About the Cover: The Blue Issue

Our current summer print magazine is the Blue issue. With any theme that has so many literal and immediate visual references, I try to dig a little bit deeper for inspiration to do justice to the complicated content. We've done color-themed issues before and we sometimes stick close to the color visually on our covers (like we did with our green or pink issues). Sometimes, though, we get a bit more conceptual with the theme and push against expectations (like we did with our Gray issue cover).

For the Blue issue, I started exploring ideas with cyanotypes. Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. Engineers used this process well into the 20th century as a simple and low-cost way to produce copies of drawings, which are referred to as blueprints. However, Anna Atkins brought this process to photography by printing translucent seaweed impressions on coated paper (you can read more about Atkins in the feature “Here's Looking at Blue,” highlighting some of our feminist favorites inspired by the color). Photographic cyanotype images can be created by this same chemical process in various colors, by toning or intensifying/reducing the blue. 

A cyanotype of algae Anna Atkins made in 1843.

While I was very into doing these experiments, artists who work primarily in these mediums really specialize in this and I would not have been able to print the cover as a cyanotype. So, I decided to get excited about the medium we work in and celebrate that on our cover. By breaking down a photograph into the different inks we use in printing—cyan, magenta, yellow, and black—I was able to start thinking about the way colors layer and build the full-color world we see. Inspired again by cyanotypes which are easily done in the sun and often of plants, I looked to nature for our image. I wanted to use a picture of something that was familiar to us, so that when we pulled it apart, we would still recognize it.

While I loved the idea of working with a still image like a plant or flower, layering a few different photos in motion showed off the individual colors better than a static one. A single, small bird in flight seemed sad and beautiful. Caught in suspended motion for a split second, this hummingbird seems small but powerful with all this color. I think on first look you see everything BUT the blue in the image, until you start reading the issue and realize the main body of the bird is the spot color throughout. Without that deep blue that you see in the body, making up the texture of the feathers and the eye, it would just be a bright blur, without definition.

Our fantastic design intern Katja Gantz helped me design the final cover. The photo is a composite from several different Creative Commons photos.

In the end, I'm happy that this image doesn't need all that explanation. It's candy. I love that you can “read” the image small or explore the detail up-close.

By opening up our thinking and allowing our ideas to wander, we ended up here.As I started writing up this post, I looked over my notes on color theory for blue. This one stood out: “When used together with warm, bright colors, blue can create high-impact, vibrant designs; for example, blue-yellow-red is a perfect color scheme for a superhero.” I like to think that this little bird, and the issue, is mighty.

Kristin Rogers Brown is Bitch Media's art director. When not designing for Bitch, you can find her learning how to silkscreen and photographing her dog.

Want more about design? Read Kristin's about the cover post from our colorful Gray issue and listen to her talk about process (and when good ideas go wrong) in our (Re)Vision episode of Popaganda. To get your own copy of the Blue issue, subscribe to Bitch.

by Kristin Rogers Brown
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Kristin Rogers Brown is a creative director, designer, and problem-solver. She was Bitch Media’s Art Director (2010-2018). When not designing, you can find her teaching illustration and design at PNCA or hoping to pet your dog. Follow her on twitter or instagram.

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