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2009 TABPI Design Challenge

Sample Concrete Times cover for TABPI Design ChallengeThe Challenge: You work for Concrete Times magazine as the art director. Your May 2009 issue will cover the annual “World Concrete Convention” in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, your editor-in-chief has refused to consider a photo of the city, convention center, or the show floor for the cover, because “that’s what we always do.” Still, she wants the cover to focus on the fact that this will be the big show issue. She’s asked you to come up with a very different concept for the upcoming staff brainstorming session.

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
MaTT Britcher, Art Director, Appliance DESIGN (last year's Design Challenge winner)

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?

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


The winning solution

Submitted by Ana Paula Rodrigues, Art Director, Convenience Store News magazine, Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Rodrigues will receive U.S. $250 for her winning solution.

Since the cover is representing a show issue, it needs to grab attention, but must also reflect both the industry and the venue. With Las Vegas as the location, gambling is natural fit, and I chose the playing cards because the colors in a card deck are black, white and red, offering a striking palette that creates a background to catch the eye. Without even reading the copy, it becomes obvious the show is in Las Vegas, and the money chip ties in the location, while reinforcing the show concept with the copy reading “show issue.” To display the important text “2009 World Concrete Conference, Las Vegas,” I chose to enlarge a playing card to tie in with the theme, and showcase the event. It has an invitation feel to it, inviting readers to open the issue and discover the event coverage. I also made the large card look like a piece of cement, and used the hand holding the tool to reinforce the subject matter being covered.

Judges said:

• This entry demonstrates a good grasp of how to work with type as well as giving a cover “dimension”. The layers of cards create a good background that helps focus the viewers attention on the ace card. The restrained “concrete” treatment works well without being too overt, and the added touch of the trowel finishes the layout nicely.

• Good eye-catching design, I like the “poker” theme. It seems this would truly be a departure from the normal issue cover. Colorful and it brings attention to the fact it is a show issue.

• Very striking cover. I love the graphic elements, the usage of type in the design, and using of a “real” person’s hand. It all conveys Vegas and concrete in a strong visual. I could see this as a useable cover for the assignment. Great job!

• This cover calls quick attention to the Conference. It is clear and directs the eye to the key element. The cards do say “Vegas” and the chip with “Show Issue” is a nice touch. If I were to be critical of anything, it would be that the Ace was supposed to be concrete… yes, but it is not as strong as it could have been. It might have been nice if the trowel was cutting a groove in the surface as it was being moved across the top, smoothing out the concrete.


Honorable Mentions

Submitted by Lisa Caputo, Art Director, Aviation Week & Space Tecnology and Defense Technology International magazines, McGraw-Hill.

When I think of Las Vegas, I think of the the casinos, and what’s a better symbol for that than dice. The dice were a great shape to chisel out of concrete and to have them being thrown gives our cover dimension movement and drama. When I thought of all the design possibilities for concrete, I had to add a few secondary items above the logo. Finally, since this is a big show issue, I ran a red band across the corner that says, “Special issue,” and adds a nice shot of red.

Judges said:

• The dice clearly says “Vegas.” Making them concrete (nice job) on the green felt (for color punch) is a really nice effect. It almost appears as though the dice will jump off the page and into your lap. The gold-yellow use on the main tag is really a nice choice. It stands out and there is nothing vague about it. The eyebrow should have been a solid color (red) versus a gradient, since there is enough gradient tone going on in the main background of the image. Overall, a very nice job of communicating to the reader.

• Although it’s hard to find new and interesting ways to utilize the “icons” of Las Vegas, I think this was a terrific approach. In addition to the “concrete” treatment of the dice, the added motion effect makes for a much more dynamic cover. The added touches (red band at the top) and simple type treatment work well together.

• Great-looking cover. I like the use of the concrete dice. Color overall is eye-catching. Use of additional secondary article heads and images make for more points-of-entry into the magazine for readers. The only thing I would’ve liked to see is a deck to the main headline, playing off the visual of the dice and the Vegas show.

• Nice use of concrete and gaming. Colors are bright and special attention to is paid to the issue.



Submitted by Matt Cole, Art Director, School Planning & Management and College Planning & Management magazines, The Peter Li Education Group.

The Art Director, in conjunction with the editorial staff of Concrete Times, chose to run this dramatic image of the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay in Redding, California. The Sundial Bridge's unveiling is the centerpiece of the 2009 World Concrete Convention, showcasing the future of what’s possible in concrete building techniques. The image depicts the swooping lines of the sleek bridge help and capture the mood and excitement of the year's biggest expo showcasing what’s to come in the world of concrete. If you couldn't make it to this year's expo, getting your hands on this issue of Concrete Times is the next best thing.

Judges said:

• Striking cover. Very well done. The only thing I would’ve liked to see was using some landmark from Las Vegas in the same manner, instead of some bridge in California. It would have connected the reader to the conference location more.

• This is a great example of how a simple but strong photo is all that’s needed to get readers attention. The designer made a great choice of photo, along with cropping and positioning the modern type appropriately.

• I like the simple contrast imagery. Clean and straight to the point. I would like to have seen some Vegas tie-in, though. Also, where is the show issue emphasis?

