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American Institute of Graphic Arts Recognizes Harvard Review for Cover Design

Harvard Review 28  Harvard Review 29
Harvard Review 28 & 29

June 25, 2007 – The covers of Harvard Review in recent years have been abstract and eye-catching, relying primarily on letterform. Four of the most recent—issues 28 through 31—have also been recognized for superior design by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and included in this year’s Best of New England (BoNE) Show. Designed by Alex Camlin, Art Director for Da Capo Books, and overseen by Harvard Review Editor Christina Thompson, the covers will be on display at the BoNE Show at Massachusetts College of Art's Bakalar Gallery through August 2007.

Designing each new cover for the literary journal, issued twice annually, is a collaborative process for Thompson and Camlin. Several issues ago—issue 28, in fact—they changed the layout, opting to use the names of current contributors as the design elements in order to prevent Camlin, who has designed all but one issue since Thompson became editor in 2001, from being tied to a particular image.  

"Sometimes we talk about colors, sometimes about styles or moods," says Thompson of the early design process. "We are both interested in a style you might call mid-century Modern. Alex has a fantastic color sense and a really wide ranging sensibility. He is also very interested in type and extremely knowledgeable about it, which I like."

Thompson claims two strong preferences when it comes to cover design. For one, she prefers the artwork be abstract and/or decorative instead of representational.

Harvard Review 30 Harvard Review 31
Harvard Review 30 & 31

"This is because I think representational art ‘says’ too much about what is inside," she explains. "There is no one thing inside Harvard Review. We do not do themed issues, and to emphasize one element—a cluster of nature poems or a set of  essays on war—over all the others is to misrepresent the magazine."

"The second thing that interests me is the use of letterform as a decorative element," continues Thompson. "The journal is about words and words are made of letters, and this is an idea I have played around with for a number of years."

After discussion with Thompson, Camlin usually develops three or four treatments, sometimes variations on one or two themes. Thompson runs these ideas by an artist, who fortunately happens to be her mother, and then she and Camlin choose. "Sometimes we have to tweak something, color or some element of the design—if, for example, something is too hard to read," says Thompson. "But my experience is that designers, like architects, work much better if you don't mess with them."

More information about the issues recognized by AIGA is available on the Harvard Review website on the Past Issues page.