The Cover Story

OB’s art director deploys foreign currency — and attempts a form of origami — to fashion our September cover image.


How do you make an abstract concept visually “readable” without resorting to clichés? It’s a common conundrum — at least for me — here at Oregon Business.

The September issue’s cover story was of course no exception. How to illustrate the complex story of how growing numbers of international students at Oregon universities are supporting those institutions?

The key words were “currency” and “exchange.” We also had to communicate “Oregon” and “education.”

My favorite idea was to physically make a paper model of a typical university building (i.e. one with pediment and columns) using actual foreign currency and the Japanese art of kirigami.

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I found a suitable image of the facade of the administration building at U of O, and made a little mockup of what I intended.

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Then I went to the airport and purchased Chinese yuen. My attempts using the currency were decidedly ham-fisted and impossible to read, so that cover idea was scrapped. The result was instead used on an inside page.

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The next-best idea was to build a globe of currency, and balance a college on top a pile of money.

The difficulty then lay in how to communicate “Oregon universities.” An iconic pedimented building, while attractive, didn’t provide an immediate hit.

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Event manager Craig Peebles suggested using school logos, an idea which I immediately dismissed.

I tried it later though, grudgingly, and when I placed the U of O “O” on top of the pile of money on my money globe, the image suddenly made sense.

Then, to be fair, I made little 3-D versions of OSU’s and PSU’s logos, and the cover was complete.

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Joan McGuire is the art director for Oregon Business.

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