The Cover Story

OB’s art director explains the concept behind our fall cover illustration.

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Our November/December issue focuses on manufacturing, and this year, all signs pointed to automation as the overarching theme.

Nothing says “automation” like a robot, right? Cutting-edge technology that streamlines every process, and eliminates, for better and worse, the human factor.

Plus, a factory full of busy robots looks so cool.

idea machines

But when I searched online, the images I found weren’t Oregon specific. Plus, I was leery of creating a cover that would lead readers to think we were featuring one specific business rather than discussing a broader issue.

Another conundrum: Where would I put the cover line?

A photo illustration of robots assembling the magazine title seemed like a fun idea that could hit all the high notes. When given the squint test, though, the result really didn’t read well.  So into the dustbin it went.

idea robotHeadline

Of course, the fundamental idea of displacement of humans by machines is troubling. And my imagination, nourished by popular culture, fairly bursts with menacing, soulless machine-beasts that subjugate and enslave people, or worse, try to turn them into dog food.

neo prestonAt left, Neo gazes at his fellow human batteries in The Matrix, while Preston the Dog prepares to do evil in A Close Shave.

Yet as OB reporter Kim Moore (author of the automation cover story) pointed out, automation isn’t all bad. It saves people from spending long days in mind-numbing drudgery, instead offering them the more stimulating challenge of designing and programming the machines. 

As Kim writes in the story, automation ensures the accuracy of delicate processes. I liked the idea of a human augmented by a machine. The hand-enhancement image below brings to mind the scary stenographer in my favorite movie of all time, Brazil.

idea brazil copy

Ultimately, it became clear that the cover image should show a basically benign machine, though huge, that is controlled by only one or two people. 

I plundered assets from two Shutterstock vector files, and spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon assembling a custom machine that could accommodate headlines and deckhead.

shutterstock assets