March Madness!

March Madness! It's March Madness time, the NCAA college basketball tournament that obsesses so much of the working world with bracket-mania. For the past seven years, Sports Illustrated has produced a brilliantly fun, crazy quilt collaged cover previewing the tournament, and featuring photographs of one player from all the teams scheduled to appear. This year they've expanded to include the women's tournament as well, and the latest cover, pictured above, marks the first by design director Chris Hercik. This is a flat-out great cover, a classic example of magazine-making at its highest level. The Sports Illustrated March Madness cover engages its readers, expanding the concept of the cover into a captivating, interactive experience. And the technical achievement is mind-boggling as well.

On the turn page we've got a collection of all the previous Sports Illustrated March Madness covers, plus as a special bonus, another brilliant visual take on the tournament, a series of wacky 3-D bracket illustrations by Joe Zeff and Ed Gabel, created for design director Siung Tjia at ESPN magazine.

(Above): The March 2010 NCAA Tournament Preview issue of Sports Illustrated. Design director: Chris Hercik. Art director: Ed Truscio.

March madness.jpg

Sports Illustrated March Madness covers, 2003-2009. (Top row, left to right): March 2009, March 2008 (two). (Middle row, left to right): March 2007, March 2006, March 2005. (Bottom row, left to right): March 2004, March 2003, an alternate regional cover for March 2009. All covers: design director, Steve Hoffman.
Sports Illustrated design director Chris Hercik: "The March Madness cover is always well-anticipated by our readers. This cover in particular is the baby of art director Ed Truscio. Between 100 and 120 images are picked, silhouetted, color-corrected, fact checked, and arranged neatly on the cover. Then if a team loses or fails to make the tournament, they have to be replaced, rechecked, etc. There are six regional covers this year, and each one features the favored team from that region. The highlighted player/team is individually shot by a single photographer to keep continuity across all six covers. Besides Swimsuit, this is one of the best-selling, most popular covers we produce. And it's all done in four days!"

bracket43_600.jpgJoe Zeff and Ed Gabel produced a series of mind-bending 3-D graphic takes on the traditional NCAA tournament brackets for ESPN magazine. Their re-inventions of the bracket range from the psychedelic madness pictured above to the cool, architectural versions below.
Joe Zeff: "It's always great working with Siung and the gang at ESPN. They're just so creative, and they push us further than most clients. Siung came to the studio after hours and we talked through the concept. Not every art director would do that.

Sometimes we surprise ourselves. The overhead views were a complete accident--and we were really blown away by how they rendered. They look natural, like Nautilus shells or a mathematical expression, something out of DaVinci's journal. It's as if the bracket were a force of nature, which makes a lot of sense, given the significance of the bracket to college basketball fans."

bracket31_600.jpgMore bracket mania, from Joe Zeff and Ed Gabel, as seen in ESPN magazine.

Zeff brackets.jpgTwo more twisted takes on the NCAA tournament brackets. These are the overhead views that Zeff mentions in his quote above.

  • Josh Klenert

    And if you like brackets. Check our this "Bracket of Brackets"

  • Brandon Kavulla

    Very intense covers. I imagine there was a lot of heavy drinking and/or crying from the production department once they got wind of this idea.


  • Josh Klenert

    Is there a fact checker at SI that has tallied the number of people and mascots on all these covers 2003-2010?

  • jamie ezra mark

    Really captures the frenzy of March Madness. All that silhouetting, rearranging, etc. for six different covers must induce a bit of madness too, but the results are well worth it. Fantastic job!

blog comments powered by Disqus