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Getting to Bono: A Cover History

A portrait of the U2 frontman wasn’t our first pick for the cover of the January/February issue. But as the magazine came together, it seemed the clear choice. Here’s how it happened.
January 29, 2013

1. The Death of Discourse
Sasha Issenberg will be unable to submit the draft of his cover story until well after the 2012 election, so we begin developing cover concepts based on the publisher’s impression that the story will focus on the negative impact of social media on public discourse.

2. Engineering Victory
This campaign has been notable for its lack of a grand vision from either party. Maybe the piece will touch on technology’s role?

3. Microtargeting
Or maybe the piece will explore the ways in which campaigns exploit the echo chamber of social media.

4. Graphic
There’s nothing wrong with a cool photo of the president using a mobile device.

5. Victory in Defeat
What if Romney wins? Issenberg has argued that even if Obama loses, the technology developed by his campaign will make the president a power broker for many elections to come.

6. Big Data = Good
We finally have a conference call with Issenberg, where he talks us through the 10,000-word piece he will deliver later that month. To everyone’s surprise, he argues that new technologies and big data have had a beneficial effect on political discourse, allowing candidates to engage in more meaningful ways with the electorate and vice versa.

7. New Wrinkles
Political operative Joe Trippi writes an essay that cheers the innovations of Obama 2012. And after months of chasing, Bono agrees to sit for our Q+A.

8. Pin It
We start playing with campaign buttons, flipping familiar slogans to express the theme of the issue.

9. A Winner
We stumble onto the idea of a campaign button that recasts the revolutionary call for “Power to the People.” It’s graphically bold and thematically on target. We finally have our cover.

Or so I thought…

10. Not So Fast
Bono’s Q+A is even better than expected and – thanks to some sharply focused questions by deputy editor Brian Bergstein – weaves together many of the themes that are explored in detail throughout the issue. It’s cover-worthy, especially with an unflinching portrait by Peter Hapak.

11. A Winner 2.0
Definitely not the cover I would have guessed one month earlier.

Probably (hopefully) not the cover our readers would have guessed ever.

See the poster-sized version of this timeline.

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