Face Up: Church Executive
Issue: March 2011
Publishing Company: Power Trade Media LLC
Art Director: Renee Hawkins
Editor: Ronald E. Keener
A trademark cover can become one of two things to magazine readers: a necessity for brand recognition, or a visual bore to the audience. Church Executive was afraid their signature cover art was becoming the latter.
CE publisher Steve Kane told Folio: that since launching the magazine (which focuses on the business side of churches that fill 1,000 or more seats a week), the cover has traditionally featured the subject of the CE profile, “a multi-page interview with a selected pastor every month.”
Church Executive’s audience is made up of senior pastors within church communities. Kane reinforced that the Phoenix, Arizona-based publication is not theological, and continually presents itself as a secular magazine.
Kane decided that in order to keep the magazine fresh, Church Executive would move towards a concept cover model. When asked to expand on the phrase ‘concept cover’, Kane said, “What we’ve done is try to feature more of a cover story, we take more a particular image and use that on the cover to key into what we’re doing.”
Renee Hawkins, art director for CE, spoke on the March 2011 cover production process, “We purchase our artwork through iStock usually, so it’s copyright free. And then I took two pieces of art and mapped them together to be one.” The image illustrates an article exploring embezzlement in religious establishments.
Although CE has changed a major component of their cover, other elements have been standardized since the magazine’s launch in 2002. Kane said that the logo has remained stationary, and the use of white space has become integral to the cover over time.
Kane noted the audience’s reaction in the transition to concept cover, “We think we’re getting a little more attention now from these covers than we did when the same old middle aged guy in a Hawaiian shirt ran on our covers for the past several years.”
If the intent of a cover is to intrigue and prick one’s interest, this cover does exactly that. In the background, nearly indistinct is a gaping wolf that can easily be lost in the sea of wool. What is not explained is what the story is about (churches falling prey to scammers) and that may be the genius of it: We are interested. The fact that it is a cover surrounded by white only pinpoints the cover image. The graphics are a lesson in many bad practices to be found in graphic design: Curiously condensed fonts, unaligned graphics, an antiquated logo design (a strange, customized version of Peignot font) and bad typography overall.
Randy Dunbar, creative director and instructor, FIDM
The logo itself looks like it was horizontally scaled; it makes the whole page seem off. The actual composition of the page pulls the reader in every direction. The “wolf in sheep’s clothing” Photoshop work is poorly executed, as the sheep/lambs are blurred in the background and the wolf is very crisp. It looks forced and obvious that it was Photoshopped. If it can’t look real, don’t do it.
Steve Dixon, director of production and design, Lebhar Friedman’s Retail Group
The flag has been condensed horizontally, so it looks squished. The liberal use of a condensed font (that also looks like it’s been manually condensed even more) combines with the condensed flag to create a sense of vertical claustrophobia, almost like the magazine is trying to squeeze through a narrow door frame. Given the severe vertical nature of the flag and type, the square crop is really puzzling and makes the shape seem very odd. The grey that is used in the skyline is lighter than the grey used in the cover line on the left.
Jason Treat, Art Director, The Atlantic
Have a unique “cover” story? Contact associate editor Stefanie Botelho at firstname.lastname@example.org.