Cover to Cover: October 2009

February 1, 2010

We might be playing fast and loose with the chronology of these covers, but I wanted to return to one of my favorite covers of last year, the Travel Issue from October (vol. 19).

As with every cover, we began with the same principal: avoid cliche. That meant no maps; no compasses; no planes, trains or automobiles. Yes, we considered all of these motifs in the brainstorming period, but none of them expressed the tone and scope of the 2009 Travel Issue. We had visited and wrote about four very different places–Mongolia, Israel, Nepal and San Francisco–and each story was unique in tone.

But what the stories did have in common was that they were all rooted in personal experience and a desire to evoke a sense of place without putting it in a box. As I wrote in October’s editorial, each story approached travel as a question, rather than an answer. The cover, then, should do the same.

And sure enough, Jennifer came through. She had unearthed the following quote from Mark Twain: “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the Earth all one’s life.” It captured exactly what I wanted the feature section as a whole to express, the idea that travel is a lifelong project, one that is never fully achieved.

The execution of the final cover, I think, is superb. The subtle blur of color lends the sense of movement and the ephemeral moment, as if the message is presenting an opportunity that the reader can either acknowledge or ignore. Though the setting is dank and a bit grubby, it recalls a train station corridor or a subway entrance, and all the possibility that these oft-overlooked spaces present to those compelled to explore.

I count myself among the ranks of those people, and that’s perhaps why this is one of my favorite covers we’ve done yet.

Contributed by Tom DiChristopher

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