Creating Daily Magazine Covers at the Political Conventions
Hochstein shares some background on the creation of the convention covers, as well as showing off some great outtakes and rejects.
Bloomberg Insider was a 32-page, large format daily magazine produced for the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in late August and early September. An old school, print-only publication, it was distributed at the convention halls in Tampa and Charlotte, as well as in area hotels and kiosks, and in Washington, D.C. Hochstein's assignment was to create the daily covers, working with the project's editor, Timothy Franklin. On the design end, Matt Mansfield (former deputy managing editor of the San Jose Mercury News and now a professor at Medill's Washington Program) created the interior format and executed the page design, teaming up with Paige Connor of Bloomberg Government.
Arthur Hochstein on the Bloomberg Insider project:
This was a great project: it was a natural extension of my work at Time (and later doing covers at Businessweek and Newsweek). Because very little actual news is broken at modern political conventions, they adopted the smart strategy of filling the magazine with topical content, leaving nine pages open for daily coverage. The covers and cover stories were conceived and written ahead of time. Norman Pearlstine's charge to me was to conceptualize and design covers that would be provocative and would try to create buzz each day at the convention. Budgets were limited, so no original photography or illustration could be created for the covers. The art had to be stock-based photo-illustration created by me.
All the covers were produced between early July and early August at my summer cottage in Amagansett, NY. I'm totally set up to work out there--everything was done via email and conference calls between Franklin, Mansfield, and me. I was given free rein--there was no micromanagement of either my work or the process. Pearlstine wanted the covers to be edgy, to delight and surprise.
At Time, I created a lot of my own cover images with Photoshop, to the point where I became as much an illustrator as an art director. For me, it's where a lot of the fun lies. Many of the covers I did for this project (including some that didn't run) came directly out of my immersion in blogs, news sites, and hybrids such as the Huffington Post. I try to capture what's in the air, using iconography and metaphors; many of these images began conceptually with that basis.
A case in point was the "Reagan Socialist!" cover about how far right the GOP mainstream has moved. What better way to show it than to scrawl red paint over the most sanctified conservative of them all, and suggest that even he would be too far left for today's GOP? Of course, a lot of people misinterpreted the intent. Some people actually thought Bloomberg was calling Reagan a socialist. Some of the editors, fearful of just that reaction, suggested softening the headline by using a question mark instead of the exclamation point. I lobbied--well, insisted--that the whole point of the cover was a sort of mock defacing of a Reagan poster, that the type was part of an illustration, not just a cover line. The exclamation point stayed on, and the cover was the talk of the convention the day it ran.
As always, there are reject covers. My batting average was pretty good on this project, and as George Lois always said, the ones that end up in your flat file (OK, on your storage drive) don't count. The one that stands out for me in this project is the "Things Go Better with Koch" cover for the Republican Convention on the impact of mega-donors, using a red bottle cap and a pretty good facsimile of the Coca-Cola typeface. The editors didn't want to focus on the Koch brothers, because they thought everyone in a politically-engaged crowd already knew about them, so they wanted to focus on other big-bucks players.
Another reject I miss is Obama behind the 8-ball for the Democratic Convention. The cover that was chosen was no clunker--it took the longer view, and suggested that even if Obama wins the election, we're still in a big hole.
This project was really a dream, because the client (Bloomberg) hired me to bring my talents to the covers, and then (with a lot of collaboration) let the process unfold. As corny as that sounds, that's very rare these days, and I really appreciate it.
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The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Part 2: Joe Zeff
The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Part 3: Gregory Heisler
The Time Covers of Arthur Hochstein, Part 4: Matt Mahurin