Cover Stories: Thoughtfulness in design (22 September 2017)
by Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) Let’s delve into great media design from South Africa and around the world:
- Chronic — local/print
- The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, TIME — international/print
- Delayed Gratification — international/print
- Finweek — local/print
- Flat File — online
- National Geographic — iconic
Finweek (South Africa), 21 September–4 October 2017
With a clean layout comes a clear message about clean energy, promoting the economic potential of electric cars. More debate is needed in the public sphere about alternate energy sources and how we can ween ourselves off of our addiction to dirty fossil fuels, and the latest issue of FinWeek at least attempts to do so.
Despite the delay tactics of South Africa’s power utility (Eskom) and it’s much-publicised failure to implement an already developed cleaner-energy plan, our country is on par with the global plan to curb dirty energy. A greater demand for clean energy will create a sustainable future that is beneficial to a greater number of people, economically and environmentally.
The message implied by FinWeek’s cover, its use of green type and the clean white background with the electric car charging in the foreground is an extremely important one. Here’s to the end to delay tactics and profit-driven choices in favour of dirty energy that benefits nobody but those making the choices. This ‘boom’ can happen.
The New York Times Magazine, (US), 17 September 2017
The New Yorker, (US), 18 September 2017
The Atlantic, (US), October 2017
TIME (US), 25 September 2017
There is more than enough pressing, newsworthy content for America’s most-prominent magazines to write about. Four notable publications cover the four main topics from the past week, including the looming nuclear crisis between America and North Korea (New Yorker), the wake of the most-devastating hurricane to hit the US state of Florida and the Caribbean region in decades (TIME), a world superpower sinking in more way than one thanks to president Donald Trump (The Atlantic), and the ongoing attempts by the Russian government to destabilise targeted nations by spreading confused and fabricated propaganda and manipulating the media (The New York Times Magazine).
Perhaps the latter, this past weekend’s issue of The NYT Magazine, has the most-provocative cover, crafted by American Illustrator, Mike McQuade. The cover communicates how the Kremlin uses confusion as a weapon, and how the Russians are pioneering a new form of information war using its vast media network. In using a form of collage, and his distinct manipulation of typography, imagery and illustration, McQuade communicates a relationship between the notions of confusion and disruption by superimposing an image of a news anchor over a partially revealed flat red background, exposed by portions of the top image being ripped away in much the same way posters are in urban spaces. A kind of erasure, the message is amplified: “confusion is a weapon”.
Chronic (South Africa), Issue 17, September 2017
The Chronic is a Pan-African quarterly gazette published by Cape Town-based Chimurenga. Using a newspaper format, due to its versatility and malleability, The Chronic delivers critical thinking and writing about all matters relevant to the African continent.
The front page of the latest issue displays Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, dressed in attire more suited to a farmer’s outfit and holding a farming hoe, with a bold headline stating: “We make our own food”. Immediate conclusions aside, this issue aims to complicate questions about food insecurity in Africa, dissecting its scarcity on a continent that is represented as a desperate and disparate place. Food is turned into a site for debate, resisting stereotypical connotations about Africa and exposing systems meant to feed people as mechanisms that create the circumstances for starvation, deprivation and strife.
Delayed Gratification (UK), Issue 26, 2017
The rawness of street culture meets the vibrancy of youth culture, mixed with the authenticity of sturdy journalistic principles in Delayed Gratification. The quarterly magazine prides itself on rigorous long-form journalism, supported by tasteful design and art directed visuals, with each cover sporting an original artwork by an established international artist. In opposition to news that blindly follows the fast pace of modern, mediated living, Delayed Gratification supports the notion of slow journalism, which considers stories that matter in hindsight a while after the event in order to report a more-accurate final analysis.
The most-recent cover for issue 26 showcases an artwork by American street artist, Pose. Titled “Mirror”, the artwork exhibits the influence of original pop artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and James Rosenquist, and the postmodern works of Jeff Koons. So, too, Pose displays a penchant for collage, pastiche and fragmented imagery, similar to US-based artistic collaboration, Faile, and South African artist, Asha Zero.
Flat File (US), Issue 10, Jun 2016
Flat File is an online publication with no print edition, showcasing one exemplary and historic sample of graphic design per issue, taken from the Herb Lubalin Study Center’s collection at The Cooper Union in New York. The point of this publication is to cultivate an appreciation for, and connoisseurship of, the commercial and graphic arts — from packaging and editorial design, to illustration and typography, among other classic pieces. Didactic in its approach, Flat File aims to unravel the timeless narrative underlying each work, sharing invaluable information about important design contributions that designers should know about, and that society at large needs to be aware of.
The latest post focuses on the work of Swiss graphic designer, Fred Troller, celebrating the golden age of pharmaceutical design with the work he did for Geigy Chemical Corporation (currently known as Novartis). The Geigy examples here are informed by the Swiss style of the post-World War II period, and the international typographic style that resulted from it, which remains influential today.
National Geographic (US), Volume 1, issue 1, 22 September 1888
National Geographic magazine printed and published its first issue on 22 September 1888, 129 years ago, as an effort to broaden public knowledge and distribute information about natural history and the environment in an accessible manner eight months after the National Geographic Society was established. Initially comprised of 98 pages, costing 50c, volume 1, no. 1 of National Geographic was published with a chestnut brown cover, and bland typography and layout to say the least, sans its now iconic yellow border, which was only introduced in 1910. Long-form and copy-heavy, there was no photography in the magazine until 1905, as opposed to its current form primarily known for its photographic prowess.
An interesting mention from recent issues of National Geographic is a cover designed by South African graphic designer, typographer and illustrator, Jordan Metcalf, who skillfully crafted a typographic execution for volume 229, no. 5 of National Geographic (titled the Yellowstone edition). Metcalf exhibits his mastery of typography while framing a painting by Austrian panoramist, Heinrich Berann, commissioned by the National Park Service. This issue is a layered investigation into the complex landscape of America’s famous Yellowstone National Park. The cover effectively frames the underlying narrative of the issue and illustrates the important heritage and history of the park, imbuing a sense of awe and significance — especially in a time of widespread global warming, where nature is increasingly placed under pressure caused population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation, making the existence of American national parks such as Yellowstone evermore crucial.
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) is a designer, writer, and educator currently based in Cape Town, South Africa, working in the fields of communication design and digital media. He works from Gilgamesh, a small design studio, and is a senior lecturer in graphic design at Vega School in Cape Town. Connect on Pinterest and Instagram.
Cover Stories, formerly MagLove, is a regular slot deconstructing media cover design, both past and present.