Cover Stories: National Geographic, Bona, Minotaure, Pickles & Quanta
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct)’s weekly analysis of media design — both past and present, print and online — from South Africa and around the world:
- Local/print: Bona celebrates the youthful and defiant character of Sarafina
- Iconic: Minotaure exposed surrealism to the world, and remains an important source of information about the prolific art movement to this day
- International/print: National Geographic illustrates how we are literally drowning in single-use plastic
- International/print: Pickles praises the career of a football legend, Johan Cruyff
- Online: Quanta adopts an inclusive approach to reportage on all matters related to science, physics, mathematics, and biology
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Bona (South Africa), June 2018
Twenty-six years after the original release of the celebrated South African film, Sarafina!, its lead actor, Leleti Khumalo, has emerged as an inadvertent, iconoclastic, feminist extraordinaire. The June 2018 issue of Bona celebrates this, featuring the actor and producer on four different covers, one for each of the most widely used languages in South Africa (English, Xhosa, Zulu, and Sotho). Her youthful and defiant character portrayal of Sarafina has made Khumalo synonymous with Youth Day and, with this issue, she shares her feelings about her celebrity status and the film that made her famous, first screened at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ National Geographic (US), June, 2018
The cover for the June 2018 issue of National Geographic reminds one of the first few lines of the lyrics to Radiohead’s iconic song, Fake Plastic Trees: “A green plastic watering can, for a fake Chinese rubber plant, in the fake plastic earth”. It also recalls the writings of French postmodern theorist, Jean Baudrillard, and his seminal text “Siimulation and Simulacra”, where he implies that the original no longer exists; only a representation of a representation, a copy of a copy of a copy remains. This cover encompasses all of that, representing the fakeness of plastic but also representing the copy of a copy. The sheer fact that there are so many sources out there with the same reference — one copy after another — seems apt, given the subject matter at hand. But despite the pretenses towards originality implied by all the examples above, we are literally drowning in single-use plastic, and the headline on this cover rightly stresses urgency: “Planet or Plastic ?”
The iceberg/plastic bag photomontage, titled “Iceberg Plástico”, was created by Mexican artist, Jorge Gamboa. He first showcased the illustration at the Biennial of Poster Art in Bolivia in 2017, where it won first prize in the political and social posters category. All things considered, we all need to step up to the plate.
Pickles (US), issue 14, Spring/Summer 2018
Independent football magazine, Pickles, praises all the best bits of soccer culture through engaging and layered stories that almost surpass the sport itself. If the cover to issue #14 is anything to go by, Pickles certainly understands how design and illustration may be used to support stories in fetching ways, representing the beautiful game in the most tasteful manner. The Illustration for this cover, with its warm considered colour contrasts, stylised and distorted shapes, and dynamic and open composition, was created by Dutch illustrator, Joren Joshua, known for his previous work for magazines such as de Volkskrant, Dialogue magazine, Cover magazine, and WWD Weekly, to name a few. The illustration is meant to represent a legend of the sport: player and later coach for Ajax, Johan Cruyff. A nice inclusion here is the issue’s number, which happens to coincide with Cruyff’s actual shirt number — he became synonymous with fourteen.
Quanta Magazine (US), June 2018
Founded by the Simons Foundation, Quanta is a nonprofit foundation-funded online magazine that aims to increase popular understandings about physics, science, biology and mathematics. With its name derived from Einstein’s reference to photons as “quanta of light”, the magazine adopts an inclusive and pluralist approach to reportage in the service of a wider audience outside the confines of the scientific community. Crossbreeding good science with compelling storytelling, Quanta’s website is just as succinct as its brand promise. Great branding, supported by art direction and graphic design that would make the most hardened design veteran smile, makes this site particularly special. Quanta’s easy to follow information hierarchy, intuitive navigation, textbook layout, refined illustration, choice typography, and simple interactive elements, makes for an aesthetic user experience that allows the greater public easy access to the scientific world. A democratising site to say the least.
Minotaure (France), 1933–1939
Succeeding the infamous periodical, Le Surrealisme au service de la revolution, Minotaure was an avant-garde magazine, mostly associated with the surrealist movement. It featured many important exponents of 20th century art, literature and design, including Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, Henri Matisse, René Magritte, Max Ernst, and Salvador Dalí, to name a few. Minotaure remained in print from 1933 until 1939, and its purpose was to familiarise the public with surrealism and aiming to attract writers and artists to join the movement; it remains an important source of information about Surrealism. The magazine was established by Albert Skira, the famed Swiss publisher noted for quality publications on art and art history. Skira was accompanied by André Breton, writer of the first Surrealist Manifesto and founder of Le Surrealisme, as the magazine’s editor.
Minotaure was generous, to say the least, supplemented with original artworks on its cover, including a piece by Pablo Picasso for #1. Among the variety of subjects covered in the magazine, Minotaure’s reportage on architecture made it appeal to the broader public, as opposed to most other avant-garde publications of the time which focused on extremely niche material. The magazine depended on contributions from several prolific and relevant cultural protagonists at the time, all seen as a collective effort, a veritable exquisite corpse. Notable contributions came from literary and theoretical giants such as Paul Éluard, Georges Bataille, and Jacques Lacan (who published his earliest essays on psychiatry and philosophy in the magazine). Minotaure also made the public aware of unknown artists such as Alberto Giacometti, and Roberto Matta, who would later become important historic figures. Like most other avant-garde establishments, the inception of World War II forced the publication to end print in 1939.
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.
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