Signature readers have explored the Internet of Things, private online communities, mobile apps and more with fellow Association Media & Publishing members this past year, but with one tick of a clock on December 31st, we take what we learned in 2016 and welcome the trends that wait in 2017.

This post will uncover how our team brought the Signature December/January 2017 issue’s cover story to life through design.

This is post #17 in a series of blog posts on magazine cover design strategy. Follow the link to visit the rest of our posts in the series.

Visit Blog Series

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, association professionals certainly have their plates full. In this issue’s cover story, Signature interviews dozens of association publishing professionals and explores where their publishing and communications teams are focusing funds in 2017. Is it on marketing? Perhaps digital publications? Or is it podcasts, video, magazine redesigns, social media, or websites? No matter how the budget is divvied, the end goal is always the same for an association — to effectively connect with and serve its audience.

The designers at Bates Creative delivered three concepts to the editorial team at Signature, but which one whet their appetite for more?

Concept 1: Where’s Your Focus?

The designer behind this concept had a very specific and quite literal vision for this cover design: a collage of googly eyes. This creepy-meets-creative concept represents the different perspectives of association publishers and where their focus will be as they move forward into 2017. While this concept scored 20/20 with the Signature team, they were concerned that back-to-back, black-and-white cover designs (see the October/November 2016 “Back to Basics” issue) wouldn’t pop for readers.

Concept 2: Go with the Watercolor Flow

Instead of thinking big picture for this issue’s cover story, the designer decided to hone in on one of the driving trends highlighted within the article. The design would display a custom watercolor type treatment that demonstrates the flow of information that is expanding the association industry’s focus. Even though this concept had the refreshing vibrancy the Signature team was searching for, they were in agreement that the design should summarize the contents of the cover

Concept 3: What’s On Your Plate?

This concept digested the compilation of interviews, word clouds, and opinion pieces overflowing the prolific plate of 2017 planning with a sweet approach. The Bates Creative design team pitched the concept of a layered cake as a creative way to communicate the stacks of opportunities publishers are choosing to focus on in the upcoming year. Now, you can have your cake and read it, too.

“When I reviewed the design team’s initial concepts, I was pulled between at least two dynamic ideas that I thought would make a great cover,” says Carla Kalogeridis, publisher and editorial director of Association Media & Publishing’s Signature magazine. “But hands down, the one that made the most sense for the cover story’s content was the plate concept.”

“I loved the addition of the multi-layer cake to the concept,” Kalogeridis says.

“It clearly communicates the idea of many different initiatives piling up on publishers’ plates in 2017, as well as the idea that everyone is going to slice it up differently.”

Kalogeridis went on to say, “It plays well for the celebratory season and welcoming in the New Year, too, without being too contrived.”

For this issue, the design team traded in their fondness for gold foil and neon in exchange for frosting. Yes, all the intricate details on the cake were hand piped and frosted before being photographed in the studio.

“This cover proves that there’s always a fresh and interesting way to approach and execute a relatively straightforward idea — if you’re willing to take the time to challenge yourself and not take the easy way out,” Kalogeridis says.

Here’s a toast to 2017, a sweet year of opportunities for association professionals.

Was this winning cover concept your first choice, too? Tweet your feedback to @BATESCREATES and @ASSNMEDIAPUB.