This cover of tomorrow’s Cleveland Plain Dealer Friday Magazine has caricatures of all 542 performing artists who’ve been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1986. (This year’s induction ceremony will be held Saturday in Cleveland.) Art director Chris Morris spent 8 weeks on the cover art, and he tells Romenesko readers about the project in an email below.
“The beauty of these [caricatures] is that you can’t tell which ones he did first and which ones he did last because they stitch together so well,” says Plain Dealer AME/Visuals David Kordalski. “This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever worked on.”
Chris Morris writes:
Back in February, Deputy Design Director Emmet Smith and I kicked around ideas for a big visual. We discussed various graphic approaches, maybe linking the genres, influences, shared histories, etc.
As you may know, at the ceremony there is a big jam session. I said to Emmet “You know that song by the Righteous Brothers about a ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ where they sing about what a great band there must be with all the musicians in heaven like Jimi and Janis and Jim and Otis? What if we drew everyone in the Hall, on one stage? One massive jam session?”
So we looked at the numbers. There are something like 875 people total IN the hall. But they aren’t all performers. There are managers and promoters and early influences and DJs… How would they fit on the stage? Why would they be there? We pared it down to just the performing acts, and that number is not small, something like 550. That’s when Emmet looked at me and asked “think you can draw that many people by April 13th?”
The most I’d ever drawn (in a single illustration) before was about 45 people.
So on February 13th I started with Elvis in the 1986 Class, and exactly two months later I finished with Axl in the 2012 Class. I was fortunate that I could work on only this to get it done. I contributed a few illustrations to the paper along the way when needed, but it was nice to be able to focus on just this for the most part. There was great support from our visuals team and the other illustrators.
Emmet designed the 29 consecutive pages in the Friday magazine, and did so as a continuous image. The pages could be cut and taped to make a 22-foot wide seamless illustration. He also designed the cover with David Kordalski. The cover has all 542 people I drew on it.
In short, we set out to do something epic, had buy-in from the front office the moment the idea was pitched, and had time and support to get it done. We finished it a week before deadline which has been nice because we’ve had time to proof and refine and follow through with the web team.