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The Cover Story

A Power Book for our times: The backstory behind our January cover.


Every January, Oregon Business publishes the Power Book, a compilation of lists featuring top public and private organizations in different industry sectors.

Every January, the art director has to wrestle with the connotations of the word “power,” and come up with a novel design metaphor.

A Google search of the word “power" yields references to the crime drama “Power” starring Omari Hardwick, bolts of electricity and raised fists and a smattering of business people.

A web search also produces plenty of computer power buttons, cartoon bursts, power lines and stations, along with utility logos.

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In the interest of being thorough, I put together cover mockups addressing many of those references. Except they had all been done before.

PowerBook ideas

The Power Book issue is a keepsake; people hang on to the issue because it contains valuable data to which readers will refer again and again.

So I wondered: What are the visual cues of value when it comes to books? I envisioned fine leather, gilded and embossed with old serif typefaces. But the result, alas, is staid and boring.

PowerBook ideas2

I wanted the Power Book to be more personable, more accessible, more FUN. The lists are about companies and organizations, but power is ultimately about people and directed toward people.  So why not feature people on the front? Say, for example, power lifters?

A Google search yielded a fresh idea — what if the weight the person was lifting was the Power Book itself?

I made sketches.

PowerBook ideas 09

The OB editorial team discussed the possibility of photographing a model body builder. Then I had another epiphany: My sister Claire is a dedicated weight lifter who heads for the gym at 5 a.m.

She's not young. But when research editor Kim Moore asked, “Why can’t it be a middle-aged woman?”, celestial chords sounded on high.

Of course it should be a powerful, middle-aged woman. A Power Book image for our times.

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The third piece dropped into place when we decided Claire should be holding the magazine itself, not a heavy tome with “Power Book” written on the front.

I designed the opening spread and built a magazine mockup that Claire would hold during the photo shoot.

OB photographer Jason Kaplan took the pictures at Claire's Forge Performance Training gym. I Photoshopped the cover onto the fake magazine that Claire holds. The cover was complete.

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