Friday, August 31, 2012

The cover came first, and I'm not sorry

Which comes first? The cover art or the cover story? Most magazine editors will tell you that this is a no-brainer: The story always comes first because the images support and promote the content—not the other way around. But then again, most editors will also tell you that making blanket statements like this one can easily lead to a big ole plate-o-crow.

I’ve been served that meal several times, but not in regard to the question at hand. This is probably because, while I edit Union’s magazine, I was first its designer and still am. Designing is what brought me to Union. So while I know it goes against best practices to prioritize artwork over content, I really enjoy when it’s necessary to reverse the order. At least most of the time.

A priority flip was necessary for our latest edition of Union Alumni Magazine. Considering this issue introduced readers to Marcia Hawkins, our new president, I wasn’t thrilled about veering away from the norm. It felt too risky. Nevertheless, the cover was created long before the story was edited or even drafted for the first time.

Here’s why: Last spring, we scheduled a higher-ed photographer to help us update our marketing and admissions materials. As luck would have it, Dr. Hawkins was scheduled to visit campus that same day. But not so luckily, we made this discovery only three days before they each arrived. With a good bit of scrambling, we arranged a photo session that included Dr. Hawkins and a large group of students. And with an idea for a story that emphasized her enthusiasm for the liberal arts, we put something together, knowing there would be no do-over. It was imperative that the story match the art. Did it work? I guess you should be the judge. But we sure had fun producing it. See for yourself.

Missy Reid, '91