Magazine Cover Design in the Age of Trump

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[Call For Entries: HOW International Design Awards]

The Effects of Magazine Covers

I grew up in Northern Kentucky. It was and still is a predominantly white, middle-class, metropolitan area. The schools are nice, but not the best in the country. People spend their evenings eating out at Applebee’s or watching America’s Got Talent with their families, and kids are promptly in bed when the credits roll. Growing up in a community like that, I wasn’t exposed to much controversy. Except when someone in the house was watching the local news.

Just across the river, maybe a 30 minute drive, is Cincinnati, home of Over-the-Rhine (OTR). In 2009, NeighborhoodScout listed it as the most dangerous neighborhood in the country based on crime statistics from 2005-2007. In 2001, the city saw one of the largest civil disturbances in the U.S. since the Rodney King riots. I was old enough at the time to remember hearing about the riots from my parents’ TV across the hall. I didn’t really understand what was happening, but I knew it was scary, and it was important. A few months after the race riots, the September 11th attacks happened.

“9/11/2001,” by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly Lyle Owerko/POLARIS

You could say 2001 was the first year I started “paying attention” to politics in the United States. We had internet at home, but it was slow, and I was still young enough to have parental controls blocking me from most news outlets. My only real resources for information were the magazines at our local library. My dad was a bookworm, so we were there at least once a week. He would walk around, looking for books about cars and new diets and theology, and I would sit in the magazine section and try to understand what was happening around the world by reading TIME or fumbling through the pages of The New Yorker. The words might have been over my head, but I definitely understood the magazine covers and the images within.

What I saw then influenced my interest in design, current events, politics, technology, etc. even as the magazine covers were replaced by internet headlines, Facebook statuses and tweets. Like most people, I phased magazines out of my day-to-day life and turned to online publications. They were easier to access, faster with information and more diverse. Magazines seemed obsolete. Until 2017.

[related: Decades-Worth of Design Magazine Covers; Magazine Covers by Famous Artists: Warhol, Lichtenstein, Banksy, Fairey & More; Magazine Covers by Famous Artists: Dali, Picasso, Braque & More]

The tense political environment this year has been…difficult? Exhausting? All-around negative? At least something positive has come out of all the terror: some damn good design. Design that appears to be bringing these magazines back from the dead and providing important commentary on today’s world.

Although I can’t help but think about younger me. And I wonder how she would have been affected by some of the more caustic illustrations. The views and events these artists portray are important. But is impressive art worth the effects of fearmongering? Time will tell.

Edel Rodriguez time magazine cover 2017

Edel Rodriguez, August 28

time magazine cover “Blowhard”

“Blowhard” by David Plunkert, August 20

economist magazine cover 2017

August 19

newsweek magazine cover

August 18

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