The 50th Anniversary Issue of Runner's World: Behind the Scenes with Design Director, Benjamen Purvis

The 50th Anniversary Issue of Runner's World: Behind the Scenes with Design Director, Benjamen Purvis Not every magazine lives long enough to celebrate milestone anniversaries but this year marks Runner's World's 50th year in publication. To commemorate this achievement, Runner's World's November issue features two cover stars--Kevin Hart and Alexi Pappas--covering three significant eras to running in six different covers. With their special collector's edition on newsstands now, SPD spoke with Runner's World Design Director, Benjamen Purvis about the process of creating this momentous 50th Anniversary Issue.

Read on for Benjamen's answers, cover sketches, and the rest of the anniversary covers.



Tell us about the 50th Anniversary Issue of Runner's World:

Throughout 2016, Runner's World's staff has been combing through 50 years of archives to create special anniversary features in print and online, and even merchandise like vintage-inspired t-shirts and sweatshirts. The process has been a fascinating look at the evolution of running culture, of course, but also pop culture, technology, fashion and graphic design.


This particular issue looks at the history of the women's running revolution, shares tips from the first running boom that still hold up today, documents the evolution of running shoes since the magazine's launch (as Distance Running News) in the 1960s, and joins Kevin Hart and Alexi Pappas for their first-ever Hood to Coast Relay race. 


How did you decide to put Kevin Hart and Alexi Pappas on the cover of your 50th Anniversary Issue?

In July we all got together to discuss cover plans for November's official anniversary issue. Runner's World has put very few celebrities on its covers over the past 50 years - in fact we haven't done it once in the four years I've worked as the magazine's Design Director. But I pitched busiest comedic actor in the world Kevin Hart for this very special cover, because he's a serious runner who has used his massive social media reach to invite his followers to join him on spontaneous 5K runs. (In the time since his first spontaneous 5k run in June of 2015, he's likely responsible for more first-time 5k finishers than anyone else on earth.)


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Because we wanted to celebrate our anniversary with multiple covers, I proposed treating each one as a humorous tribute to a different era of running, complete with appropriate clothing, tech, hairstyle, typography and logo (we've had 12 in 50 years).

Editor-in-Chief David Willey came up with the idea to add to the mix Olympic runner Alexi Pappas, who, like Kevin, also writes and acts. To sell Kevin and Alexi on the idea, I put together look books made up of my quick sketches and reference photos pulled from our archives.

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We were very fortunate to find a day in late August that allowed Kevin - fresh off a comedy tour and in the midst of promoting his new film - and Alexi - fresh off the Olympic 10,000-meter final in Rio - to shoot together in Los Angeles with photographer Art Streiber, just two days before the Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon. Outfitted in clothing and accessories sourced from eBay and vintage stores, and wearing Hollywood movie-quality wigs, Kevin and Alexi owned our concepts. David writes in his editor's note that he's never had more fun at a photo shoot, or while working on a cover.




Tell us about the two eras you chose for your throwback covers.

The first cover represents America's first running boom in the 1970s. Alexi's shirt, a souvenir from the L'eggs Mini Marathon in Central Park, is dated June 3, 1978. So I used Runner's World covers in the 1978 to 1980 range as inspiration for the design. The pumpkin orange cover frame, the runner with the blown out background stepping out of that frame, and the Serif Gothic typeface all came from that era of Runner's World cover design.


In the 1980s, Runner's World covers - which were almost always shot outdoors in the '60s and '70s, and largely documentary -- embraced studio photography, and poses that in hindsight look stilted and awkward. Our '80s throwback covers are a composite of the decade; the logo and yellow cassette players place it in the late '80s, but the awkward studio poses and roof line treatment are trademarks of the earlier '80s covers.

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Did you run into any challenges putting together this special collector's edition?

The cover was the most unusual challenge we faced. In fact, we weren't initially planning on making the 1970s covers the main covers; they were going to be a gatefold surprise. But they elicited such genuine laughter and excitement from everyone who saw them that we began seriously considering using a logo that we haven't used in over 35 years and a design that looks totally out of step with the rest of the newsstand as our main cover. We put the '80s covers as the first foldout on the gatefold, and the modern covers on the backside of the gate. It wasn't an easy decision, but there's no question now that it was the best one we could've made. Jimmy Fallon said to Kevin Hart on the Tonight Show, "This is why I love you, and this is why I love Runner's World, too: Because they do covers like this." Two nights later Seth Meyers showed the covers and called them the greatest, adding that it's his dream to appear on one.

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What's next for Runner's World?

We're working to make the next 50 years of Runner's World as exciting and colorful as the last 50 have been.

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Catch Benjamen online here and on Instagram here.




Design Director: Benjamen Purvis

Art Director: Erin Benner

Designer: Karen Matthes

Photo Director: Clare Lissaman

Photo Editor: Renee Keith

Assistant Photo Editor: Kristen Parker

Cover Photographer: Art Streiber

Hair & Makeup: Juanita Lyon

Styling: Heidi Meek

  • Robert Supina

    Very cool! Well done!

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