Fortune Magazine has been around for almost 85 years and carved out a decent place for itself in the business publishing world, but I wonder how many people are aware of its graphic heritage. The magazine recently did a redesign injecting graphic energy back into the pages, but to visit the magazine’s first 10-15 years is an incomparable experience.
I became acquainted with Fortune Magazine‘s past soon after moving to Westchester County, NY, in the 1980s. There was an art supply/framing store in Scarsdale that was selling original vintage Fortune Magazine covers suitable for framing in your choice of wood or metal. I’d never seen such a collection of colorful and graphically entertaining images on a magazine cover before. My less graphically sophisticated self was fascinated! This was before I’d been introduced to publications like Gebrauchsgraphik, Print and Advertising Arts Magazine, etc. I was able to get the coverless editions for a song from the owner, but I soon found myself trying to get to the magazines BEFORE he ripped the front off. I finally found another source that would sell me back issues for a decent price and have since amassed a wonderful collection stretching from the beginning in 1929 to the end of WWII, including several leather-bound volumes that the publisher offered originally in the 1930s.
- THE REGIONAL DESIGN ANNUAL IS NOW ACCEPTING ENTRIES. ENTER NOW TO HAVE YOUR WORK SEEN IN PRINT MAGAZINE.
Although it was conceived and prepared while financial times appeared stable, Fortune Magazine was first published soon after the market crash in 1929 by Time Magazine co-founder Henry Luce. Its cover price was set at $1 — the equivalent of more than $15 today. Luce made a conscious effort to make the magazine as majestic and beautiful as he felt possible. Illustrators, designers, and fine artists all contributed to Fortune‘s covers and editorial illustrations, and it also dovetailed the early use of photography — especially color photography. Margaret Bourke-White was an early contributor and Walker Evans was its photo editor from 1945–65. Much of what we take for granted in present day business and corporate news reporting was pioneered in Fortune Magazine. The detailed behind-the-scenes dealings of what went on in the business world were usually not made public up to this point, and although this was clearly a case of preaching to the choir, you’ll be hard pressed to find a periodical of the time that presented the equivalent coverage of corporate goings on.
Everything in the magazine was served to its loyal subscription base (newsstand sales were considered a bonus) like a sumptuous meal. Start with a beautifully designed cover. Add in a short section of classy advertising. Feed on a main course of multiple feature stories (interestingly unrelated to the subject on the cover). Then, finish with another final passage of advertising. This was Fortune Magazine for at least its first 10-15 years.
In 1999, “Fortune: The Art Of Covering Business” was released by Gibbs Publishing. It chronicles the covers of Fortune Magazine from its inception to 1950. It’s a nice addition to any library stocked with titles concerning graphics and publication design, but it lists “Unknown Artist” for several of the covers even though in some cases the artists’ initials are clearly evident on the artwork. With a bit of sleuthing, I was able to discover that the “Unknown Artist” with the “EAW” initials on the lower right of the April and July 1930 covers is Edward A. Wilson. My thanks goes to both Steven Heller and Roger Reed for helping me determine this information. (As of right now, only the March 1930 issue and the color aerial picture of NYC on the July 1939 cover continue remain uncredited with the “Unknown Artist” moniker.) The other important item missing from the Gibbs book is at least a mention of the pre-production prototype issue produced in September 1929 and labeled as Volume 1 Number 0. This dummy issue has rarely been showcased before. Other than my prior inclusion of it as an example of Stark Davis’ work in my feature on “Ravinia Festival Program Covers,” the only other time I’ve seen a mention of the prototype is in 2010 when the University of North Caroline at Chapel Hill announced it had acquired a copy.
It seems apropos that I launch this article with the prototype:
The first stab at what Fortune Magazine should be was in the form of a prototype (above) utilizing the masthead and double-framed composition designed by art director and acclaimed artist T.M. Cleland. The limited edition “dummy” issue’s cover was done by Stark Davis with 63 pages of ad and article examples followed by 97 pages of blank glossy stock. At the end of this article, I’ve included images (except for the blank section at the end of the publication) of the prototype’s contents.
Parker Lloyd-Smith (from Time Magazine‘s business section) was named Fortune‘s managing editor by Henry Luce. Lloyd-Smith in turn named T.M.Cleland as designer. As described in the book Fortune — The Art Of Covering Business, while out for a drink one night with Lloyd-Smith, Cleland did the cover pitch sketch for the first issue above on the tablecloth at Bruno’s, a speakeasy on East 12th Street in New York City. The actual tablecloth remnant is framed and still hanging on the wall in the Time & Life building in Manhattan. The added tidbit to the story is that Cleland did the sketch — remarkably true to the actual first issue cover — upside down so he could present his concept without Lloyd-Smith having to turn it around or rise from his seat to appreciate it.
Note: I’ve chosen to showcase the earliest individual copies of the magazine I have in the studio’s collection.
Three selections from “Letters Like These From Men Like These”. This edition was published to promote the magazine’s status within the corporate community.
As promised, the following images are the complete contents of the Fortune Magazine September 1929 prototype. (An *asterisk has been used in the text to denote material used from the 1999 book, Fortune: The Art Of Covering Business.)
The Regional Design Annual is America’s Most Prestigious Design Competition. Be sure to enter your work to be seen.