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2008 TABPI Design Challenge

Concrete Times sample cover for TABPI Design ChallengeThe Challenge: You work for Concrete Times magazine as the art director. Your April 2008 issue will be your 40th anniversary issue, and the publisher insists that this be the focus of the cover. However, your editor-in-chief wants the theme to reflect their first-ever 100 Top Leaders article, in which the most influential people in the concrete industry are ranked.

They've reached an impasse, and have come to you to see if there's a way to combine both ideas on the cover. You have no photography budget, but you can use some inexpensive stock photos, if you feel they're necessary.

Our panel of design judges consisted of:

Miguel Bravo, Art Director, Gifts & Decorative Accessories and Playthings
Bryan Crowe, Art Director, Cosmetics & Toiletries
Shawn Hoefler, Art Director, HPAC Engineering
Jaun Mims, Art Director, National Real Estate Investor
Roxanne Rash, Art Director, Print Solutions Magazine

We asked all of our judges for both positive feedback and constructive criticism of all the winners, so as to make this a learning experience for everyone. We also welcome your feedback. Did our panel pick the one you liked the best? What would you have done differently? Please comment on our b2b forums, here.

(Click on any of the covers to open a larger version in a new browser window.)


The winning solution

Submitted by MaTT Britcher, Art Director, appliance DESIGN magazine, BNP Media. Britcher will receive U.S. $250 for his winning solution.

I decided to go with the editor, as the Top 100 people in the concrete industry is far more compelling to want to pick up and read then 40 years of print. I know there would be at least 100 people waiting to see themselves on the cover of the 40th anniversary issue of their favorite concrete rag. The background image is none other than the National Concrete Association building being built in 2006. We also chose to have Richard Castello on the cover, you may recognise him from the Top 100 list as he is the #1 concrete engineer as ranked by Concrete Times magazine. As for the publisher, we decided to go with a special section within the magazine to feature our 40 year timeline of Concrete Times. We have also placed a very high contrast silver foil anniversary badge on the cover along with a corner peel. In the business-to-business world, every detail is important as sales MUST continue to grow.

Judges said:

• I like the rounded edges of the cover and flipped corner. The anniversary logo is clean and has perfect placement over the crane. The “TOP 100” is very well done. The stylish cover lines at the top of the book are clean and neat and eye-catching ... as well as the bottom banner with the 10 most common concrete mistakes. The man in the hardhat is a good choice for symbolizing success, happiness and confidence.

• Nice contrast and use of color. The use of the man in the yellow hardhat is nice, and very appropriate to the industry. Having a smiling face on the cover injects the human element to a somewhat cold subject matter (especially when the issue also highlights the top 100 leaders in the industry). I would have liked to have seen a yellow tone used in the “40th” logo, which would have helped it stand out a little more. The corner flip is a little distracting, and not necessary; it could have simply been a corner cut with text, if appropriate. I like the use of text at the header, with the line separations. This is a nice overall layout. The white border around the outside of the cover is fine. I would have requested to see it with a full bleed as well, to compare the two.

• I admire the research that went into this project. It really comes across in the overall design. I love the color palette. I feel that the design as a whole is a bit busy. Of course the focal point is “Top 100”, however, the other art elements clutter the design (construction site in the back, man in the front, peel tab at the bottom). It causes the eye to jump across the page and not rest on one idea. When creating a cover, I feel that the designer should focus on the “main idea” and convey it well. The extra elements take away from it. My suggestion would have been to choose between the construction site and the man in the foreground, and then design around that. As is, the type, anniversary logo, two images, and the peel at the bottom all fight for attention. I feel the problem was solved in this layout. Both elements are prominent on the page and draws attention. However, I do feel they both fight for the lead. Overall, good job.

• This layout is well-executed and conceptually strong. My only concern is that it’s approaching the “too busy” point with the top “features”, foreground and background photos, headline copy, bottom copy bar, corner peel, and the foil badge. It’s obvious the designer has a good grasp on composition and balance — particularly the proportions of the different elements. However, I’d recommend revisiting the layout to see what, if anything could be eliminated.

• Great design and concept that solved the problem. I like that you used a location that people in the industry can relate to. Good 40th logo design, which can be used for upcoming issues. Colorful cover. Good use of fonts and sizing. An industry personality on the cover works. Also liked that you managed to include 3 other features in that top area to draw the reader into the issue. Just lose that dated turned page element on the lower right corner, and you’re golden. Great job.



