The National's consultant editor Richard Walker and executive editor Callum Baird reflect on the creation of some of the paper's most striking covers.

First Issue: November 24

Richard: It’s all a bit of a haze now. I remember the staff reporting for duty and having no idea if it would be possible to produce the newspaper at the end of the shift. In the event it went relatively smoothly, thanks to a great and enthusiastic team.

It took a while to choose the right eyes but I think it had some impact and I stayed up till the early hours to watch the reaction online. It was a hugely exciting day and night ... although it turned to panic when we realised we had to do it all over again the next day.

Callum: I wasn’t involved – yet. I was still on The Herald’s sport desk, gazing enviously at the staff rushing about to produce this exciting pro-indy newspaper we’d heard only whispers about. It was a great front page, really striking, made under a lot of pressure.

Smith Report: November 28

Richard: The newspaper’s first big test, four days after our launch. Our then-picture editor Elaine Livingstone persuaded all the major players to pose for portraits. It was obvious that Smith himself had to be on the front page and it was equally obvious that his recommendations fell very far short of what we wanted for Scotland’s future. Our huge package of news and analysis proved the need for The National to be established.

Callum: I introduced myself to Richard for the first time at the end of this shift. Everyone else on new team was looking forward to a couple of days off and I think it had just hit him that he still had the Sunday Herald to put out! Anyway, he got me in at 8am(!) on Sunday morning. I left that night at 10.30pm and haven’t looked back since.

Murphy the Dunce: April 14

Richard: Those who hate The National’s Photoshopped front pages (and they’re not all unionists) complain they undercut’s the newspaper’s reputation as a serious publication. But one of the best things about the Yes movement was its use of humour and I wanted to capture that. This one made me laugh out loud when I saw it but it also completely summed up Jim Murphy’s position. It was never going to end well … and it didn’t.

Callum: We’d listened to Murphy telling us this, telling us that, and how he was going to spend all of London’s tax money in Scotland. Of course, his head office were busy trying to win over Tory voters and so he was firmly put in his place. The dunce image captures Scottish Labour for what they are: firmly under the London whip.

The Panic Button: April 27

Callum: All the credit for this one goes to Damian, our Photoshop wizard. I had three straight images of the leaders staring at the button and took the mock-up of it over. He said: “Why don’t we make it look like an old 60s spy TV show poster, with bright colours, a radar, and give them dots instead of eyes?” I’d no idea what he was on about, but I’ve learned to trust him on these things and it turned out great.

Richard: Another striking image which grabbed the attention but accurately portrayed the reaction of Westminster leaders to the Yes movement’s refusal to curl up and die. It attracted a lot of criticism from people who were often quite happy to praise Photoshop used on New Statesman covers but thought a newspaper using the same methods was no better than a "comic".

Carmichael’s Big Lie: May 23

Richard: I was amazed when Alistair Carmichael admitted lying about the infamous leak. I was pretty convinced that he’d lied, but had no faith in the official investigation. The story was destined for the front page and the profile photograph was perfect. All that remained was to find the most suitable serpent’s tongue. I think the end result suggested the anger we felt.

Callum: A couple of weeks before, I’d done a front page with Carmichael grinning and holding open his jacket with the headline: ‘Nothing to hide?’. We had our suspicions – all of which were well founded. This was really the point that Carmichael really took over from Jim Murphy as our number one panto villain-style nemesis. Our reporter Greg Russell kept on top of this story: we kept it alive all summer.

The May-trix: June 2

Callum: This wasn’t that big a story, really, compared to some we’ve covered in the last year. This one’s really just on the list because it still makes us laugh. We often joke that Theresa May is our muse: we’ve done her as Cruella de Vil (alongside Boris Johnson as The Joker), a zombie from Minecraft chasing away immigrants, peeking over a garden hedge and, in this one as Agent May from the May-trix. There’s something so preposterously villainous about her, and her policies, that anything works.

Richard: I was on holiday when this cover was put together and I thought it was a brilliantly witty idea executed with great skill. When the idea is strong enough, it says more about the story than a more straightforward treatment can. Callum’s idea absolutely nailed it.

France Solidarity: January 8

Richard: Stories such as the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris present huge challenges. Do you focus on the event itself and the horrific details, or give greater prominence to the aftermath? As the day drew to a close, the main aspect that struck me was the reaction in Paris itself and throughout the world. It seemed to me what we should set out to capture was the sense of the world standing in solidarity against the terrorists and the bravery of those living in the city who refused to let fear take over their lives.

Callum: As journalists, we asked ourselves what message the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack would wish to see shared around the world after their deaths. We chose a message of hope and humanity, not terror and fear.

