The July/August cover story

The story behind “The New Aerotropolis.”

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For our July/August cover package on new developments at Portland International Airport I needed a single powerful image.

The package framed PDX as a successful example of a “think globally, act locally” economic development project. The segment included a news story about airport expansion and new international airline connections, an article about PDX brands lining the concourse and three Q&As with executive frequent flyers. We also included a bevy of fun facts.

Visually, it was a herd of ornery cats.

Here are some my initial ideas:Unknown 11

Toys: We could try and build a PDX out of Legos. But that would take a lot of time and surely diminish the scope of what PDX has accomplished.

I like using objects in photo illustrations. So I thought about a globe with all the flags of international cities to which PDX flies sticking out of the state of Oregon.

But a globe wouldn’t capture the local angle. Map the state of Oregon onto the globe? Not compelling enough.

What about the carpet? I considered a type treatment along the lines of the Constructivists, using the axes of the old carpet as a grid.

Nah, that was too abstract. What about juxtaposing the old carpet with the new?

Nah again. The carpet was over in 2015.

The idea of doing an homage to Saul Steinberg’s legendary New Yorker cover came to me as I was drifting off to sleep one night. Steinberg’s “View of the World from 9th Ave.” had that global/local hit that I’d been seeking. I hauled myself out of bed and wrote it down in the dark across some unfiled paperwork that was stacked on my dresser. 

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The next day I poked around on copyright infringement sites to ensure I was on solid legal footing. I was. I completely redrew the image and used it for editorial rather than commercial purposes. Nothing about the two images is the same, except the proportions. 

Execution time: I drew a black and white sketch to plot ideas. I gathered images of the airport, Mt. Hood, MAX trains, airplanes, and people with baggage — lots of people. 

I drew the background as a separate layer and the type and people on tissue overlays. The layers were composited in Photoshop. Working this way is wonderfully flexible. I could add planes, add people and adjust colors.

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Plus I could fix typos: Luckily, the copy editor caught the missing “J” in Reykjavik!