Cover art used to be absolutely necessary to sell magazines at the newsstand.
But who buys anything at a newsstand today?
The surge in great cover art over the past decade pleases me partly because it’s almost pointless, in the old sense. Great covers rarely increase circulation of print publications any more.
So why the surge?
A memorable cover still builds the reputation of a publication, and art is useful online, too.
Time Magazine is a skinny version of its old self, these days, no longer the foundation of the powerful Time/Life/Fortune/Money empire built by Henry Luce. Heck, are those four magazines even owned by the same company any more, even apart from Life having ceased publication decades ago?
The covers continue, and occasionally them come in an animated form. They still set expectations for news, and provide a visual shorthand for material on the inside, material the publishers hope we’ll read.
What is Time trying to tell us this week, with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on the cover? (Look at this animated version; wish I could figure out how to embed it short of the Tweet.)
Perhaps more important, how will this cover, this moment in time captured there, affect politics in the future, say on November 6, or in 2020? Has the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford pushed America in any different direction on any issue?
- Businessweek’s great covers – “Don’t play chicken with the debt ceiling,” Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, May 21, 2011
- “Good thing it’s in German!” Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, May 12, 2018
- Magazine covers often show up as illustrations in Millard Fillmore’s bathtub; do a search for “magazine cover” to see several others
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