The May issue celebrates 15 years of helping readers to live their best lives. The special keepsake edition features 15 chapters devoted to the most memorable things that Oprah and the magazine’s editors “know for sure.” Design Director Jill Armus shares more about the issue and celebrating the magazine’s crystal anniversary.
How did you decide that the 15th anniversary cover would be in black & white, a first for the magazine?
Jill Armus: When we first started thinking about the anniversary issue, we wanted to feature Oprah in a way readers hadn’t seen her before. This was a big challenge, since she’s done almost 200 cover shoots to date! I joined the magazine five months ago, but I’ve been a reader of the magazine for 15 years I went back through all of our covers to ensure we were doing something entirely new.
The team wanted something that felt classic and celebratory; what immediately came to mind was old Hollywood glamour. Creative Director Adam Glassman, Photo Director Christina Weber and I looked at a lot of old Hollywood images for inspiration, including classic beauties from Elizabeth Taylor and Rita Hayworth, to Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. From this inspiration we decided that a black and white cover would be a perfect fit.
Can you tell me more about the crystal “O” designed by Swarovski? Where did the idea originate?
Armus: The traditional gift for a 15th anniversary is crystal, so we all brainstormed on how we could make the trademark “O” on the cover really sparkle. Adam Glassman had already given a lot of thought to incorporating crystals into the cover design, and it was his relationship with Swarovski that allowed this cover to really sparkle. They all had so much fun figuring out how they could bring sparkle to Oprah’s wardrobe in order to reflect that crystal “O.” Our team looked at so many other ways to approach the anniversary, but nothing else had that magic to it. Everyone was very excited about this concept, and married with an old Hollywood feel, it made sense.
Swarovski created one special fully crystallized cover, which will be on display at its Rockefeller Center retail location throughout the month. It will take your breath away the entire cover is coated in crystals.
Can you tell us more about the double French door accordion gate cover, the first ever of this cover type in the U.S.?
Armus: We worked very closely with our publisher Jayne Jamison and her team to come up with the cover concept. Together, we tested various types of fold options (which we like to call origami) that could work for this cover. Everyone was drawn to a design that split open, which is similar to a curtain opening, and felt like a big reveal.
It also provided an excellent way to present something entirely different and celebrate the special issue inside. There are two units off of the center flaps, allowing us to offer a special unit to an advertiser, while also giving our readers the behind-the-scenes cover shoot information that they love. Once the unique gatefold was established, we worked to capture a photo of Oprah that would support this design.
The "15" theme is seen throughout the issue. Can you talk about how this is reflected in various sections?
Armus: When Editor in Chief Lucy Kaylin told me about the anniversary issue, I was immediately excited to work on the design. The issue is based on “The 15 Things We Know for Sure,” a guiding principle of the magazine since its inception. Once the theme was established, it became clear that we could design the issue as more of a keepsake book something that our readers are going to want to treasure and keep. To fulfill that goal, we blew up the architecture from our typical issues. The sections have changed and there aren’t any regular columns.
We wanted the openers for each section to feel really special and resonate with our readers. At first, typographically, we were thinking of doing something beautiful with all 15 numbers, but in thinking about the reader, we decided to muse off of the 15 phrases we selected, including “Every day is a chance to shine” and “It’s never too late.” We considered many approaches for how we could represent the phrases, and fell in love with the idea of seeking out 15 of the best typographers and illustrators from around the world.
For example, the “Nobody’s Perfect” chapter is about the little bloopers and mistakes we all make in life, so we found the best chalkboard artist to reflect the importance of erasing and reworking. And in the fashion opener, there is a piece of fabric being cut by scissors because that chapter is about breaking the fashion rules. We thought really hard about who could help communicate these ideas, because they are meaningful phrases for our readers, and they tell you about the chapter that is to follow.
How has the aesthetic of the magazine evolved over the past 15 years?
Armus: The magazine has always been original, bold and colorful. While some elements have evolved stylistically, the magazine always celebrates a spirt that is uniquely Oprah. Looking back and seeing where we came from, there are consistent threads that are very visible over the years and are important to keep hold of. Going forward, the magazine will continue to evolve. This issue is nodding towards some of the new typography we’ll be using in the future. We have freshened the fonts to make them stronger and bolder, which is an important part of our messaging.
Can you share some behind-the-scenes details about Oprah's photo shoot for the cover?
Armus: A lot of the planning for this cover was well ironed out in advance of the shoot because we had to consider Oprah’s exact positioning due to the gatefold. We met with the photographer and the stylist several weeks beforehand to solidify the details. The lighting is always very important Ruven Afanador, our incredibly talented photographer, is amazing at bringing that sort of magical light to the scenario. Oprah tried on several outfits before the shoot and she and Adam selected the perfect dress to reflect the sparkle of the crystal “O.” Photo shoots with Oprah are always very well-orchestrated to maximize her time. She’s a busy woman! We like having everything mapped out in advance so we are ready to capture the perfect shot.
How can members of O's Circle of Friends get involved in the anniversary?
Armus: Premier members of O’s Circle of Friends, as well as new members, have been asked to share why they shine to gain entry to a special raffle. 15 members will be selected to win a specialty issue with the cover “O” decorated entirely in real crystals. A lot of time and love was put into these special 15, extremely limited edition issues they’ll come in a specially design box, and will be personalized and signed by Oprah. The winners will also be getting $500 dollars’ worth of beauty products. It is a wonderful element that our readers are able to participate in this special anniversary.