Under the Cover: March 2016

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

54,000 miles. Three years. That’s how long Jim Fallows and his wife Deb had been working on this month’s cover story (coming soon). Their goal was to fly to every corner of this country and find out, first hand, what is “going right” with America so that maybe we can fix what was wrong.

As you can imagine, the results were … complicated. America’s a big place with different problems, different people, different resources. Kind of like … kind of like … a puzzle. Yeah! A puzzle!

America is like a puzzle that’s been pulled apart (or broken apart). The question is: Can America put the pieces back together? That’s the concept for our cover image. For the photo I reached out to the brilliant team of Adam Voorhes and Robin Finlay.

I told them the basic idea and sent over the piece. After reading a draft they sent over some sketches. First the sketches of the original concept:

Then, a few more iterations:

We settled on the puzzle with the hands. From there, some refined sketches:

“More hands?”

“Hey, can we add a plane??”

“Ok. No plane. Let’s start shooting.”

“Nice. Let’s move some hands.”

“Looks good!”

“Hey. What’s the cover line? ‘Can America Put Itself Back Together?’ or ‘The Good News About America’”?

(Informal office poll)

“’Can America Put Itself Back Together’ it is.”

“Ok, cool.”

“Logo. Blue or white?”



“White it is … ”

“Ok, let’s ship it.”

“Ready to ship!”

“Ready to ship?”

“Yeah! Ship it!”

“Well done everyone. I’m taking tomorrow off … ”