Face Up: 417
Issue: February 2009
Launched: 1998 (Whitaker has owned since 2001)
Editor: Katie Pollock
Publishing Company: Whitaker Publishing
Art Director: Cassie Darst
Editorial Director: Bethany Lohmeyer
Regional magazine 417, covering the southern Missouri area, created a “best-of” issue that parodies Milton Bradley’s 1960’s LIFE (aka, The Game of Life).
“In years past, we’ve branded our logo and done cool openers to display this category breakdown. But this time we decided to take a concept—The Game of Life—and transfer it into ‘The Game of 417,’” says art director Cassie Darst. While ultimately it was decided to stick with all of the categories integrated into a LIFE game board, “Our original plan was to create a different board game for each category; the ‘best of’ food category would be a take on Candy Land, ‘best of’ shopping a play on Mall Madness, etc.”
To create a game board mock up, Darst says that 417 “literally created from scratch a replica of LIFE—double the size.” The board, which is larger than seen on the magazine’s cover, includes all of the five sections of the “best of” winners, including Services, Food, People, Places and Shopping, with creative categories brainstormed by editorial. “The name corresponds to an actual action,” adds Darst. “For Best Charity Event, for example, the board says ‘Spice things up at the Sertoma Chili Cook-Out.’”
In order to add authenticity to the board, editorial director Bethany Lohmeyer created landmarks, clay models of people, spray painted matchbox cars and made a clay replica of Hammonsfield Ballpark (top left of cover), a popular Springfield, Missouri baseball field. “The clay figurines only took about 10 minutes each to make,” she says.
To make the board game, Darst estimates a total cost around $30, which included the modeling clay, paint and supplies. “We asked the staff if someone had LIFE at home that we could use, and they did, so we didn’t even need to buy the game,” says Darst. 417 expanded this cover concept throughout the issue, with the staff creating many elements on the fly: “We didn’t scan anything; we literally recreated everything by hand.”
“The ‘417’ cover possesses very little in the way of hierarchy and there is a fight for dominance between the logo and the main headline. This then takes away from the rest of the cover lines. It is a convoluted cover where there is simply too much going on. Knowing when to stop may have been prudent here. There is no place where one’s eye can rest to then experience what the cover should offer the reader.
Also, an obstacle in using an icon such as the ‘Game of Life’ board game is to question ‘what did the designer do to the art to make it his/hers?’ Not to mention the question of copyright or patent infringements. However, I do like the brightness of the color palette and the fact that there are a lot of ‘numbers’ on the cover. Readers love numbers. On a lighter side, I would be interested in knowing if the designer is making a social commentary on American society. Did the peg people gain weight? This demonstrates a very good sense of humor.”
Todd J. Gast | Art Director | JCK
“Love the idea—very clever! The colors work well, however my only concern is the readability of the main cover headlines on the top of the layout, as they all seem to fight for attention or they simply get lost in the background. I would get rid of the top line “The 64 Greatest Things in 417 Land,” or possibly place it somewhere else. Overall, very nice!”
Adana Jiménez | Art Director | Scholastic Marketing Partners
Have a unique “cover” story? Contact FOLIO: Associate Editor Vanessa Voltolina.