How to Make a “Best of Philly” Cover

Running since 1974, our Best of Philly issue has featured everything from staffers to sports stars on the cover. This year, things got a little more collaborative.

Every summer since 1974, Philly Mag’s editorial team has put together its picks for the very best stuff in Philadelphia. And I’m fairly sure that in every one of those 38 years, a breathless meeting has been held to discuss one simple question:

Who or what should go on the “Best of Philly” cover?

The answers have been as varied as our choices for best cheesesteak. The first two years, for example, the magazine actually used a staff member, then-associate editor Carol Saline, as the cover model. Food has been a popular choice (at least two appearances each for hoagies, hot dogs, ice cream and cheesecake), as have Phillies (Greg Luzinksi, Darren Daulton, Chase Utley, the Phillie Phanatic); attractive female models (including one Playboy Playmate); Philadelphians who hit it big (Maria Bello, Kobe Bryant); and adorable animals (a lion cub, a kitten, a pig). We’ve also featured a building (the Cira Centre), a politician (Ed Rendell), faux Olympians in Speedos (fortunately, not Ed Rendell), and one puzzling shot, in 1979, of a model wearing a headpiece made entirely of fruit. (Was that you, Marge Tartaglione?)

For this year’s cover, design director Jesse Southerland proposed something we’ve never done before: a collaboration with outside designers. In this case, Jesse was anxious to team up with Philly-based duo the Heads of State, whose work—for everyone from The New Yorker to Starbucks—has made them one of the most in-demand creative studios in the country. I loved the idea, not only because I love what they do, but also because of what it says about the rise of the creative class in Philadelphia over the past decade. More than ever we are a city of artists.

Working with Jesse, the Heads of State concocted the cool concept you see this month—a “Best of Philly” cover painted onto a Philadelphia storefront. In keeping with the theme that ours is the region’s original, authentic Best Of (though we appreciate the flattery, all you imitators, pretenders and poseurs), we got old-school sign craftsman Gibbs Connors, who’s done work for Stephen Starr and the Art Museum, to handpaint a piece of glass. Watch the video below to see how it all came together.

In the end, of course, Best of Philly succeeds not because of what’s on the outside, but because of what’s on the inside (including, this year, our tribute to the 10 Best Philadelphians of 2012). But if you insist on judging us by our cover, well, I’m confident we’ll more than measure up.

A version of this article originally appeared in the August issue of Philadelphia magazine.