Honorable Mentions

Submitted by Addie Janhevich, Senior Art Director, Ward’s AutoWorld and Ward’s Dealer Business magazines, Penton Media, Inc.

My design solution for Concrete Times grew from the idea of the 4 elements that make up concrete: sand, stone, water and cement. I divided the four elements into an “X” formation on the cover with bars on the top and bottom to echo the Roman numeral for 10. Tied together through design, the four elements and the X represent the 40th anniversary of the magazine. The headline ties in the ranking article by comparing concrete building blocks to the leaders being building blocks of the industry.

Judges said:

• I like the idea of using the four elements that make up concrete. Good use of your fonts and type treatment. I just think the “X” representing the 40th anniversary gets lost, and most people won’t even get it. I probably would’ve tried to blend one photo with the next and not have the black rule, which fights the cover lines. Lose the “on page 28”... that’s what your contents page is for. Otherwise, a nice colorful cover and concept.

• The solution was innovative, while appropriate ... and the concept was well-executed. I would have taken the “X” a step further (i.e. a super-sized letter “X” rather than rendered with lines) to provide a little more delineation between the elements of concrete. Good choices with fonts/sizes, as there’s a clear hierarchy given to the reader. Overall, job well done.

• This cover has a nice feel to it, and the headline “Building Blocks of the Industry” really works well with the use of the four elements, tying them all together. Good choice for font … bold, thick, and solid looking. It verges on being a little busy, but I think you stayed just this side of being too much. I would have liked to have seen a better treatment of the “40th Anniversary Issue”. It is sort of hidden, and should be more prominent. The four elements, with the “X” is stretching it a bit, thinking people would get forty from those images. Overall, the design is good. I would request another look at the 40th Anniversary treatment.

• The overall layout of this design looks great. I do applaud the conceptual thinking of the “X” and four elements combined to represent the 40th Anniversary; however, I don’t think the reader will pick up on that right away, or at all, for that matter. In my opinion, when designing a cover, the reader should get “the main idea” right away. This execution is not obvious to the reader. Again, the overall design, use of typography and color works well. The designer does solve the problem of prominently displaying both ideas on the cover through typography. However, the photography only speaks to the 40th Anniversary and not the Top 100 Leaders. I would like to have seen a better blend of the two. Considering there was no art budget, this cover was executed thoughtfully.

• The colors are very sophisticated and clearly support the base ingredients of concrete manufacturing. Using the sand, water, rocks and cement as four seasons or four decades also underscores the 40th anniversary, mentioned twice. I think it's artistic and solves the two focal point problem creatively. It's attractive, clean and works with the masthead well.



Submitted by Alain Loretz, Creative Director, Technews (various technology magazines), South Africa.

The reason for the 100 portion of the cover being the focal point is that 100 is a very important figure in any term and I thought this should take the leading role, not to be outdone is the fact that the magazine has been running 40 years, which I am sure many a valued client is totally aware of. I therefore found the integration of the two figures to be a nice marriage of the elements with the 100 taking a slightly more prominent role without taking anything away from the important anniversary. There needs to be one or the other with a more focal role, had they both been of similar size then there would most definitely been a fight between the two making the cover less pleasing ... as it stands, it is creative but clean!

Judges said:

• I like the graphic…but I would have made it larger, so it takes up more of the sky — overpowers it — not the other way around. I also like the postal stamped-style 40th logo, which can be used for upcoming issues celebrating the anniversary. I would K/O the issue date out of the background. Right now that red bar draws too much attention to it. I would also K/O the deck “The Top 100 achievers…” into the black area of the skyline in white. No need to have that second cover line of “We Celebrate 40 Years…” — the 40th logo says it all. Nice cover.

• This cover is on its way to being very creative. It needs a finer touch in executing the concept with photo manipulation. The 40th Anniversary stamp is a great design, clean and goes very well with the background. I like the issue date as a tab from the left.

• Nice treatment and use of color. I love the contrast, and the use of the “100” as sort of a building structure, is clever. I would only query, “Top 100” what? I would question the red bar from the spine, and the white “April 2008” as being a good choice. It stands out a lot, and the issue and date probably are not the most important thing on the cover. I like the “stamped” feeling of the “40th” logo. Nice and clean.

• The silhouette at the bottom of the page provides a nice “ground” for the layout. The only areas I would question are the space between “100” and the masthead — I'm supportive of effective negative space but it seems like there’s maybe too much in this case. Regardless, the end product looks refined and certainly solves the design challenge.