• The photo used is a nice graphic element and swooping design for visual effect. Misses the boat on delivery of the message. Wasn’t the idea of a show issue important?



Submitted by Rita Tabar, Graphic Designer, Builders Exchange Magazine, The Builders Exchange, Inc.

The cover plays off the idea that everyone loves to leave behind some personal memento in fresh poured concrete. This cover combines the inviting tactility of concrete before it sets with the permanence of its cured form. It works to entice readers, to the convention, by promising them a venue in which to learn, leaving their imprint of the industry for the future. Stressing green ... green is the NOW and it is the future, so everyone will feel the need to attend this convention so their company can “pave” the way for growth and advancement.

Judges said:

• I like the creativity of the footprint in the concrete, making your mark. Nice contrast between concrete and going “green.” I do not like the fact that more empansis was put on the “make your mark” rather than the convention, after all it is the show issue.

• Should have played up the globe more, instead of the foot print. It misses the mark (pun intended).

• This holds some merit. I think the words “World Concrete Convention” written in the concrete would have been more effective. The footprint is a little more of something a little closely related to a travel publication, the “footprint in the sand” sort of thing. Less associated to concrete, or what you might see in concrete.



Submitted by Tim Bryant, Better Roads, Randall-Reilly Publications.

Instead of going with a bland cover that could have included such items as a piece of equipment and/or the application of concrete, I felt it best to go a bit outside the box with a concept cover that addresses the main functions of the ‘World Concrete Convention’ -- networking and sales. Utilizing pictures (an open briefcase and an image of a globe -- both attained through the photographic supplier) and incorporating via the Photoshop program, I layered and edited the separate images to give the impression of a concrete planet placed inside a briefcase which also holds a cellphone/PDA, important papers, pens, etc. Then by using the similar fonts used in the banner, while at the same time complimenting the surrounding colors, I stacked the required text on the left top side - leaving the rest of the ‘real estate’ for other tags and an inkjet box for mailing.

Judges said:

• This cover is very business-like for something like CFO magazine, etc. The world is not readily recognizable as concrete and the continents being blue seems odd. A travel bag or suitcase might have been a little more appropriate… even a laptop. Briefcases are sort of suit-and-tie, versus the blue-collar industry of concrete.

• Looks very stock art, therefore I feel it might not be that much of an out of the box concept. Headline does not pop.

• I think the suitcase and globe overpower the cover lines. Cover could have also used secondary cover lines to make it more interesting. I wish the globe looked a little more like concrete or stone.



Submitted by Ian Denby-Jones, Art Director, Roof Cladding & Insulation magazine, Unity Media plc.

Working to the brief, I decided to use an eye-catching neon Vegas style graphic to advertise the ‘Big Show Issue’ placed in the primary cover position. From this, an arrow points to the venue’s location on a concrete globe, highlighting the fact that this is the World Concrete Show. I wished to give the cover some colour and also inject a human element into it so I decided to add a blue aura around the globe to represent the Earth’s atmosphere and include statues of a man and woman in hard hats contemplating the forthcoming event. Overall, the image has a Sci-Fi feel to it and the simple use of primary colours set against a monochromatic background make it punchy and interesting. All of this culminates in an uncluttered yet informative cover, which clearly tells the reader all they need to know.

Judges said:

• Unfortunately, the statues don’t help to put a human element into the image. I think the cover would have been better served if the statues were left out, and more emphasis played on the globe and the “Big Show Issue” sign. “World Concrete Convention” would be better served and communicated if it had been centered and made as wide as the cover.

• Too busy. Too many elements making it look more like it’s for a Sci-Fi convention instead.

• Covers all the needs of the editor and departs from a plug-n-play style. "Big Show," and "World Concrete Convention" both stand out well. Very different, space-like approach.


Submitted by Todd J. Gast, Art Director, JCK, JCK Luxury and JCKstyle magazines, Reed Business Information.

The concept began with the 'YOU ARE HERE' red dot idea...using the cylindrical cement mixer as the red dot with 'YOU WERE HERE' headline and concrete texture as a background. I found this had a lot of competition and moved on. I played the 'YOU WERE HERE' idea forward dropping the cement mixer and concrete textured background...I felt it needed to be cleaner. Replaced the cement mixer with the very graphic North and South American continents but in concrete. I then revised the typography for the 'World Concrete Convention'...the bright red push-pin with the word 'VEGAS' pushed into the concrete makes the concept stronger. The final concept goes further in simplifying and designing the cover to be stronger with less. I replaced the continents with a concrete sphere representing 'world' and dropped the 'YOU WERE HERE' as the push-pin says that without words.

Judges said:

• Love the clean, simple look. Nice color and art choices. Maybe just needs a bit more to shout “special issue” ... other than that, great job.

• I like the use of type and white space. But the graphic isn’t as strong as it could’ve been. Maybe if the push pin were made of concrete, going into a regular green/blue globe – without cracking it – to add more color in that spot to the cover and made it more of the focal point?

• It’s a clean design – I’ll give it that! I like the simplistic cover. The font “World Concrete Convention” stands out. Not sure I would use orange and red. The image idea has potential, but is weak in execution. I think exploring alternate "pins in the wall" sort of concepts would have been advantageous to this design. It doesn’t look like a world.



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