megan alison mccrink

Who Will Betray Trump?

design, art direction, photo research, production

This story was part of POLITICO Magazine’s “The Friday Cover” series. The story focused on House and Senate Republicans that were the likeliest candidates to betray Trump in the impeachment hearings. 

You can read it here.

Art Direction

For a story about Trump and betrayal, I wanted to do a pastiche on the ‘Last Supper’ painting. To balance the historic nature of ‘The Last Supper’ with modern story content, I worked with the illustrator to include current day elements like a can of Diet Coke.

illustration by Zach Meyer

I chose to work with illustrator Zach Meyer because I’ve always appreciated that his work is both surreal and ominous. He also has a knack for drawing likeness.

reference photos for five of the subjects
For 11 portraits, the turnaround for this was very tight, overall just five business days, since the story was pitched less than a week before deadline. I worked on finding reference photos at the right angle and worked with Zach on the positioning of each politician too.

Original sketch versions from Zach.

I really wanted to play up The ‘Last Supper’ approach, so I asked Zach draw upon the coffered ceilings in the original and move toward traditional coloring. I also asked him to scale back the facial expression of Trump so it was more neutral.

Sketch iterations that were ready to move to final 

The final illustration feels foreboding, but with the sky floating by in the background, it signals to the reader that this might not turn to a reality.

The Build 

The story was built on POLITICO’s old CMS on a short turnaround. The full draft did not come in until the afternoon of deadline, but I was able to pull photos of each politician and work on the sidebar ahead of time.

a quick sample of the story sidebar

In the CMS, I also utilized generic embeds filled with HTML and CSS to create custom-designed elements for the story. For this project, I customized the pull quotes, sidebars, drop cap, section breaks and section intro text.

I built the sidebar initially with a text editor (Atom) outside of the CMS to quickly figure out the best design for the sidebar. Then, I worked with a generic embed in the CMS to fine tune the design.

This story is responsive. I paid special attention to the sidebar to make it responsive on both desktop and mobile. I tried switching the sidebar in mobile to a block display, but it read too long on mobile. I ultimately opted to stay true to the desktop design, but adjust the photo and letter sizing as well as the spacing.

The Details

I was challenged with the possibility that readers might get bored of seeing the same and sometimes unfamiliar faces repeatedly.

To prevent that, I pitched a key players side bar with all the politician s’ information. I wanted the reader to be able to get an idea of the story through these sidebars without even needing to read the whole piece.

I also wanted to make readers more familiar with these politicians. I pulled their faces from the main illustration into the sidebar to create unity throughout the story. This also gave the reader the ability to reference back to the main

I kept the rest of the layout of the story more straightforward, since the content of the piece was so captivating. I still created hierarchy throughout the story by highlighting the story’s most important points with custom designed pull quotes.

Ultimately, my section setup of the story performed so well for readers that the style was adopted for use as a template for all  “The Friday Cover” POLITICO Magazine stories.