The Cover Story

Art director Joan McGuire explains the design behind our April cover.

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If there’s any thing more boring than looking at people who are looking at their phones, it’s looking at photos of screens themselves.  

Yet reporter Caleb Diehl’s April cover story, Mountain of Influence, discusses just that: The article profiles social media “influencers” in the outdoor industry. These ‘brand sherpas” are followed by thousands of people who look at influencer posts — on their phones.

google phoneZombies

How should we illustrate this trend? We couldn’t have pictures of millennials staring at their phones. We see that all day long. 

We needed to represent the Oregon outdoors — mountains and desert. Yet we also needed to convey the social media element that drives the narrative. Call it the Twitterverse or InstagramLand.

Editor Linda Baker, Caleb and I decided on a painted cover image of a single mountain featuring a single influencer, who has attained a heady peak of achievement: a million followers.

The inside image would be far more comprehensive, with varied, painted landscape elements and a broad array of hashtags, emojis, Twitter handles and follower counts.

influencersinside 2


The cover line bounced around. Caleb passed along an old “College Outdoors” image from a Lewis and Clark college program as an inspiration for integrating words into the landscape.


Linda wanted “Mountains of Influence,” but I convinced her to make that singular. We reached a three-way consensus. I typeset “Mountains of Influence” and gave it dimension in Adobe Illustrator. Then I printed it out as a guide for painting.

pinter illo

For additional inspiration, I assembled a couple Pinterest boards of vintage ski posters. I collected lots of views of Mt. Hood  that I could refer to while painting — without actually copying any specific image.

The best part of course was actually painting. I worked on the cover image in my garage studio. It’s acrylic on Rives BFK. The inside image and the cover headline were painted at my desk using gouache.


The final images were composited in Photoshop.