Ad Age goes edgy with ‘Digital Issue’ cover lettering

Advertising Age Digital Issue cover 2011

This week’s cover of Advertising Age (a past client that I watch regularly) provided a bit of a typographic shocker: a chaotic digital font (or is it a font?) overlaid on a cast photo from MTV’s “Skins.” The headline: THE DIGITAL ISSUE (an annual affair for Ad Age). The subhead: “Your consumer’s brain on digital: Can advertising survive the tweets, likes and TTYLs hogging mental bandwidth?”

A provocative cover display for a (literally) button-pushing topic inside. Not for everyone, maybe, but works for a publication whose readers include the in-your-face worlds of advertising and marketing. I asked art director Jesper Goransson, with whom I worked on several iterations of the Ad Age design, to share the inside story of how the design came about.

“The font was hand drawn exclusively for us by James Victore. I’m also sharing with you my rough sketch (below) that I got approved by the editors here, if that helps. This is what I initially sent to James. I was looking for something that could be seen as an added layer onto the ‘Skins’ cast photo to illustrate the digital world of tweets, likes, etc.”

Ad Age doesn’t do “fun with fonts” (or hand lettering) all that often, and has used the same sans serif type family (Interstate) for headlines and labels for years, but has swapped weights in and out so that the mix always appears fresh. (I’ve helped advise them on several iterations of the design over the years, with heavy emphasis on navigation and information architecture rather than type choice – easier to focus on when you don’t have to select fonts as well. See link to album of page designs at the bottom to see how routine covers and inside pages are treated.)

For comparison to the energetic cover for this special issue, Jesper passed along previous covers for special issues, shown below. “I’m also attaching a cover from last fall where I tried to stay away from changing up the font at all (illustration by Barry Blitt) and a mixed one from a year ago (illustration by Jon Valk).” Always interesting to watch how Ad Age, one of the most interesting publishing brands around, is keeping up with the times.

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