz (relatively speaking) about Meredith president Jack Griffin's comments about editors ("We don't hire editors anymore—we hire content strategists") since his keynote last week at the FOLIO: Publishing Summit in Miami.

But, as one astute commenter points out, there's not a single "content strategist" position listed on Meredith's careers page—but plenty of editors.

Was Griffin blowing smoke for the sake of an industry keynote?

Check out the keynote report here, and our video Q+A with Grffin here.