St. John’s College is often called the “great books college.” There is no other college quite like it. Here, students are enrolled in a program in which they read, discuss, and write about the classic works that have shaped the world. There are no lecture courses, no textbooks, no written finals, no departments, no research professors. Having shared this unique education, St. John’s alumni, or “Johnnies,” have a strong connection with one another and an attachment to the life of ideas. The “great books” texts and authors have a special meaning to Johnnies and continue to play a role in their lives.
When we designed The College, the alumni magazine for St. John’s College, in 2001, we suggested the idea of illustrating an author from the college’s curriculum on the cover. The idea proved popular, and for the next twelve years, every cover featured a portrait by illustrator David Johnson. In 2012 St. John’s decided it was time for an updated approach. We kept the concept but decided to commission a different illustrator for each cover, this time in color.
A concept that seems almost inevitable and nails the college’s unique character has the potential to last indefinitely.
For the current cover, artist Scott McKowen was assigned to create a portrait of Miguel de Cervantes, the 16th century author of Don Quixote, for whom no authenticated image exists. With connections in the theater world, McKowen decided to base his portrait on an actor acquaintance of Latin heritage dressed in period costume – but with a twist. The traditional ruff has been transformed into the pages of a manuscript.
Because no authenticated image of Cervantes exists, the artist used a live model in period costume to create the cover.
In the spirit of Don Quixote, a book celebrating bold vision, adventure and the pursuit of virtue, the winter 2015 issue is devoted to the 50th anniversary of the founding of the St. John’s campus in Santa Fe. Feature stories follow a timeline of major events at the Santa Fe campus and compare and contrast the Annapolis, Maryland, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, campuses.
Read other case studies from our Editorial series:
• Magazines: First Impressions
• Magazines: Making Covers Memorable
• Editorial Case Study No.2: New Jersey Institute of Technology, NJIT Magazine
• Editorial Case Study No.3: Messiah College, The Bridge Magazine
• Editorial Case Study No.4: Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, ONE Magazine
• Editorial Case Study No.5: St. Mary's College of Maryland, Mulberry Tree Magazine
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