• Great design. I think the concept works well. The typography could stand to be punched up a little. The 3D effect on “Top” seems to be a little dated. In my opinion, the “less is more” theory would have worked better. If you already have great art, sometimes there’s no need to clutter it with more effects. For no art budget, very creative. At first glance, the first thing noticed is “Top 100”. The Anniversary stamp falls second and could have been played up a bit more through better usage of color. I do agree however, that one does have to take a prominent role to avoid a fight between the two ideas. As a whole, I do think the problem was solved. Overall, great job.



Submitted by Wendy Del Campo, Senior Art Director, Creative Services Department, Reed Business Information.

I’ve worked as an art director for nearly 20 years in the b2b industry. Publishers and editors-in-chief often have different ideas for the cover focus. This design challenge certainly could happen in the real world. My solution was to keep the anniversary announcement as a tag line with the Concrete Times logo. I chose a red ribbon to grab the reader’s attention. The art I created for the Top 100 Industry Leaders is simple; not to compete with the top image, yet it shows some action with the concrete being lowered. I chose a simple silhouette for the man, keeping his identity obscure to lure the reader’s attention and entice them to read the story to find out more. I made the text ‘Top 100 Leaders’ gold to emphasize their stature.

Judges said:

• I like the way you presented the concrete slab, and the crane hook effect. The red ribbon I would suggest may be obscuring the logo just a bit too much and would like to see it lowered a bit? The silhouette of the man doesn’t do anything to help, other than the stark black draws the eye to it more than the headline “Top 100 Leaders”. Perhaps a bolder font used would have made a difference, to call more attention to the headline, and less on the silhouette. I like the use of  “1968-2008” under “Times”.

• I like the 40th red ribbon weaving through the logo. Great idea. The graphic of the crane and concrete slab are good graphic elements. And the silhouette of the guy works here. Clean use of fonts and placement. I would suggest bumping up the size and weight of the “Top 100 Leaders” type slightly. Good execution overall.

• Red sash across masthead is eye-catching. I like the idea of the pulley putting the headline in place.
The silhouette is not necessary and almost distracting. A real man with a hard hat, arms crossed, standing confidently might have worked if such an image can be found royalty free.

• This layout has a good balance of attention-grabbing type treatments and visual elements. The red “ribbon” incorporated into the masthead is a very nice touch. The illustration is very successful, providing a relevant image along with an ideal spot for type placement. My only criticism is the “silhouette” figure — while I understand the rationale behind it, it’s too reminiscent of the now-overdone iPod campaigns. I’m not sure what might work better in place of the silhouette but resolving that would make this my favorite entry.

• Nice, clean cover! The layout and overall design works great. The color palette is good. The imagery has a great main focal point for the reader. The type of “Top 100 Lenders” could stand to be punched up a little more maybe the use of a brighter gold and/or the use of the a heavier font. I love the ribbon! Excellent job. I feel the problem was solved in this layout. Both elements are prominent on the page and draws attention. The ribbon idea was a nice taste and was executed well as well. Great work with no art budget. Nicely done.



Submitted by Denise Faddis, Art Director, Injection Molding Magazine and Modern Plastics Worldwide, Canon Communications, LLC.

You will find not one but two images of the same cover. As I thought about the challenge I realized just how important and valid both cover ideas are. Each concept deserved its own space and a sharp, eye-catching cleanness to the design. Forcing them on one cover felt a bit claustrophobic and in my eyes diminished the importance of both. I combined them in one cover by coming up with the idea of a half cover flap that would give each idea its own showcase and combine the concepts rather than having them compete. After all, 4o years in the business and a special feature on the top 100 leaders in the industry really do go hand-in-hand. This solution will catch the reader’s eye and interest with its clean, colorful look and large text. The inside of the flap could be sold to an advertiser or could feature the images of the top 100 leaders with text leading readers to the article and page number.

Judges said:

• I love the overall concept. Clearly, there was thought put into it. However, whenever doing such a unique design (such as extra flap), budget should be taken into consideration. If there is no art budget, usually there is no budget to do any unique printing requests. But if there was a budget for such a thing, this concept really nails it. In my opinion, the font used for “40” and “100” could have been a little more interesting considering they are the focal points of the cover. I think the problem was solved with great creativity. Creating an extra flap gives the cover a distinction from the rest of the month’s covers, informing the reader that this is a special issue. Well done.

