Nick Adam
Cover and lettering design for Poetry Magazine

Design Studio



Poetry Magazine
Poetry Foundation


Cultural, Design, Publishing

Book Design, Print


Nick Adam
Design Direction, Design

Rick Valicenti
Design Consigliere

Fred Sasaki
Art Director 
Founded in Chicago by Harriet Monroe in 1912, Poetry is the oldest magazine devoted to verse in the English language. In 2019, Poetry’s Art Director Fred Sasaki reached out to Thirst’s Nick Adam to design a custom typographic cover.

For centuries, poetry has inspired experiments in typography. The manner in which a poem is visually composed affects how the poem is read — the underlying structure of words inflects emphasis and meaning. The structure of letters themself are a product of form-poetry, they carry their own unique set of spacial relationships and visual codes.

Nick designed a series of 3 covers for Poetry to consider publishing. The letterforms of the selected one (published in February 2020) were directly built within Poetry’s grid defined by Michael Bierut. Nick took Poetry’s distinctive two-by-three unit grid and divided each of the 6-units into square units. Nick’s new grid within Bierut’s existing system was used to define each letterform by following a simple set of mathematics:

Vertical strokes = 4 units
Vertical counter space = 2 units
Horizontal strokes = 9 units
Horizontal counter space = 1 unit

The designed letterforms can be described as rhythmic, reverse-stress, extended, blocky-slab-serifs.

Poetry’s two-by-three unit grid was subdivided into square units for new letterforms to be defined by

From left to right: Nick Adam of Span, Normal Studio, Julien Priez, Jeremiah Chiu of Some All None, Michael Bierut of Pentagram

Initial design concepts presented to Poetry Foundation

Detail of the Valentine’s Day themed cover

Seminal hearts — Milton Glaser’s from I ♥ NY, Herman Zapf dingbat, and the <3 that we all text

Nick Adam, Design Director 
and Associate Partner at Span.Studio

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