Seattle Re-Celebrates Its 1962 World Fair

Seattle Re-Celebrates Its 1962 World Fair Century_21_Exposition_logo.jpg
In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy was scheduled to be in Seattle to attend the closing ceremony of the Century 21 Exposition (also known as the Seattle World's Fair). But Kennedy had to cancel abruptly due to what the White House called a "heavy cold." That cold turned out to be the Cold War's ultimate showdown: The Cuban Missile Crisis. The world was on alert.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Northwest was focused on the future. The fair spawned a building boom for Seattle that included the iconic Space Needle, the Monorail, Key Arena, Seattle Center, and the Pacific Science Center, among many others. It was even used as the setting for one of Elvis Presley's finest films, It Happened at the World's Fair.

With that background--and maybe a little Mad Men inspiration thrown in on the side--Seattle Met recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair by creating a commemorative series of covers. Design Director André Mora has the details after the jump.

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For this special issue commemorating the 1962 World's Fair, we decided to publish four covers. We thought it would be easier than picking one--but with thousands of archival images to choose from it was much harder. After weeks of photo research, associate art director Chris Skiles and I developed a photographic memory of the event. It was as if we'd traveled back in time. We narrowed our choices down to 30, then 14, to 7, then 5. The last cut took days. The final set celebrates the experience of the fair, its fashion, architecture, and celebrity. There's a cover for everybody. That is, if you can resist collecting all four.

Notes on our process:

To begin research for the World's Fair issue, associate AD Chris Skiles and I spent over a week combing through digital archives. This included Flickr collections, fan sites, city municipal archives, UW special collections, the Museum of History & Industry and the Seattle Public Library. The library had the most interesting images and ephemera, in large part because they have so many publications scanned. I would lose hours reading the original press book discovering things like the projected weather for the year and the fair's brand guidelines.

The first PDF I sent to my editor and publisher had 23 images, ranging from archival favorites to illustrator ideas to all-type solutions and even recreations of original souvenirs. Sometimes I send sketches, other times I send PDFs that are more like mood boards. It's a jumping off point to find out what angle we'll approach with the issue.


With so many ideas of how to approach the set of 4, we did a private office poll. The cover with the fashion expert in a black dress was something I printed off just before I hung 14 covers on the wall. I didn't think it had a chance and it was a top vote getter. I've been surprised by how many men and woman have picked that as their favorite of the four.

We reduced the 14 to about 8 or 9 and by the end of that day we had 6 favorites. That didn't stop us from throwing in another new image into the mix ("just to see") as the days proceeded but three days before going to press we had it down to 5. Until that point I had only defended one image strongly -- the Pacific Science Center -- and was happy to hear all of the office opinions. On the day of press I felt that I knew what the best set was and I decided against the illustration cover. I thought using all images (2 black and white and 2 color) would feel more coherent.

Though the selection process was so much about the art, I didn't spend a lot of time on the typography until the final days. We knew we wanted a banner on top and that we could run just one bold message. From the beginning I wanted to use the same type on each cover but I figured it would be impossible to keep it all aligned the same way, or even for the logo to be in the same color. By the time we got to the final five covers I figured out a way to keep all of the elements in the exact same position. It felt like a small, personal victory.

Obsessive Design Fact: Not only are the borders, banners, logo, type and colors exactly the same, each image is multiplied with the same hit of color.
  • Unfortunate in what way?

  • Robert Newman

    Unfortunate coincidence on one of these covers, via Doppelganger Design. Seattle Met competitor Seattle magazine used the same cover photo, but flopped it:

  • Thomas James

    Such a great look at this project. I love to get a peek behind the scenes at how much work goes into a striking, simple, and effective result like this. Thanks for posting!

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