Big Fish, Storytelling & Wendy MacNaughton

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With the theme of Design and Storytelling, we knew that the cover for the October Issue needed to capture the essence of the art of telling stories. Illustrator Wendy MacNaughton created an image of “a guy holding a giant fish” — calling to mind the idea of a fisherman telling a tale about the latest catch — and, with our art director, they saw the opportunity to create a unique cover. To match MacNaughton’s ink and watercolor piece, Shutterstock provided the back image (the tail of the fish), creating a cohesive cover wrap.For an inside look into the process and the distinctive cover, we touched base with McNaughton.


What was your process in developing an idea for the cover?Ronson Slagle, the fabulous Print art director, told me the theme of the issue was storytelling and told me a bit about what was going to be in the issue (like Debbie Millman’s stunning visual poetry). He only asked that it be a cohesive image and not a sequence or series of images. I was free to run from there.

How did you land on this idea?Like with most illustration assignments, I developed a ton of directions (everything from the history of stories to lies we tell over beer at bars) and whittled it down to a handful of more or less solid ones, comped them up on yellow Post-Its and presented them to Ronson.

We narrowed the concepts down to our two favorites: the dogs and the fish tale. The dogs were my by far my first choice, but Ronson thought the fish would be more accessible. He opted to present both, and the fish rose to the surface. The fish was originally meant to take up both the front and the back of the magazine (as you can see in the original sketch) and when we heard that the back was locked up with advertising we discussed ways to get around it, which led to ways of working with the advertiser, Shutterstock, to create a cohesive back and front. They were into it, supplied a fish tail that matched our request and I took it from there.

print mag cover dogs

MacNaughton has used this illustration to create postcards and “a pattern for fabric that will be made into ties for people to wear to conferences,” which will be available soon.

What did you enjoy about creating the cover and the wrap?Doing a cover for Print is a total dream for any illustrator or designer, so it was a huge honor and joy. It was also really great that [. . .] we got an advertisement to directly support editorial artwork. Ronson wanted to make sure it supported the art but didn’t masquerade as it, and I think he did a really great job of that. I’m really happy about the way it worked out. And kudos to ShutterStock for seeing it as an opportunity and playing along.

Draft of "cover fish"

Draft of “cover fish”

Wendy MacNaughton is an illustrator based in San Francisco. Her work appears in places like “The New York Times,” “Wall Street Journal,” NPR and Brain Pickings. She’s published a few books, including “Lost Cat, A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology,” “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming A Wine Expert” (coming out October 15), and the forthcoming collection of her illustrated documentaries titled “Meanwhile in San Francisco, The City in Its Own Words.” MacNaughton is currently working on a book about cooking with the chef Samin Nosrat and in the process is learning to make food using fire. You can follow this and other adventures on the internet at @wendymac.

Be sure to pick up your copy of the October Issue of Print today!