To those of you who don’t know me, I am the editor of J Magazine – at least for another few hours. Ink has been publishing this magazine for Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways for around seven years and I have been editing it for around the last five of those years. Today is my last day on the title and with Ink – on Monday I start a new job (and life) working for Al-Jazeera news network out in Qatar. Before I go I want to present a little parting gift, which is my pick of the magazine’s ten best covers.
If you don;t regularly fly Jazeera Airways you are unlikely to have seen most of them as even the London office of Ink where the magazine is produced receives very few physical copies of the magazine – and these I jealously guard and keep locked in desk drawer. Which is a shame, because Jazeera Airways is a fantastic client, who has always allowed us (almost) total editorial freedom. To date we’ve produced 45 issues of outstanding photography, strong narratives and covers commissioned from some of fantastically talented illustrators.
For me, the cover that symbolises everything we do is this one by design outfit I Love Dust. Art director Rob Timm and I had to fight to get them on board: they’re busy people, always in demand, and they don’t come cheap. But we came to an arrangement and for the April/May 2012 issue they produced this beauty for us:
It links to a story inside on cyclists taking over the streets of car-ridden Beirut. I travelled to Lebanon to meet the intrepid bike pioneers. I met one activist at a cafe and as he sat down to join me I noted that he hadn’t locked his bike. He laughed and said he hoped someone would steal it because it would increase the number of cyclists on the streets.
J launched with a brief to be different and it certainly was for the Middle East. Early covers (art directed by the talented Stuart Tolley) didn’t even have a masthead, just a giant and not always immediately obvious J. The client loved them and had all the covers made up as posters to hang around the office.
The magazine came of age with this piece of art, below, by the very brilliant Olivier Kugler, a regular contributor to The Guardian. His ‘Istanbul to Tehran’ – which was accompanied inside by an eight-page comic-strip narrative of a rail journey – cover won J magazine its first award, the Magnum Opus Gold prize.
My greatest joy in editing this magazine was to confound preconceptions of this very much misunderstood region and to tell some of the Middle East’s untold stories. I particular enjoyed uncovering the revival of the English butler school, only instead of sending graduates to British stately homes they all now end up in the palaces of the Gulf States.
Other favourite covers of mine include one that illustrated a piece on Kuwaiti racers who revel in spinning their cars and sliding sideaways …
… our round-up of the top Arab films of all time with an appropriately, wonkily styled B-movie poster cover …
… the Airfix kit cover we commissioned to go with a story about the delivery of new Airbuses for the Jazeera Airways’ fleet …
… an interview with Iron Sheik, an Iranian wrestler who found fame in the US circuit playing the cartoon bad guy …
… and a profile of the Arab world’s answer to Pharrell Williams, the super-producer Khyam Allami:
And I’ll end with a sneak preview. J Magazine has a new talented art director in Yessica Diez-Davies, who, with only her second issue in charge is starting to push the magazine in an exciting new direction. This week we go to press with our first ever typographical cover:
It accompanies an interview with Pascal Zogbhi, the Jameel Prize-nominated font designer who’s changing the way the world sees the Arabic language. But you’ll have to wait until April to read that. Meanwhile, more covers can be seen here and here.
And that’s it from me. Thank you. (Posted by Sakhr Al-Makhadhi)