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Businessweek's creative director uses covers to shake things up

Bloomberg Businessweek's controversial cover on the LDS Church isn't the magazine's first provocative cover illustration since Bloomberg hired creative director Richard Turley.

A cover on the topic of “The Infidelity Economy” featured a man’s bare legs with his pants and underwear around his ankles. Another on airline mergers portrayed two planes copulating. One that didn't make it to print in January was an illustration of a battered and bruised Mitt Romney, depicting his loss in the South Carolina primary.

In February, the Atlantic Wire did a Q&A with Turley and asked, “Let's be honest. Bloomberg Businessweek's gotten suprisingly edgy lately. What's up with that?”

Earlier this month, AdAge called Turley “the darling of the publishing design world" and displayed five of his favorite covers. About one on the IRS, Turley said, "Most of my work involves trying to turn the capitalist system against itself, but try not to tell anyone that."

Businessweek art director Robert Vargas, who works for Turley, said in a video released on Bloomberg's iPad app that the cover is meant to portray what members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints refer to as the First Vision. The video shows three other mockups of LDS images considered for this week's cover.

However, the image Turley's and Vargas' team settled on is not an image of the First Vision, but of a separate visitation by John the Baptist to early LDS Church leaders Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Both events are considered sacred by church members.

Matthew Philbin at thought the real target of this week's Businessweek article on LDS Church finances is Romney. He wrote that the cover, "should anger anyone who finds it low and, frankly, un-American, to attack a candidate — directly or indirectly — through his religion."

While multiple media outlets immediately predicted controversy Thursday when the cover on the LDS Church was released, and both journalism experts and religious leaders of many faiths criticized it, an expert on media and religion said it would pass quickly.

"The flap likely won't have repercussions for Businessweek beyond bad press for a news cycle," said Diane Winston, the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. "It also isn't likely to affect Romney's campaign," she said, "since most people will react to the article according to what they already think."