John Maeda: Key Cover Design Process

John Maeda Design Process Key Cover New York Times

John Maeda has a great visual design process documentation of his design of the New York Times Key Magazines Cover. Though I’m still unfamiliar for Maeda’s fame in the design field, it’s nice to see his thinking though this overload of vectors seems to be a constant repetition in the information visualization world.

For those of you that know me well, I love the methodology and ingredients to design over final outcomes since ya see the thinking involved. I’ve copied the documentation from the NewYorkTime after the jump. Enjoy!

john.maeda design process key cover
Given that the patterns on the previous Key covers have focused on the foreground, I thought to look more at the background in my design.

john.maeda design process key cover
The problem of a noisy background being, of course, that the cover lines could be hard to read. But I decided to accept that challenge and figure it out once I settled on a concept.

john.maeda design process key cover
I submitted 12 sketches of possible designs. The magazine’s art staff selected No. 3. It was a fairly vague idea, but it really was the one I felt the closest to.

john.maeda design process key cover
On August 1, 2007, at 4:06 a.m., Key’s art director, Dirk Barnett, e-mailed me. Thinking about Dirk’s e-mail, I realized that I’m on a plane so often that I think of the world as sort of a map of cities.

john.maeda design process key cover
I figured I could make a simple diagram that would draw out all these cities and plot them out. And then I could draw some fluid curves to connect into the center of the keyhole. The inspiration was the ever-present Google Maps. I see maps so often now.

john.maeda design process key cover
So I tried this out on the computer, and it was all holding together like a nice soufflé baking in the oven.

john.maeda design process key cover
But something wasn’t quite right. I felt the soufflé was going to fall. The key became too obvious, so I reduced its strength and accentuated the background.

john.maeda design process key cover
Then I chose a simpler one-color background that was bright and clean and increased the size of the key.

john.maeda design process key cover
In three days’ time, I was all done and ready to go off on vacation. But there was one detail left. Dirk wanted me to replace the font I was using, Vanilla Helvetica Condensed, with the one that Key uses: T-Star Heavy, so that it could feel more in keeping with the magazine.

john.maeda design process key cover
That meant that I had to rewrite the program I had used to put all of those place names on the cover in the first place. It was a lot of work, but in the end, the cover was delivered on time. Just barely.

One Response to “John Maeda: Key Cover Design Process”

  1. Mrena Says:

    Thanks for writing this.

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