Joe Heroun, art director for The New Republic, has provided observations on some of the magazine's '08 campaign covers:

Issued dated Nov. 5, 2008 - Obama and TNR logos
We've done so many Obama cover portraits, we needed something different.  Illustration wouldn't seem important enough and a photo would be too strident and fawning.

The blue O has become a powerful graphic symbol possessing the clarity and economy of Milton Glaser's heart of the I Love New York logo.  That new icon merging with the old TNR symbol conveyed the right message, like a mind-meld.
10/20/2008 e-mail

Issue dated April 9, 2008 - Merges Clinton and Obama

Regarding the cover, the discussion started with the idea that Democrats seem to want it both ways.  Hence the idea of morphing the two.

I immediately went to artist Nancy Burson, whom I knew from the 1980s as someone who pioneered software specially for that purpose.  She had created works that morphed world leaders Reagan, Brezhnev, and Thatcher in a piece called Warheads, and one which combined the seven most beautiful women in the world, among others.

She sold the software to the FBI and has used it for police departments across the country to help locate missing persons by determining how they've aged.  And for me she recently created a depiction of what Brad and Angelina's daughter would look like as an adolescent (don't ask).

The TNR cover was a mix of 50 percent of both people.  We decided upfront that Hillary's hair would have to dominate, but other than that the face is strictly a combination of the two.  It's not as if we took parts from one and the other like Mr. Potatohead.  The software makes the calculations, much like two parents' DNA. It was a very straightforward process.

We've had more media attention from this cover than any we've ever done.  All the blogs were on fire., Huff Post, Wonkette, and others had it on their homepage and even CNN's Campbell Brown featured it on her show.

>Follow up question: Why Hillary's hair?  Answer: "Because that would appear more ambiguous than his hair, which would have entirely read male.")
3/27/2008 e-mail

Issue dated July 23, 2007 Fred Thompson
We used the Law & Order imagery inside, but in both cases the intention was to convey the uber-manliness impression he makes with everyone. The good ole boy thing brings that down to street-level.  The author, Michelle Cottle, has witnessed him engaging in that schtick. In one instance, she reports, he left an appearance by driving away in a pickup, only to transfer to a waiting Lexus a few blocks away.  So the subtext of the cover was that he cultivates a false image of being an average guy, just like Reagan's cowboy posing.

The picture was not created from photo reference.
7/16/07 e-mail

Issue dated March 19, 2007 Barack Obama - "The Agitator"
note this issue marked a new format for TNR's and a move from a weekly to a bi-weekly

For the cover art, we had commissioned three artists to do portraits of Obama.  We have more pieces about him upcoming and decided on the one that best fit the current profile.  In all three cases we were interested in less conventional artists and ones who either straddled the line between the so-called 'fine art' world and commercial illustration or were fully outside the commercial realm.  We felt that that would indicate a more decisive break with the past.

The artist we went with, Dana Schutz, is a rising star in the gallery scene and whose works are commanding six-figure sums.  We had arranged for her to be present during the final interview with Obama at his office in the Senate.  The idea was that, rather than simply work from photographic reference, we wanted to expose her to the actual person to get a personal, innate sense of who he is.  She sketched on site and the cover is a result of that personal interaction.

We did not direct or load her up with imperatives.  The resulting portrait, for better or worse, is devoid of an editorial point of view, which is quite unusual for TNR or its ilk.  It is simply one artist's personal expression of the subject, influenced by a brief interaction with him.
3/13/07 e-mail

Issue dated Jan. 22, 2007 John Edwards - "The Accidental Populist"

The cover story is about how Edwards has staked out a tougher, pro-union, populist stance and so our initial inspiration was to characterize him in a heroic Socialist Realist style.  It wasn't the New Orleans trip per se, but the sum of several such appearances.  Artist David Brinley came to mind because of his brilliantly wry execution of Kim Jong-Il for the cover of The Times Magazine.  We didn't quite achieve that level, but it has the right spirit.
1/13/07 e-mail

Issue dated Dec. 16, 2006 Sam Brownback - "The Apostle"

As for the Brownback cover, I chose Marc Burckhardt for his early 20th century American folk art style. It has empathy and warmth, like that of artist Grant Wood, an American artist from the Twenties and Thirties.  Marc's directives were to portray Brownback as the embodiment of wholesome Midwestern values and to reflect the importance of spirituality in his life as he positions himself for the GOP presidential nomination. Surprisingly non-acerbic for us, right?

Marc works in acrylic on wood and uses varnishes for an aged effect.  His first sketch nailed it and went to final without any changes.  You can see more of Marc's work at
12/12/06 e-mail

Copyright © 2008  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action