• I love the concept and graphics. Good use of type, color and thinking out of the box. Now to the reality. To get an advertiser to sponsor a “French door” cover is setting up a big task for your sales staff (done that, been there). The cost for doing one is a lot more than a regular cover (about $2,000 more for a print run of 20,000… and more time in the production cycle). And some advertisers don’t “get” alternative covers like these, and don’t want to gamble with their ad dollars in this economy. And remember … if your publisher doesn’t have money to shoot their 40th Anniversary cover…chances are they won’t spring for the French door on their own. Though with this concept — they should. Good job overall.

• The French door cover is a nice idea. An “unusual” way to bring in the two elements (40th year, 100 leaders). The background doesn’t express much about the industry. The geometric shapes might work better with a magazine about the print industry. Not sure it says, “Concrete” here. As in the logo of the magazine, perhaps a stronger font would have been better for the “40-100”.

• I love this solution, clever and inviting. This entry solved the problem in the most clever way, assuming the publisher is willing to spend the printing dollars on the gate. The banner at the top is a nice way of reminding the reader of the history. I like the placement and ‘twist’, very clever.

• I admire the “thinking outside of the box” approach with this concept, and I think with a few adjustments it could be very successful. The dual/split cover concept is innovative and as suggested by the designer — opens an opportunity for additional revenue (the only design to do so in this competition). The matching of the topcolor bar of burnt umber with the background is a nice detail. I feel the concept needs a little more relevance to the industry. The “halftone” dots are attention-getting but they fail to relate to “concrete”. If the “dots” were somehow worked in with an image relevant to the industry, that would result in a much more effective layout. I also have concerns about the type treatment — drop shadows plus embossing plus inner shadows plus red overlays — it becomes a bit of overkill. As the halftone dots feel “modern” the type doesn’t match up. I might suggest a bold type from the Helvetica, Futura or Universe family.



Submitted by Bobbi Burow, Art Director, Cygnus Law Enforcement Group, Law Enforcement Technology, Law Enforcement Product News,, Enforcement Expo.

As you will see, my cover celebrates the 40th anniversary issue with a chrome award feel in the background while still focusing on the main article for the issue, which is the top leaders. I used an illustration to represent the influential people in the concrete industry. Since the article is a ranking I felt it was not necessary to see their faces. I limited the use of color to keep the design from looking too busy.

Judges said:

• This was a creative solution with an interesting approach. The type treatment for the “40th” is well-rendered and a nice touch. I question why it’s faded into the background. This is a colorful layout that could withstand the “40th” at 100% opacity. However, I think the illustrated silhouettes are a bit too reminiscent of the ad campaign for the iPod. The layout needs more focus on one of the main elements. The masthead, “40th”, and the illustrated silhouettes have relatively the same visual impact; this cover would be more successful if there was a clearer hierarchy.

• I like this cover overall, but think using the traditional gold is symbolic of a 50th anniversary, was not the best choice. I like the strong silhouette of men in suits, but it rings of a little too much “Reservoir Dogs” or “Blues Brothers”. Although not commonly known, maybe particularly by the male demographic, but 40th is Ruby, which could have been a subtler choice, still with the desired symbolism.

• I love the overall concept. It works in many ways. The typography and design moves your eye smoothly around the layout. My only hang-ups about the design are the chrome effect and the colors. The chrome effect is a really dated design element and should only be used in specify scenarios. Also, if it’s going to be used, it has to be done flawlessly. The colors of the overall layout are a little muddy, in my opinion. Brighter, livelier colors would have worked better for this layout. I feel the problem was solved in this layout. Allowing one element to play the background and the other in the forefront works really well. This way, both elements play dominate roles without fighting for attention. Great cover.

• I like the treatment of the 40th logo. I just don’t know what the cast of “Reservoir Dogs” is doing here. But seriously, there must be women in that top 100 listing (there are women in that industry). Why only guys on the cover? Maybe you can add a female silhouette in PhotoShop or Illustrator. Change a tie on one guy to a bow tie…or loose it all together. I would also outline “Top 100” so it pops like “2008” and “Leaders”. But a good job tackling the problem. Both editor and publisher should be happy.

• Too many silhouettes. Though the industry may be male dominant, I would question, are there any women whom are part of that list? Perhaps? Perhaps, not? I would take out at least one silhouette (maybe even bleed one off the page a little?), and play up “2008 Top 100 Leaders” a little more. The chrome effect in the “40” is nice, but my eye keeps wanting to be drawn to the highlight. It probably could be toned down a bit, and the banner with the type “Anniversary Issue” could have been white or lighter, to stand out a little more. I do like the use of the gradient, and the text in the background, though repeating “Top 100 Leaders” over and over wouldn’t have been the first choice. Perhaps the list of the people’s names would have worked well.



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