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On the Cover Trail with Richard Turley

April 11, 2014

Richard Turley - BWBloomberg Businessweek is not your father’s business magazine. One look at its attention-grabbing cover art and you’ll begin to see why. One cover memorably featured two airplanes mating in mid-air. Another presented a cartoon Twitter bird ineptly trying to kill itself. With countless surprising (sometimes provocative) covers that spark discussion and attract readers, creative director Richard Turley is helping generate buzz that sells magazines.

“From the beginning,” says Turley, “we’ve been allowed to experiment and take risks.” Turley and his team – including assistant creative director Tracy Ma, design director Cynthia Hoffman, director of photography David Carthas, and art director Robert Vargas – have to manage the relentless demands of a weekly publishing schedule. “We have a new cover story every week and each comes with its own set of challenges,” says Turley. “You have to do things instinctively and quickly.”

Most covers start as an idea floated by Turley or Businessweek editor-in-chief Josh Tyrangiel as they search for a way to capture the essence of each issue’s cover story. Then Turley must turn that idea into a compelling visual. “We want a cover that will make people want to pick up the magazine and read it,” says Turley. He and his team consistently deliver on that goal. Their process is even documented in the “Cover Trail” column in each issue. (See Turley’s favorite cover)

Formerly an art editor at The Guardian in London, Turley, 37, moved to New York in early 2010 to join Businessweek and revitalize its design, arriving just a few weeks after Tyrangiel took over with a mandate to rethink the entire publication. (The magazine was purchased by Bloomberg in late 2009, but dates back to 1929 under its old BusinessWeek name.)

Today, Businessweek is an engaging combination of sharp writing, those attention-grabbing covers, and an easy-to-navigate layout with bold headline fonts, eye-catching infographics, and cool charts. Circulation and revenues are up — and kudos for the magazine’s innovative design have rolled in.

Bloomberg Businessweek won the 2012 Magazine of the Year award from the Society of Publication Designers and was named the 2013 design studio of the year by Creative Review. The magazine, and the work of Turley and his team, have also been recognized by numerous organizations in the design and publishing world, and have been featured in exhibitions such as the 2012 “Designs of the Year” show at the Design Museum in London.

Success in print design is a rather new experience for Bloomberg, where our media focus historically has been digital and broadcast. But when you take a closer look at how that success has come about, you’ll see classic Bloomberg values at play, like boldness, collaboration, quick-thinking, and hard work.

Turley’s team also works on special theme issues, such as “Design” and “The Year Ahead,” that are significant revenue generators. “The process is different for the special issues,” says Turley. “You have a longer period to focus on them, so you can be more contemplative. We have time to play a little and that helps us grow.”

As the team has hit its stride, Turley’s management style has evolved. “It started with me being involved in every decision,” says Turley. “But trust has built up among us and, now, to be honest, I’m more supervisory. I encourage each team member to be creative, to identify with the magazine and see themselves in the work that they do.”

“It’s lovely to see your work in print,” adds Turley. “You work on it one day, see it on the newsstand the next, then see people reading it on the subway, and see it delivered to peoples’ homes.”

And so the process continues, week to week. Don’t you wonder what next week’s cover will look like?

Contributed by On Bloomberg, Bloomberg LP’s internal newswire.