amNewYork: Newspaper covers for commuters

amNewYork: Newspaper covers for commuters Christopher Sabatini has been the design director at amNewYork for most of its existence, since its launch in 2003. The free daily newspaper is given away at NYC subway stops and in news boxes around the city, and competes for eyeballs with another daily freebie, Metro New York. am New York publishes five days a week with a circulation of between 350,000-400,000, mainly in Manhattan. Their target audience is commuters 18-40 who don't read other newspapers.

Sabatini has given the covers of amNewYork a bright, sassy, tabloid feel, like a funner, hipper New York Post, complete with funky Photoshop constructions. It's all done on the fly, with no time and a very limited budget. The covers pop off the pages, grabbing commuters as they head into the subway. Sabatini says, "We see ourselves as the initiator of conversation with our readers, whether it's about the story of the day or about trends that New Yorkers are seeing or experiencing."

amNewYork's covers are all self-created and produced, usually with stock photography. They have that wacky, bespoke news magazine feel of alternative weekly papers like the Dallas Observer, Westword, and Riverfront Times. The design confronts myriad challenges, like multiple cover ads and limited production values, but it still comes off as smart, original, engaging, and full of passion, qualities we like and admire.

Sabatini gave us comments on some of his favorite cover designs for amNewYork.

Christopher Sabatini: (Left): November 17, 2008. I went away on vacation and designer Sara Baumberger and her Photoshop skills did this amazing cover. (Right): October 1, 2008. We have a small staff, and I try to give them a chance to do covers (or any other pages). This is another cover design and image by designer Sara Baumberger.

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Christopher Sabatini: (Left): December 16, 2009. When I work on a cover, I always think about the people who don't get it handed to them, the ones who see it in the front of the news box and pick it up. This is definitely a news box issue front page. (Right): March 17, 2010. This cover was designed by our designer Sara Baumberger. It tells the story about the new health code violation letter grade system.

We spend a good amount of time working on how not to look like the other papers here in the city. The square logo rather than the usual "New York Times" or "New York Post"-type masthead was an early decision that has served us well. Most of the time I lean towards some sort of photo illustration for the cover. I don't think the other papers do it as often or as well as we do. Our covers tend to be louder, with brighter colors, smarter images, and less white type on a black background. Our cover design buzzwords are: fun, bright, smart, and visual.

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Christopher Sabatini: (Left): January 13, 2009. There were a limited number of Bernie Madoff photos, so we decided to make something out of nothing. We grabbed stock from Getty News and iStock and slammed this together. (Right): February 27, 2009. We started with the headline and the image came from that. This was the fastest cover we produced in this collection, and probably in my Top 3 for strength of image, headline, and story combined.

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Christopher Sabatini: (Left): January 28, 2010. Am I the only one who thought of Steve Jobs in place of Charlton Heston presenting The Tablet? (Right): February 4, 2010. That's me laying under a giant Metrocard. Our photo editor stood on a chair and took pictures of me in a few different positions. 

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Christopher Sabatini: (Left): June 4, 2010. This story was about a conference for men on how to meet and date women. The headline wrote itself. (Right): June 17, 2010. Andrew Cuomo, New York attorney general and candidate for governor has his mother in black on one shoulder and his girlfriend in white on the other.

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Christopher Sabatini: (Left): February 9, 2010. Sometimes I make it hard on myself by telling editors that I can illustrate almost any headline. I thought this would be an easy one. Stock art for the body, finding the red background, then hand drawing the headline...I can't believe we actually got it done! (Right): December 17, 2008. First came the headline, then came us trying to shove the image on to the cover to make it work.

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