Click on any of the images below to see a larger version.

Cover of The Walrus magazine featuring a black and white photo of a ship positioned diagonally across the frame. The Walrus wordmark is in red at the top and the main headlines read 'Inside Paul Martin's Empire' and 'SARS and the New China.'

October 2003
Photography by Eamon Mac Mahon

Jason Logan: We tried hundreds of options for that first issue cover. My initial favourite was a photo of a New Yorker magazine crumpled into a ball and lying on a sidewalk, with the word “Walrus” overtop. We thought it would, at the very least, get reactions. Instead, there was a major essay about Paul Martin’s ties to the shipping industry, but we struggled with how to turn that into an evocative cover. We commissioned Eamon Mac Mahon, whose portfolio featured aerial photography and who had a friend who owned a bush plane. Mac Mahon took on the assignment like a secret mission. While hanging out of the passenger side of the plane, he photographed some of the ships that Martin owned or operated or was dubiously involved with. We ended up using a shot of a vessel in the waters somewhere around Hamilton. A Great Lake ship full of iron ore bound for the Atlantic sat diagonally across the cover of the first issue of The Walrus like a no-smoking sign. A beautiful negation.

Paul Kim: The first time I saw a copy of The Walrus, it was the magazine’s inaugural Summer Reading issue. One of my best friends was an art intern there and had commissioned me for drawings, so I went to the local bookstore to find a copy. The issue stood out immediately, almost glowing from the yellow background and nervously radiating black lines. It felt nostalgic. I have seen so many more Summer Reading covers and have helped create them as I progressed from intern to junior designer and, currently, to design director. While the covers for other issues have very specific requirements, Summer Reading has a simple brief. The cover often shows someone or, in some cases, some creature in the act of reading. These covers ultimately showcase an artist’s imagination—which makes them integral to a magazine that relies so heavily on illustrations to help tell stories.

Cover of The Walrus magazine featuring bright, multicoloured stripes positioned diagonally across the frame. The Walrus wordmark is in white at the top.

December 2006/January 2007
Illustration by Bruce Mau

Antonio de Luca: In 2007, the media industry was facing more and more compromises as budgets were falling globally. The subprime mortgage crash was looming. It was an odd time for The Walrus to decide to do a piece on the theme of optimism. The team discussed who would be great to explore it while also considering its relevance beyond Canada. Designer Bruce Mau agreed to do the cover and the feature theme. We had scheduled a twenty-minute meet-and-greet at his office in downtown Toronto, but we ended up talking about our shared sciatic pain for over two hours while lounging on the floor with large pillows. Feeling concerned that we were straying away from the theme of optimism, I impulsively exclaimed, “Hey Bruce, what about this cover?” He paused, moving his hands like a magician: “What about . . . colour!” I replied, “Perfect,” and left. A week later, this piece arrived.

Cover of The Walrus magazine featuring a photo of Queen Elizabeth II with her eyes closed. She is wearing a crown and a coat with a large fur collar in front of a plain grey background. The Walrus wordmark is in black at the top.

December 2007
Photography by Chris Levine

Jason Logan: I was the founding art director of The Walrus and Antonio de Luca the creative director. We always tried to strike a balance between making a cover that felt serious enough to the editors, summing up the issue or its most important stories, while also making the cover we really wanted: something with impact, where the art felt as powerful as the writing. But one of my favourite covers was one I didn’t work on. When I saw the cover that featured a fine art photograph of Queen Elizabeth II, I loved it. It felt bold and strange and attention grabbing in a way that I wish the covers from my era had been. And there was no story in the issue about the queen—just a graphic cover on the edge of understanding. I would say it had impact.

Cover of The Walrus magazine featuring a photo of two young people standing on a pile of large rocks. The Walrus wordmark is in blue at the top and the main headline reads 'The Idea of Vancouver.' Cover of The Walrus magazine featuring a photo of a figure walking next to a large body of water. The Walrus wordmark is in blue at the top and the main headline reads 'The Idea of Vancouver.'
Cover of The Walrus magazine featuring a photo of a door in a large hedge surrounding a house, the top of the roof barely visible. The Walrus wordmark is in blue at the top and the main headline reads 'The Idea of Vancouver.' Cover of The Walrus magazine featuring a photo of a large office building with its windows forming a grid across the frame. The Walrus wordmark is in white at the top and the main headline reads 'The Idea of Vancouver.'

March 2010
Photography by Grant Harder

Brian Morgan: In advance of the 2010 Winter Olympics, we commissioned Grant Harder for a photo essay to accompany an article about Vancouver. Both were to be portraits of the city on the cusp of a transformation: If Expo 86 had rewritten the city, what would happen after the Olympics came to town? When the thousands of international visitors arrived, what would they find? Harder had shot the city from several locations, from Richmond to the North Shore and everywhere in between. In the end, we had more brilliant options than we knew what to do with. Alongside the article, where we had the space to run several photos, the dictates of narrative, pacing, text, and variation gave us a method of winnowing. But the cover was a quandary: there were so many possibilities. And we wanted to do something special. It was the Olympics, after all. Because magazine covers are printed four to a sheet, why not, we asked, print four different covers? The solution, while hardly novel, is also not common, but it takes advantage of the printing process itself and answers one facet of the question “Why print?” The result was a set of covers in which each was meaningful on its own while also being a reflection or refraction of a larger, more solid image of Vancouver than could be shown as a standalone.

Cover of The Walrus magazine featuring black writing on a bright orange background. The Walrus wordmark is in white at the top and text reads 'This magazine contains an essay on freedom by a Canadian convicted of murder.'

April 2011
Illustration by Mathieu Lavoie

Brian Morgan: This cover was a difficult brief. Canadians can be quite conservative when it comes to criminal justice, so sympathy for this particular author might have been hard to draw on. A direct approach seemed best. When I took over from Antonio, the brief was to sell the story, not the magazine, and I have to say I struggled. The magazine had established what I felt was the perfect image, where the stories in the issue were one reason to buy the magazine while the connection of the cover with the moment was another. I thought what we’d found here was right for us: to be blunt and honest in the display and art. The cover answered the question “Why are you running this?” very directly and, as such, treated the reader as an editorial equal.

Various Contributors