by Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) Because of his dominance within the global public eye, my Top Five International Commercial Covers have been chosen in defiance of Donald Trump and his perspective on the world, and in honor of diversity, expression and freedom. Seeking to erode political tyranny, voracity and dictatorship — specifically, the brand that is displayed by the president of the United States — this list celebrates creative output from 2017 that revolts against any form of ignorance, oppression and totalitarianism, specifically with regard to Trump’s America.
2017 was quite a year for the North American president. There were, and still are, many pressing concerns about America’s new president and his actions, including a nuclear crisis between America and North Korea, the US government’s inability to recover properly in the aftermath of the most-devastating hurricane to hit the state of Florida and the Caribbean in recent history, ongoing attempts by the Russian government to destabilise the country, various public acts of violence arguably following the trend of ignorance, indifference, apathy and bigotry set by the president himself; and the list goes on and on.
#5. The Economist (US), 11–17 November 2017
One may argue that Trump’s hair styling is historically and ironically odd. An equally odd-looking bald eagle decorated the cover of the November 11–17 issue of The Economist. At one stage severely endangered and on the verge of extinction, the Bald Eagle is a bird of prey, and an apex predator — an icon of Americana, and an analogy for America itself. Taking advantage of this, the cover depicts this majestic avian critter with a charming hairstyle, an unambiguous metaphor for Trump’s America. Sporting the headline: “Endangered — America’s future as a global power”, one would not be wrong to bet that America is likely see itself on display in the museum of past world superpowers if Trump has his way.
#4. The New York Times Magazine (US), 17 September 2017
Crafted by American Illustrator, Mike McQuade, this abstract yet typographically provocative 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. McQuade is known for his idiosyncratic use of collage, typography, imagery and illustration. Here he uses his skills masterfully, depicting the relationship between notions of confusion and disruption, 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. Erasure at its best, the message is resultantly amplified: “confusion is a weapon”. Using confusion tactics himself here, McQuade tells a story of how nations, notably the US, may be targeted and manipulated by spreading confused and fabricated propaganda.
#3. Der Spiegel (Germany), 4 November 2017
For the November 4th issue of Der Spiegel, Cuban illustrator, Edel Rodriguez, used Hokusai’s famous woodblock print, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, to communicate popular sentiments surrounding Trump’s five-leg tour of Asia in 2017, which included visits to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. A German headline accompanies this layered image, stating “Washington one year later”. Instead of Mount Fuji in the background, with Kanagawa prefecture under threat from natural disaster, Rodriguez depicts Washington already in the recession of water just before the onslaught of the arriving tsunami, painting a dismal picture of America already in the riptide of a dangerous political sea current and awaiting the big crash.
#2. The New Yorker (US), 28 August 2017
Trump blows his own horn all the time — so, too, his own sail on the cover of the August 28th issue of The New Yorker Magazine. Titled “Blowhard”, the cover is illustrated by David Plunkert, who represents Trump as an inept lone sailor blowing his own punctured and tattered white sails (resembling a Ku Klux Klan mask) of a flimsy black raft while navigating his morally barren, ethically devoid social, political and economic seas. This illustration is a critical commentary in support of the public outcry related to Trump’s inaction towards the Charlottesville attacks in August 2017. After a lengthy bout of silence, Trump’s dismal pushback placed equal blame on counter-protestors for the violent events that were clearly caused by white supremacists, suggesting the president’s support for the far right in the US. Trump has an uncanny inability to hold back, unscripted, which places further scrutiny upon his delay and lackluster response towards the Charlottesville rally. America and white supremacy, on the precipice of quasi-imperialism.
#1. The Washington Post Magazine (US), 29 October 2017
Cleverly composed and illustrated, a fragmented American flag fills all the available space on the cover of the October 29th issue of The Washington Post Magazine. Designed by iconic American designer, Michael Beirut (a partner at Pentagram and co-founder of Design Observer, among a variety of other significant responsibilities), this cover recalls the work of historic Russian artists, notably suprematist, Kazimir Malevich, and constructivist, El Lizzitsky (particularly his ‘Proun’ works). As a subtle hint at Russian interference in American politics, the Washington Post Magazine appropriates from Russian art and design history to expose Trump’s compromised America, further emphasised by the headline that states “some assembly required”— both visually and poetically describing a fragmented and fractured nation.
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.