The Cuts Go On: March 19

Richard: Our first Budget. All we could think was: please God save us from a picture of George Osborne which would be identical to that on every other front page in the land. The solution was our brilliant cartoonist Greg Moodie. His front page captures the dark heart of the Chancellor, the uselessness of Westminster and the tragi-comic nature of Gordon Brown’s interjections.

Callum: My first reaction was: We can’t do that! But then, why not? As Richard says, what’s the point in doing Osborne with the briefcase outside Downing Street? We’ve seen it for years, we know what it looks like. In the end, it wasn’t even the strangest front page that morning, as some of our rivals went with Tellytubbies and Osborne in high heels.

Colour Scotland Yellow: May 7

Richard: Our first General Election. We knew the result was going to be good for the SNP but I don’t think many of us allowed ourselves to believe it would be quite as good as it turned out to be. I wanted this cover to encourage some reader participation, a visual representation of their role as voters. And we wanted them to have some fun. Anyone who actually coloured every SNP constituency yellow had a very busy night.

Callum: Richard always manages to come up with something wacky and innovative for the big occasions – and we needed something that would be fun, especially after referendum night. We nearly did it – unfortunately our readers did need to use their blue, red and slightly different yellow pencils. Thankfully, it was just the once each.

Look Out London: May 8

Richard: This was our first Saturday edition, published after the election result. The photograph showed Nicola Sturgeon looking stylish but absolutely ready for business as she arrived in London for a post-election meeting with David Cameron. She had won incredible backing from the Scottish electorate and had every right to demand that he pay attention. In the event, he didn’t.

Callum: We had a quick discussion about how we were going to work shift patterns on election night – and it was very quick because it became clear that neither of us wanted to miss a second of it. After working for 24 hours straight, we both went home at around 11am before coming in early on Friday afternoon to do our first ever Saturday edition. We’ve done one ever since.

Howson’s Austerity in the UK: July 9

Richard: The emergency Budget. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves, we still didn’t want to reply on a bog-standard Osborne photograph for the front. Peter Howson’s approach seemed to me perfect to capture the grim effects of austerity that formed the backdrop to the Tories’ latest plans. But would he agree to do it? In the event he was very keen to be involved and incredibly generous with his time. He gave us a number of alternative works, all of them brilliant. I chose the one that had the most emotional impact on me. It’s one of the covers that I’m most proud of in my career.

Callum: I was a privilege really, to have him do something for us. We were suggesting artists who might do it, and had a few ideas, but he was definitely our first choice. The other three he sent were excellent as well, and just as heartbreaking as the one we ended up using.

The Reality: September 3

Richard: The most difficult front cover in The National’s history. We felt its the photograph’s power was such that it would almost certainly change the entire tenor of public discussion on the refugee crisis. We put it on the front page and left it on the computer screen in the office. Every person who passed the screen stopped, absorbed in silent reflection. If there was even a chance that those who saw it would think more deeply about the fate of refugees then I felt we should take it.

Callum: You always have an initial instinct about these things – and I think Richard was pretty convinced he was going to use it quite early – but you still need to talk it through. We had a long debate, but we were pretty sure from the start it was the right call.

Still Yes: September 18

Richard: How on earth to capture the first anniversary of the event that changed Scotland and gave birth to The National. I wanted to celebrate the breadth of the Yes movement, which had sent an electric current pulsing through Scotland. The badges represented just some of the movement ... we could have filled the whole paper if we’d included them all.

Callum: It was all Richard’s idea, he came up with the brilliant concept, but I was on the floor that evening putting together. So the credit for the idea goes to him, but the blame for missing people out goes to me. I did forget a couple of groups, most notably National Collective, for which we copped a bit of stick. To all those who didn’t make it, we apologise.

The Pig Issue: September 22

Richard: It was a story sent from heaven, which prompted the most enjoyable day ever spent on Twitter. But how to put it on the front page? Too rude and it would be off-putting. Too bland and it would be lost among all the wonderful jokes. The "pigs might fly" line seemed to offer a bit of wit ... but could we animate it properly to post it online. Turned out we could.

Callum: Wasn’t this your day off?! Richard was in town for something, anyway, and couldn’t resist popping in and having a go at it. It was a great idea. There was a lot of pressure on us: all night, Twitter folk were saying: “Can’t wait for The National’s front page” or “I’ve never been so excited for a National front page”. We knew we had to do something special.

Welcome: November 17

Callum: It was something I’d been thinking about doing for days. There was never any question that it was the right sentiment, or the right thing to do, the only issue was choosing the image. In the end, I settled for a beautiful picture of Scotland. I wanted to say: we know where you’ve come from, but look at where you are now.

Richard: Possibly the front page that made me most proud of The National and one in which I had no input whatsoever. It summed up the best of Scotland, offering a warm welcome to people in desperate need. It was incredibly timely, as the horrors of the Paris attacks threatened to turn public opinion against those who had fled a homeland descending into chaos. The online reaction was unbelievable.