Good Grief! What Was the National Review Thinking?

The September 10th issue of the National Review is out and when I passed it at a nearby bookstore, I pulled up short and did a double take:

Onward towards the “Glorious Socialist Revolution”?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a big fan of illustrated covers. But when I saw this one from the conservative journal of record, I was immediately reminded of old Soviet Union style posters. A 10 second Google search pulled up this image:

Source: Buyposters.com

And a quick search of my Twitter feed showed that I wasn’t the only one who was thinking the same thing.

Maybe my political cluelessness is showing and there was some intentional irony and sarcasm in the cover. Maybe the art director is a secret Obama supporter. Or maybe the National Review  just stopped caring.

No idea. But I am putting this issue in my tickler file to see how it performs when it nets out. To be fair, their newsstand presence is pretty small.

To be just a little more fair, or to change the topic, exactly thirty two years ago, I missed the start of the fall semester of my junior year of college because I was in Chicago (Du Page County, actually) on an internship. I was running a phone bank for a branch of the Democratic National Committee that was working for the Carter/Mondale re-election team. When I walked into the downtown Chicago offices to get my orientation packet, I saw this poster everywhere:

 And I thought of this:

Clearly I need to start a file on election year covers.

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The Best Illustrated Covers of 2012 (So Far)

Does a cover illustration carry the same impact that a live action shot does? Like all things involving cover images the answer is, “It depends.”

It will depend on the image, how much it relates to the magazine. Does it enhance and explain the cover story? Or take away from the contents inside the magazine? It may often depend on the magazine’s history. For example, my client, Fur Fish Game Magazine has an 80 year history of producing nothing but illustrated covers.

This is something that the readers depend on. It cements the brand and informs both the casual passerby and the avid reader exactly what to expect inside the magazine.

While I’m not a hunter or trapper and my fishing skills are less than capable, I have to admit to looking forward to the image I see each month with the magazine arrives.

What makes a good illustrated magazine cover? How do the editorial and art departments find the right piece for the cover?

I’ll have more on that from some editors and publishers in a later posting.

Below, for your acceptance (or snorts of derision), are the best illustrated covers (so far) that have caught my eye while visiting newsstands in 2012:

1)   Business Week’s  “Let’s Get it On”. The moment I saw this cover, I immediately heard the Marvin Gaye song in my head, and then cracked a smile. My next thought:  “Best.Coverline. Ever!” The image is immediately recognizable, highly sellable (important in the single copy world), and remarkably colorful.

If you didn’t hear Marvin Gaye in your head when you saw this cover, then…well…

2)   Smithsonian: March 2012 Titanic: What’s that line about being the first to market? The March issue was out one month before the 100th anniversary. Smart. The image itself has a sort of 3-D look to it and, like the Business Week cover in 1st place, is immediately recognizeable.

No icebergs in this cover!

3)   New Yorker 03/12/12: You don’t need to be a political junkie to chuckle when you see this cover. Mitt Romney’s “Seamus on the Roof” story has gotten a remarkable amount of play (Thank you Gail Collins) and even generated a “Dogs Against Romney” web movement. So it made sense that back in March when his campaign was in danger of going completely off the rails, that The New Yorker would show the erstwhile ex-Governor and CEO with his number one competitor, Rick Santorum, on the roof. What a great image!

This is where Santorum wound up.

4)   Juxtapoz Magazine  Jan 2012: (Editor’s note: High Speed Productions, the publisher of Juxtapoz, is a client). Artist Audrey Kawasaki is well known for her feminine illustrations. Her cover feature for the January 2012 issue her work was immediately recognizable and stood out from the other magazines in the Art category. Note that this was also the number 1 selling issue in every class of trade to date for the year.

Best seller this year.

5)   Blue Canvas Issue 12: This artistic competitor to Juxtapoz went colorful with issue 12.

6)   Texas Monthly, March 2012: Does anyone out there think air travel is a pleasurable and relaxing activity? No? Is this a great year for airplane covers? Yes! The March Texas Monthly took it to the bank with a great cover story and illustration about the Dallas hometown favorite, Southwest Airlines.

Just make sure you’re dressed appropriately when you board.

7)   Fur Fish Game Magazine February 2012: Every year, FFG produces a few covers that take my breath away and make me want to go outside. The February issue did just that.

8) New York Magazine March 12, 2012: Most city magazines go with something a little too cute or clever for their “Best of” cover. Not New York. The illustration is bold, colorful, straightforward, and very attractive.

A great take on how to do a “Best of” regional cover.

What illustrated covers have caught your attention this year?